How to prepare your one-on-one as an individual contributor (with template)
Q: Budi, I’m a product designer. Can you share how should I prepare for a one-on-one meeting? I feel confused about what to discuss. Would love to get a perspective on this one!
One-on-one is so important that entrepreneur Ben Horowitz was willing to fire a senior leader for not having regular one-on-one meetings, which he shared in his book The Hard Things about hard things.
Here’s how I run mine so far to manage up:
Usually, it’s about 30-50 minutes. I scheduled it weekly or bi-weekly.
I use it for a few things: Give highlights on the progress, discussions, sharing feedback, and what’s next.
I like to start with a general pulse check, “How’s your week so far?” and get a sense of the general mood. I also share mine.
A quick highlight about last week. For example last week our team did a few interviews and decided we want to focus on the onboarding phase first. Then I explain a few rationales behind it. I keep this one light and quick—under 10 minutes.
I then go on and discuss a few discussion points. This can be anything from career discussions, any blockers that I need support for, or any challenges I need to brainstorm with my manager. This will be the main topic.
Feedback sharing is always part of the routine. In my first session, I build an expectation that we can use this session to share feedback. This is a culture that I set recently with people who work closely with me, so we know we both know we can exchange feedback in this session.
Before we wrap up, I share my focus for next week. This is a way to ensure the manager understands how I think and what is my priority. It offers a chance for them to challenge me if they think my priority is off.
I write all of the next steps and decisions. Writing it down is easier. Research shows that sharing the next steps helps ensure they get done. Make sure to put that into the next one-on-one agenda as a discussion point.
Resources & template
Here are a few resources:
Paid subscribers can download the template: