What to talk about in a 1:1 with your manager
Written by Sophia on February 22, 2023.
In the tech industry, regular one-on-ones (1:1s) between direct reports and managers are usually a norm.
You may see these on your calendar as some variation of 1:1, 1<>1, 1/1, or 1-on-1. It’s shorthand for a two-person meeting.
The way 1:1s work typically varies between companies, teams, and individuals. When possible, I use 1:1s
with my manager as a time to sync on team priorities, share ideas, and discuss growth.
This blog is intended for anyone who is looking for ideas on topics to talk about with their manager
Calendar it: Find a time that works for both of you and put it on the
calendar as a recurring event. For me, 30 minutes once a week or once every two weeks has worked well.
You can always change the cadence after trying out a few. Be wary of having the 1:1 under once a month.
Set the purpose: Talk about what you two want out of a 1:1. You’ll get a lot of ideas here.
Another goal here would be to make clear that 1:1s are not for status updates. Status updates
should instead be done asynchronously over Slack, a project tracking tool, etc.
Take brief notes: Before the meeting, jot down some topics you want to go over in a shared doc. Attach the doc to
the calendar invite so you both have it handy. During the meeting, take brief notes and write down any
action items. Here’s a 1:1 template.
What to talk about
- Catch up on random life stuff, usually for the first few minutes.
- Project delays - Is your work going to be done later than estimated? Might this cause the team to miss a deadline? Raise this sooner rather than later, so you can plan for it.
- Looking ahead - Any dependencies, planning, or roadmapping to talk about?
- Team events - Any planning needed for a team event? Only if you are interested in team event planning.
- Heads up - Anything else you know that you think your manager should be aware of?
- Anything you think can use some improvement? Onboarding, hiring, or planning processes?
- Any ideas for projects the team should to work on?
- Is there a bug fix you think would be beneficial to prioritize?
- Ever curious on why some things are done a certain way or why some projects are prioritized? This could be a good learning exercise.
- Questions around the business?
- Is there something you’re stuck on and your manager can help with?
- Too much work on your plate but not enough time? Your manager can help with prioritization.
- Do you need something from another team, but you don't know who to reach out to? Your manager can probably help.
- Your manager has probably been in your shoes before. They’re a great person to go to for career advice.
- Have a conflict you don't know how to resolve or approach? Your manager might be able to help.
Career and growth goals
- Talk about growth regularly, so it's not all shoved into one long conversation during performance review season.
- Do you have your eye on a promotion? Talk about what it'll take for you to get there.
- Are there upcoming projects you want to work on or have areas of interest? Let your manager know, so they have you top of mind when project planning rolls around.
- Your manager is probably a busy person and doesn't have full insight into all the work you do. Share your wins so they can get more insight into the impactful work you’re doing.
- In the right environment, it's good practice to talk about feedback regularly.
- Give your manager feedback. You have insight into the ways they are supporting the team. You also have insight into things they could start doing or do differently.
- Ask for feedback from your manager. They probably have insight into what you should continue to do and what you could improve on.
- There’s probably stuff your manager wants your thoughts on.
Action items or follow-ups
- Is there anything you need to follow up on from previous meetings?
1:1s are a great opportunity for learning, growth, and alignment with your manager. Hopefully you now have some ideas for your next one!
⚠️️ 1:1s are a two-way street. Is your manager also invested and receptive?
If your manager is not present, you could try and have these conversations with your skip (your manager’s manager) or skip the meeting. ⚠️