Brenda’s Blog

“My boss is extremely busy. How do I make the most of my one-on-one time with them?”

August 1, 2023

“My boss is extremely busy. How do I make the most of my one-on-one time with them?”

I hear this often in my coaching practice, no matter how high up in an organization someone sits.

Here are a few suggestions of how to maximize direct-boss conversations. What ideas would you add?

1/ Be prepared. Reflect in advance of each one-on-one you have planned … What does success look like at the end of the meeting? What do you want to achieve for the business, your projects, team, and for you, personally and professionally?

2/ Align to objectives.  Send your boss a note in advance of the meeting, alerting them to what you plan to cover. That way, they will know what to expect and, if by chance your boss wants to include something else, you will know in advance and can allot time to that.

3/ Balance topics between both business AND people.  Based on shadowing coaching clients across the globe, most one-on-one meetings tend to focus on the business side of things… project updates, issue management, tasks to be accomplished. Of course, it’s the people within the organization who are achieving those critical tasks, so be sure to give equal airtime to people.
4/ Share what is going well. In client shadowing sessions, it’s not unusual to see direct reports sharing with their bosses a seemingly incessant stream of problems that need solving. Think about the image you are creating, if you only talk about what needs to be improved! Be sure to talk about wins, too – what your team has done well, successes you’ve achieved – to avoid becoming labelled as “the direct report who only has problems they can’t seem to solve.”
5/ Include a feedback discussion, when appropriate. Avoid turning every one-on-one discussion into a feedback performance review but be sure to ask for input on how you are doing, at key times: the middle and end of a completed project, when you’ve gotten feedback from others, and/or to make sure you are on track to your next promotion.
6/ Keep to the time allotted. Bosses are busy! Using your planned agenda, be sure to think in advance about how you will use the time you have. Prioritize the most important topics so that, in case a subject takes longer than anticipated, you’ve focused first on what matters most.

7/ Offer help. Bosses have a lot on their plates. Is there a project they are working on that you could help them with? How could you use that opportunity to learn, grow, and demonstrate skills that could help you move to the next level?
8/ Remember: Bosses are people, too.  Ask about your boss’s family, upcoming vacation, hobbies. It’s a great way to build and nurture your relationship. People like to work with people they like!
What else have you done to make the best use of your time with bosses? If you are a boss yourself, how could your team members make one-on-ones more productive?



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