One-on-One Meeting with Your Manager Agenda Template

5 key topics + pro tips to have a successful one-on-one meeting with your manager.

One on One With Your Manager
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Ever wondered what topics to cover in a one-on-one meeting with your manager? This one-on-one meeting template is perfect for you!

The one-on-one meeting agenda is the structure of these meetings. Some managers don’t set a formal agenda, but since YOU (the direct report) own this meeting, it’s your responsibility to make sure that nothing is left out. Having a good one-on-one meeting agenda is how you make sure you cover the right topics.

Why do you need a meeting agenda?

Setting an agenda before the meeting is essential for meeting preparation because it’s impossible to have a productive conversation if you don’t know what the agenda is! There’s nothing as embarrassing (and career-limiting) as getting asked a question that you should’ve prepared for and not knowing an answer. That’s a total novice move. In contrast, using a one-on-one meeting agenda is how you plan an expert-level meeting.

Note: Your manager may take the lead by setting the agenda. That doesn’t mean that the agenda isn’t also yours. Remember that the one-on-one meeting with your manager is your opportunity to discuss topics that you need your manager’s input on. So, don’t be shy about adding your topics to the agenda. In fact, if you offer to take over the responsibility for setting the agenda in the first place, your manager will appreciate you taking another task off their hands!

It should go without saying, but having an agenda for your one-on-one meetings with your manager is the key to an effective and efficient meeting. Creating an agenda will help you:

“It’s rare that an amazing conversation springs forth when nobody has a plan for what to talk about.”

– Julie Zhuo, The Making of a Manager

5 Items for Your One-on-One Meeting Agenda:

1 Personal Preamble: Build a Good Relationship with Your Manager

To be honest, a personal preamble is never on an agenda (unless you count introductions!), but it would seem weird to have a meeting without a personal check-in with your manager. Remember that a key reason to have regular one-on-one meetings with your manager is to build an effective working relationship with them by getting to know and understand each other as people.

Of course, you’re going to look a bit strange if you put “personal preamble” on your agenda. The point of adding this is here is to remind you to invest in your personal relationship. Now, perhaps you’re already a very social, relationship-based, person, I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to the people who are only business/task-focused or are a little bit shy, especially if you find meeting your manager stressful.

What investing in your relationship with your manager means:

This is also a great time for you to share information that is personal but relevant to work.

This doesn’t have to go into the personal preamble if you prefer to discuss it in another section (e.g. the week ahead). The point is: if it’s going to affect your work, let your manager know!

You’re going to have to use your judgement to work out how much time to spend on a personal preamble. Remember the one-on-one is a work meeting with a tight agenda so you’ll have to balance the personal with the professional. Here are some things to keep an eye on at the very beginning of the meeting:

Using the personal preamble is a good way to find out what mood your manager is in. Paying careful attention to social cues is good practice in developing your soft skills.

Pro Tip

Your personal pre-amble is your chance to set the tone of the meeting with your manager. Arrive light-hearted, confident in your preparation and with a smile on your face and both of you will have a more enjoyable and productive meeting.

2 Your Agenda Section: Updates, Learnings, and Achievements

This is where you tell your manager what they need to know. Remember that many managers have very little idea of what you actually do on a day-to-day basis, unless you actually tell them. Use this section to give a report on what’s happened since you last met. A status update on what you have achieved and how things are going.

If there is something that you’ve done that you are proud of, then let your manager know. Many employees feel undervalued and lacking recognition, while not realizing that it’s difficult to get recognition for achievements unless your manager knows what those achievements are.

“Your manager is your face to the rest of the organization. Right this second, someone you don’t know is saying something great about you because you took five minutes to pitch your boss on your work. Your manager did that. You gave him something to say.”

Michael Lopp, Managing Humans

💡 What to Prepare? Be ready to discuss:

Pro Tip

Don’t forget that if your manager has given you work to do (but you haven’t yet done it), your manager still wants to know that you haven’t forgotten about it and when you are planning to get it done.

3 Your Manager’s Section: Cascading Information, Roadblocks, and Feedback.

Although this is your manager’s section, that doesn’t mean you take a passive role and hope that your manager tells you everything you need to know. Instead, I suggest you be prepared to prompt the conversation to find out what you need to know.

For example:

💡 What to Prepare? Be ready to discuss:

Put these items onto the agenda, because this gives your manager time to think and prepare. This could be the difference between getting an answer in the meeting or having to wait a whole week for a response.

Pro Tip

Here’s a tip that my manager told me many years ago: Always take detailed notes during your discussions with your manager.

As a manager, I can share with you that one of my biggest bugbears is employees who don’t take notes. Especially when I know that there is no chance that the employee is going to remember what they need to remember without notes. Part of listening skills is demonstrating to the speaker that you have heard their message. And taking notes in your one-on-one meeting agenda is a great way to do this.

4 The Most Overlooked Part of the One-on-One: Priorities for the Week Ahead

This is one of the most important, but overlooked parts of the one-on-one meeting. I can guarantee that your manager has a different view on priorities to you. Investing a little time every week in finding out what your manager expects of you in the week ahead is one of the best investments you can make.

In my opinion, this is perhaps the most important part of your one-on-one meetings with your manager, because this is a chance to make a decision about the future, instead of just report on the past.

Arriving at your meeting with your priorities mapped out is a pro move because it shows your manager that you are forward-thinking and have planned your work.

💡 What to Prepare? Be ready to discuss:

• The priorities and tasks you’ll be tackling in the week ahead, with specific timelines.

Don’t expect your priorities to remain unchanged – the whole point of discussing them with your manager is to make sure you are both aligned.

“At the end of the day, you are only one individual with a limited amount of time. You can’t do everything, so you must prioritize. What are the most important topics for you to pay attention to, and where are you going to draw the line? Perfectionism is not an option. It took me a long time to get comfortable operating in a world where I had to pick and choose what mattered the most.”

– Julie Zhuo, The Making of a Manager

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5 Development & Growth: Skills Development, Stretch Assignments, and Career Goals

An important part of one-on-one meetings is to speak about your growth and future career development.

You may not have a career conversation every week, but it’s important not to ignore it because growth is an important part of your workplace happiness and job satisfaction. This is because:

And not to mention that growth is important to your longer-term financial prospects through better bonuses, promotions and increases, because:

Development isn’t always about trying to climb the corporate ladder. Development includes developing the skills you need to do the job you want to do. It’s rare that you’re matched perfectly to a job, but you can grow into doing work that is a better match to your skills and interests. To put it simply in another way: Tell your manager what work you’re good at and like doing!

💡 What to Prepare? Be ready to discuss:

Pro Tip

Getting constructive feedback on your skills or performance can be daunting, but it’s better that you get immediate, informal constructive feedback in your one-on-one meeting rather than a formal, negative rating in your performance review. It’s essential to check in with performance expectations and develop a growth mindset 🌱.

“The perspective you have changes everything. With a fixed mindset, your actions are governed by fear – fear of failure, fear of judgement, fear of being found as an imposter. With a growth mindset, you’re motivated to seek out the truth and ask for feedback because you know it’s the fastest path to get you where you want to go.”

– Julie Zhuo, The Making of a Manager

Prepare for Your One-on-One Meetings With Your Manager Like a Pro

Investing the appropriate time in preparing for your one-on-one meetings with your manager will make you look like a meeting pro.

Remember that your manager is usually juggling many different priorities as well as managing multiple staff. You can’t always rely on your manager to do what you want them to do. But you can rely on yourself to do what is necessary to get the job done.

When you respect your manager’s time by arriving prepared, ready to move quickly through the agenda, your manager will appreciate it. Keeping the process efficient and worthwhile will encourage both of you to stick to the one-on-one meeting process.

Expert Tools

Setting an agenda every time can get tiresome. Here’s how to make life easier with

  1. Save your meeting agenda as a template and populate it with talking points every week, before each one-on-one.
  2. Set to carry forward your outstanding/unresolved items from the prior week.

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About the author

Keith Tatley is the founder of Manager Foundation – a site that helps managers learn essential management skills to improve work happiness and success. He’s also a reformed Chartered Accountant, yoga teacher, and current CFO at the medical device startup Rapid Response Revival.

Reach out to Keith for advice and training partnerships here.