Frequency: Roughly once a month
One-on-one meetings are an opportunity for you to meet with your manager and discuss anything you want, in private. This is your time! You set the agenda, format, and location. During this time, you can give feedback, build and enhance trust with your manager, discuss new ideas and problems, and brainstorm on ways to advance your career. We specifically devote this time to you.
At Obvious, our goal is to create an environment where everyone feels empowered, supported, and heard. To accomplish this objective, we must create a safe setting for you to discuss your ambitions, concerns, and suggestions. One-on-ones provide you with that opportunity.
You, as the direct report, decide the agenda of your one-on-one with your manager. You create a format that works best for you, and it may change each time, depending on your priorities. We recommend focusing on topics that pertain only to you. In other words, things you are not ready to discuss in front of the entire team.
We suggest covering: positive work events, negative work events, manager feedback and outside life. Each one-on-one, though, does not need to cover all four areas. These proposed topics provide general guidance, but you have ultimate control.
We do not want to pry into your personal life, but sometimes, it is beneficial to share what goes on in your life outside of work. Perhaps you're going through something personally that causes you to be distracted, or have a health issue that sometimes requires you to be away from work during normal business hours. Speak as freely as you want and know that your information will always remain confidential.
In addition, it is helpful for managers to know what motivates you. If your life’s goal is to open a design school, let’s talk about the skills necessary for that to become a reality and how we can develop those while you are at Obvious. We understand that people’s aspirations change. You may not want to be in your current job forever. If you want to do something else in life, we want to support you and see you succeed in that goal.
One-on-ones are the time for you to speak about whatever you want. Each meeting may focus on a different topic or could be a continuation of a previous conversation. You call the shots!
Positive Work Events
Discussing what drives you shows your manager what you enjoy and want to do. By conveying this information, it makes it easier for your manager to provide you with more of those opportunities.
What motivates you to come to work? When you are excited to come into the office, then you are likely to be more productive, and that energy is contagious. We want to do what we can to keep you motivated, so let us know what that is.
New ideas are like infants – innocent and fragile. They need care and nurturing before they stand on their own. Use this time to explain any new ideas you have, then brainstorm and ask for constructive guidance before rolling it out on a larger scale. These ideas could be small items like a new type of coffee, or larger suggestions such as a new way to work with a client. Creativity is crucial at Obvious, so use this time to strengthen your ideas at their inception.
Share your aspirations and areas where you are trying to improve and ask for guidance on what you can do to move in their direction. This discussion will not replace the bi-yearly Career Conversations or day-to-day feedback, but rather, it may serve as a midpoint check-in to ensure progress regarding your path.
Negative Work Events
We spend a lot of time at work, so let’s make the experience a pleasant one. To do that, your manager also needs to know what is not working for you. While we do not want these meetings to turn into gripe sessions, vent your frustrations and together we will find a solution.
What do you dread about coming into work? Let your manager know what that is. Odds are we can resolve the issue. Come with possible solutions, but we can brainstorm together.
If you experience roadblocks that impede doing your job or make you feel unproductive, let us know. We will look for answers or workarounds. It may take a few attempts, but we will continue to address the problem.
Bring up things that are in the back of your mind. Maybe you do not know exactly what it is, but you know something isn’t quite right or could be improved. Be as honest as you can. Or perhaps, you need extra support or advice.
Feedback for the Manager
Hopefully, you already provide your manager with immediate, personal one-on-one feedback regularly, whether after a meeting, privately, or through written communication. However, sometimes you might need more time. Use these meetings to give advice on how your manager can impact you directly. Also, use this time to follow up on previous advice you gave your manager to let them know how it is going.
We recommend using the Situation → Behaviour → Impact (SBI) model. Tell your manager what impact, both positive and negative, their behaviour had on you in the context of a particular situation.
What can the manager do more of?
What can your manager do to make you more productive and happy? When possible, use the SBI model and be as specific as you can.
What can the manager do less of?
Tell your manager what they could stop doing to make your job easier. Remember to use the SBI model and avoid talking about the personality of your manager.
Use the following tips to make the most of your one-on-ones:
Use one-on-ones as a time to release the pressure you might be under. We want these meetings to be collaborative and relaxed not something dreaded. Look at it as a time to reset yourself. So, choose a format that puts you at ease, such as having coffee or tea, taking a walk or going to lunch.
These meetings occur once a month for 60 minutes and are scheduled at roughly the same time. The one-on-ones can be rescheduled when necessary but not canceled.
Resist Work Critique
We encourage specific feedback using the SBI model to occur in three to five-minute conversations right after the situation instead of in the one-on-ones. Instead of saving up that feedback, deliver it when it has the most impact.
Keep a List
Instead of preparing a list of things to talk about at the last minute, keep an on-going list. This could be a separate list from the one you share with your manager or not. When a thought pops into your head during the week, add it immediately instead of trying to remember it.
Shared Feedback Document
Keep a written account of your meetings so that you can look back and see progress. Share the document with your manager where s/he can make comments and track your growth. Either take notes during your one-on-one or add notes after the meeting. In addition, add notes throughout the week. This master list of your yearly progress will be helpful when the Career Conversation comes around!
As in everything we do, it is important to measure how well the one-on-ones are working. The following are indications that the process is not going smoothly.
Only Good News
If you only talk about how positive everything is and how well you are doing, you limit the feedback your manager can provide. Bring issues up as soon as possible so that the two of you can plan a course of action.
Lack of Criticism for the Manager
Praise is great but constructive criticism and suggestions are crucial as well. It is how we grow as individuals and as a team. Managers make mistakes and want to know when it happens. In fact, we encourage it. If you feel uncomfortable critiquing, then talk it through at these one-on-ones.
While we encourage free-flowing meetings, the direct report, who sets the agenda, needs to have a general idea of what to talk about. We specifically carve out time for these meetings because we feel strongly that they will increase the effectiveness of everyone involved, on a personal and professional level.
If you have the same conversation with your manager month after month with no progress, then something is wrong. Use the guidance in this document and to mix it up a little bit.
Notes and Definitions
Situation → Behaviour → Impact Model
The best way to provide constructive feedback, both positive and negative, is by putting your comments in context instead of being vague. For maximum effect, state the situation, the behaviour you liked/disliked, and how it impacted you. We call this the SBI model. Use it to offer sincere praise, or seek clarification before delivering critical feedback. Let’s look at two examples:
Vague: You did an excellent job with that client this morning!
SBI: During the meeting this morning when the client suggested changing the home-screen (situation), the approach you took to walk him through how the modifications would negatively affect users (behaviour) saved us from creating a poor user experience and also helped him understand how important it is to keep users in mind at all times (impact). Thanks for taking the time to walk him through it.
Vague: That client will never hire us thanks to you!
SBI: When we met with the client this morning and she asked how our team would decide how we find candidates for the user studies (situation), you told her that we will not discuss that today and that it was not relevant to the conversation (behaviour). She stopped participating and cut short our proposal meeting (impact). She wanted a better understanding of our process, and she felt that her questions were not considered important. I would love to hear your take on the situation.
In both these conversations, the SBI approach provides the one receiving the feedback with concrete information that allows them to either change their behaviour in the future or receive the compliment knowing that it is sincere.