When was the last time you had a 1/1

  • With your boss?
  • With your bosses boss?
  • … and you talked about your career instead of your tasks?

One on one meetings with your boss and bosses-boss are the most important part of advancing your corporate career. Sure, you need to be the sort of person who delivers good work. Sure, you need to be someone people want to work with. Sure, you need to help the company and team win, not just yourself. Hear me out. Your 1/1’s are the most important time of your entire career!


Employee 1 on 1 Plan Worksheet

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Why What Your Boss Thinks Matters

When you’re working at a medium to large company and you’re getting your work done and being a team player and feeling really good about yourself everything is easier. You can handle more. You can take on more. You work harder and feel good about it because you can see it coming together. You can see yourself reaching your goals.

What if you think that you’re doing great but your manager does not? Ouch!

This is a career-progress killer because in Corporate America your manager and his or her manager determines your salary, your bonus, your raise, your stock compensation, your promotions, and whether you get fired, promoted, or moved to another team. YOUR MANAGER has this power. NOT YOU.

It incredibly important that you and your manager are on the same page when it comes to WHAT you are delivering for your self and your team, HOW you are going about it, and WHEN you are ready for the next step in your career.

If you’re like most of your peers it has been a really long time since you had a 1/1 conversation with your manager about WHAT, HOW, and WHEN. Most of your peers talk about their current project deliveries, their current sprint tasks, and tasks their manager wants them to take on. You need to get out of this sort of 1/1 because it keeps the WHAT, HOW, and WHEN on the back burner. It makes it so that you and your boss get out of sync on how you are doing. It makes it so that come annual review time you might have a really surprising (read BAD) conversation.

How To Separate Yourself

So what you have to do is turn 1/1’s with your manager into a conversation about your performance and your career. Every single 1/1 should be about this if you have career goals. Now, if you want to work in the same job you have for the rest of your career and you are already a master at what you do then you might not have to follow this advice. In my career I’ve never reached that spot so I wouldn’t know. I always had goals I was working toward, even when I didn’t know what I wanted I setup goals anyway. Your 1/1’s with your manager need to be about your career, not your tasks.

Look around you.

Do you see the people who seem to be getting promoted quickly? Do you see the young guns in high management or principle positions? Do you see the people getting the awesome work while you get everything else? What separates them from you is their level of mastery in their craft and the relationship they have with management.

So, if you want to get on a faster track to your career goals you have to do something different. You have to act differently. You have to behave differently. This doesn’t mean you have to sell out or compromise your values or do crappy work or kiss-up to someone. This means you need to learn some new things and use that knowledge to apply yourself differently to get that better result.

When you have a relationship with your manager that is based on you reaching your goals, getting feedback on your progress, and talking about whether you’re ready for the next opportunity you are on a faster track then when you talk about the little report you have to turn in two days from now. Sure, you need to get that report done. But if you’re having a career minded conversation with your boss and he or she is worried that you’re not getting something done in time it is going to come up as a trust or delivery issue for your career. If your manager trusts you then you don’t have to waste precious 1/1 time on it.

How To Get Promoted

Okay, now that you’re thinking that you can do this and you can see how you are setup for success when your 1/1 conversations with your boss are about your career and goals… now you have some work to do. Here is my blueprint to healthy 1/1’s with your boss:

  1. You should have a 30-60 minute 1/1 meeting every one to two weeks
  2. The calendar invite should come from you, not your manager… it’s your career, not his
  3. You need to come ready with career and goal oriented topics to discuss and give your manager some time at the end for whatever they want to talk about
  4. You need to take notes and send them to yourself and your manager to make sure you got the message your manager is giving you

Do you see all the “YOU” in there? WOW this is different than everything you have been shown by your peers. It is probably different than what your manager has told you to do. The reason this is so important is that it is your career, not your manager’s and so you need to act like it. “The Management” isn’t looking out for the speed of your career and goals so there is no reason for these secrets to be shared with everyone else. It is a rare boss indeed that really takes coaching and mentoring to heart and invests in you. This is why you haven’t heard this before.

This is the strategy that resulted in 7 promotions in 13 years in my career.

When you have these conversations with your boss then you have the opportunity to:

  • Collect extremely valuable feedback
  • Get access to information about your team, department, and company that your peers do not have
  • Get access to people that your boss knows but you do not
  • Get to work on projects that align with your goals, instead of your boss’s or project manager’s goals

This is really powerful stuff once you start using it!

I want to know where you’re at and what you need help with. Join the free weekly conference call on so we can talk!


P.S. Bonus Tip:

If you aren’t having these same conversations with your 2nd level manager then you are still at major risk for being derailed. If something happens to your manager, maybe a transfer or promotion or a career change, you need your boss’s-boss to know you, how you perform, and where you are headed. More on this in another post.

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