Here is the one on one doc I use with my reports: 1-1 template.

I recently caught up with a junior from college (lets call him X) who had moved into Product Management a few months back.

Within 30 mins of meeting me, he told me that even though his company was doing well: had raised a large round of funding, he was thinking of leaving because he felt his manager did not trust him, and was not putting any effort in mentoring him.

There is this saying that People Leave Managers, not Companies, and this would have been another example of that.

Instead of judging his manager, I decided to dig deeper and find the root cause of his frustration. Soon the answer was pretty clear. The real issue was a lack of communication between X and his manager.

Even after 4 months of joining this startup, there was a lack of alignment/clarity on

  • what was his manager’s expectation
  • what was the growth path of X
  • what was the responsibilities of X in the team
  • what was X’s strength and his weaknesses
  • how was X going to overcome his weaknesses and reach the next level

My advice to X was simple. It was to talk to his Manager. It was clear that there was a communication gap and without more open communication there was only two possibilities

  • the relationship would deteriorate further and X would not be able to work at the best of his capabilities
  • X would have to look for another job

I wanted him to figure out whether the bunch of thoughts/accusations he had about his manager were even legit. Or did these thoughts come because he did not have a communication channel with his manager and hence he found it easier to fill in the gaps with his insecurities and doubts.

Tasks I gave him:

  • Set up an 1-1 with his manager. Set it as a recurring event
  • Get answers for his questions. Add them to the agenda
  • Do not miss a scheduled 1-1 under any circumstance. If missed, set up another one later
  • Block his manager’s calendar instead of waiting on his manager to set up dedicated time for him

I got this message from him a couple of days back. Needless to say the 1-1 went well.

One on one

There are a bunch of resources on how to do an 1-1 already:

If you have read the posts, you know by now that there is no singular way to do 1-1s. So use the time to align with your manager on

  • Where are you now (in terms of responsibilities, impact)
  • Expectation (for the next X weeks)
  • gap analysis
  • Help needed
  • Good and bad things since the last 1-1
  • Your performance and if there is improvement needed in anything

One on one

^ Notes from my last 1-1 with my manager. As you can see the agenda items are listed at the top, first mine followed my manager. Then there are action items/feedback on topics listed on the agenda section.

What I have found most helpful in my 1-1s with my manager

  • Keep a dedicated doc for your 1-1s. My manager created one for us which can be editable by both
  • Have a regular cadence. For me it is Thursday afternoon
  • Share agenda with your manager for the 1-1: It can be anything which you want to escalate, want clarity on, your growth path, things you need help with, things you want to highlight
  • Your manager can add to the agenda too: It will be items which are on the top of his mind, follow up items from last 1-1 etc
  • Take notes during the 1-1 if it is a sit down meeting. Else go on a walk and then add the MOM later. I prefer walking 1-1s whenever we are both in the same location
  • Generally 1-1s are sacred and you should not miss them
  • 1-1s are also the time for honest conversations. If you are not using them for that, you are losing out

Related book, not on first 1-1s, but first 90 days in a new role: The First 90 Days