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10 things direct reports must do to get the most out of their 1:1 meetings

1:1s are crucial in promoting positive outcomes such as increased employee engagement, higher retention rates, more innovation, and overall success for the team member, manager, and organization. A lot of focus is placed on the manager’s role in orchestrating 1:1s, where they are responsible for addressing direct reports’ practical and personal needs. However, it is also important to recognize that direct reports have agency in 1:1s and should play an active, not passive, role in the effectiveness of these meetings. When direct reports feel empowered to seek help, there are benefits to both the individual and organization.

As an employee, you need to take an active role in your 1:1s to get the most out of them. These 10 key behaviors are critical in making sure you are receiving the help that you need to grow in your career:

  1. Know what you need: be ready to discuss your own needs, hopes, and goals, not just what you think you should say to your manager.
  2. Be curious: do not just have a curious mindset, but also engage in curious behaviors such as asking questions, listening, and challenging yourself to discover new things.
  3. Build rapport: get to know your manager on a personal and professional level by learning about their interests.
  4. Actively engage: get the most out of your meeting by doing things like asking questions, expressing yourself, taking notes, and paying attention to non-verbal communication like maintaining good eye contact.
  5. Communicate well: strive to be clear, concise, focused, honest and pay attention to voice infliction and tone. For difficult conversations, consider practicing before bringing them to your manager.
  6. Problem solve: come to your 1:1 not only with your problems but also possible solutions. Be ready to constructively discuss counterarguments and differing viewpoints.
  7. Ask for help (constructively): seek assistance from your manager that encourages independent problem solving. This includes asking to recommendations or help of others when your manager cannot assist you.
  8. Ask for feedback: ask specific questions that focus on receiving suggestion on future behaviors such as “I want to improve at X, do you have any suggestions on how to get better at this?”
  9. Receive feedback well: show that you are appreciative of the feedback by thanking your manager and asking further questions about issues that were raised.
  10. Express gratitude: let your manager know you are grateful for their time and feedback.

Finally, as you proceed with these behaviors, it is important to keep in mind the science around asking for help. Namely, help-seeking behaviors have been categorized by social psychologists into two main types: autonomous help-seeking and dependent help-seeking.

Autonomous help-seeking can be understood as seeking information that enables individuals to be independent, accomplish tasks, and solve problems on their own. This tends to promote long-term independence—similar to the adage, “Give a person a fish and they’ll eat for a day but teach them to fish and they’ll eat for a lifetime.”

Dependent help-seeking, on the other hand, refers to searching for a “quick fix” and an “answer” from someone else. This style of help-seeking conserves time and effort and leads to immediate gratification, but typically doesn’t yield long-term self-sufficiency. Interestingly, job performance ratings have been shown to have a positive relationship with autonomous help-seeking, but a negative relationship with its counterpart—dependent help-seeking.

Bottom line: do your part in the 1:1 to maximize its value to you and approach it as an opportunity to learn to be the best you can seeking meaningful insights that enable you to thrive and grow both short-term and long-term. 

Featured image via Unsplash (public domain)

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