How to Prepare for a One-on-One Meeting With Your Manager

1:1s with your manager are the perfect place to get clear on what you need to do to progress your career. Here's how.

September 20, 2022
Press the button to generate random icebreaker questions.
There are 300 more icebreaker questions at the bottom of the article
How would you describe your job to a five year old?
What season would you be?
What is a weird food you have tried? Would you eat it again?
What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Would you go in the mother-ship with aliens if they landed on Earth tomorrow?
What is your favorite season?
Do prefer working from home or the office?
What is your earliest memory of this job?
What is the best thing you have bought so far this year?
What is the earliest book you remember?
If you had to move to another country, which one would you choose?
You are the best criminal mastermind in the world. What crime would you commit if you knew you would get away with it?
What is your favorite movie genre to watch?
What was the last thing you ate?
What person from history would you add to Mount Rushmore?
What is a weird fact you know?
What is your favorite part of working from home?
Were the Spice Girls a good team?
Imagine you can instantly learn any language. Which would you choose?
If you could live in any state, which state would you pick?
Which fictional team is the best team of all time?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
What do you usually eat for a quick lunch?
What simple food will you never eat?
Show us the weirdest thing you have in the room with you right now.
Would you rather stay at a hotel or an AirBNB?
What is your favorite movie genre to watch?
Are you more productive in the morning or at night?
Who is someone in your community that makes a difference?
Who was your most unique pet?
Choose one famous person from history you want on your team during a zombie apocalypse.
What is a good way to give back to the community?
Which song could you listen to over and over again?
Is Hugh Grant funny?
What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
Would you want to have an imaginary friend today? Did you have one as a child?
What actor or actress would you want to play you in the movie about your life?
What is the best super power?
What is your New Years resolution?
You can only eat one food again for the rest of your life. What is it?
What is the best work holiday?
What is the first gift you remember receiving?
Would you rather join Metallica or Backstreet Boys?
What is the best example of a community you have seen?
What is an easy way to do something nice for someone?
Show us your phone background and tell the story behind why you picked this image.
What was your first job?
Pick any band to play at your funeral.
If you could have an unlimited supply of one thing for the rest of your life, what would you pick?
Which superpower would you give to your arch enemy?
What is the most obscure superpower you would want?
What emoji best describes how you are feeling right now?
If you could live in any country, which country would you pick?
Would you rather live in a city or a town?
What is your favorite holiday?
What is something you accomplished as part of a team?
What is your standard office lunch?
What is your most used phone app?
What is your favorite season?
Have you ever won something as a team?
Imagine you are a professional baseball player. What is your introduction song?
Beach holiday or ski trip?
Have you ever been to a funny comedy show?
Would you rather live at the North Pole or the South Pole?
What is your favorite song to sing?
If you could live in any state, which state would you pick?
Imagine you could teleport anywhere. Where would you go right now?
What is the most unusual job you have heard of?
What was the last thing you ate?
You can visit any fictional time or place. Which would you pick?
What do your family and friends think you do all day?
What movie do you wish you could watch again for the first time?
Show us your most-used emoji.
What was the most unique style or fashion trend you ever embraced?
What movie defined your generation?
You are stranded on a remote desert island. Are you alone or with your worst enemy?
What is your favorite knock-knock joke?
Have you ever told someone Santa is not real?
Do you know how to speak more than one language?
On a scale of 1 – 10, how much of a team player are you?
What is your #1 recommendation in this city?
What is your favorite holiday?
What bucket list item do you most want to check off in the next six months?
What is your favorite mythical creature?
What was the first way you made money?
If you could be great at any Olympic sport, which would it be?
Which song could you listen to over and over again?
When did you start liking/hating mushrooms?
Where is your favorite vacation spot?
Do you take your PTO all at one time, or another way?
Which show do you remember most from your childhood?
Which beverage goes best with pizza?
Would you want to have a personal assistant follow you around everywhere and do what you asked of them?
Have you ever met your idol?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Would you rather live 100 years in the past or 100 years in the future?
What is your hobby?
When you are alone in the car, what volume is the music at?
Imagine you no longer have to work. How would you spend a Tuesday?
What is your favorite type of sandwich?

A one-to-one with your manager can be a box ticking exercise…

Or it can be the perfect opportunity to get crystal clear on what’s expected of you – and what you need to do to take your career to the next level. It all depends on how you prepare for each meeting.

Here’s everything you need to know to make sure you’re getting the most from your meetings with your manager. 

What do you talk about in a 1-on-1 with your manager?

A face-to-face with your boss is the perfect chance to:

  • Make sure you’re both on the same page. This is your chance to make sure you’re prioritizing the tasks and projects your manager wants you to.
  • Get feedback on your performance. A good manager can help you improve on your weaknesses, point out the strengths you should double-down on, and fast-track your career development.
  • Discuss your career growth. Let your boss in on your professional aspirations and they’ll be able to open up plenty of doors for you.
  • Manage up. Your one-to-ones are the perfect chance to get to grips with how your manager likes to work so you can adapt accordingly. 

You’ll get the most from the facetime you get with your manager if you take the initiative on regularly touching on each of these areas during your one-to-ones.

Book a demo of Assembly to make it easy for managers and reports to set up regular one-to-one meetings. 

How do you prepare for a one-on-one meeting with your manager?

Here’s how to get the most from the three kinds of one-to-one meetings you’ll have with your manager:

How to prepare for a weekly check-in

Your weekly (or monthly) check-ins with your boss are the perfect chance to get clear on what your priorities should be, how you should be spending your time, and what should be on your radar.

To make your one-on-ones successful, add everything you want to cover ahead of time to a running list in a one-to-one template throughout the week. Include any important updates you have, blockers stopping you from completing your tasks, and questions you have for your manager. This will give you a full overview of everything you need to update your manager on to work through during your check-in. 

Then simply send this one-on-one workflow to your manager ahead of time and invite them to add any of their own talking points to this list and you’ve got an agenda for the meeting.

How to prepare for a project update

When your manager schedules a project update, they’re looking for two things. The first is obviously an overview of how the project is going. But the second – and perhaps the more important – thing they’re looking for is reassurance that you’ve got everything in hand.

Your manager wants to see that:

  • You’re keeping the project on track and on budget.
  • You’re aware of the status of all its moving parts.
  • You’re prepared for any issues that might be lurking round the corner. 

Show them you're on top of all these areas and you’ll put their mind at ease – and show them you’re a great candidate for taking on more responsibility in the future.

But beware: the biggest mistake most people make when giving their manager a project update is going too far into the details. 

The reason your manager has delegated a project to you is because they don’t have the bandwidth to get into the weeds of its day-to-day operations. 

So, keep project updates high level and strategic by focusing on the big picture: whether the project is set to achieve its goals on time and within budget. Only go into detail on the things you think are holding the project back in any of those areas.

How to prepare for a yearly review

Your annual review with your manager is your opportunity to really take the reins on your career growth. It’s also a great chance to get your boss’s feedback on what you’re good at and the areas you could improve in.

Your annual review is the perfect time to set out your stall if you’re thinking of asking for a pay rise or a promotion. And for the best chances of success, you’ll need to prepare your case. 

So, make a list of everything you’ve achieved in the last year in the lead up to your yearly review. Be specific here: “hired and successfully onboarded five new team members without any staff turnover” makes for a more compelling case than “grown the team”. 

And make sure you’re focused on the metrics that matter most to the business. How have your achievements over the last year affected the bottom line? Pay special attention to the metrics your boss’s performance is measured on here.

Gathering evidence for why you think you deserve a pay rise or a promotion is one thing. But for the best chances of success, you need to craft it into a compelling narrative. Don’t just state the facts – tell a story with them. You spotted this opportunity, did this to capitalize on it, and it led to these results.

Prepare a data-driven narrative around why you deserve a pay rise or more responsibility for the best possible chances of getting the green light to take the next step along your career journey.

Try Assembly to make it easy for managers and reports to prepare for annual reviews.

What are good questions to ask during a one-on-one with your manager?

Asking your manager the right questions during your meetings can help you make sure you’re always spending your time in the most effective way.

To make sure you’re on the same page as your boss, ask these questions during your weekly check-ins:

  1. What should be my priority right now?
  2. Here’s what’s on my to-do list. Should I add or remove anything?
  3. What do you want to be done before our next weekly check-in?

To better manage up, ask these questions – especially when you’re establishing the ground rules on a new project:

  • How do you like to receive updates about this project?
  • What parts of this project do you want to be kept up to date on? And how often?
  • When’s the best time to get feedback on this project?

Asking these questions during your annual review will help you add rocket fuel to your career growth:

  • What steps can I take right now to progress my career with the company?
  • Are there any extra responsibilities I can take on right now?
  • If I could improve one skill this year, which would you choose?

And ask during weekly check-ins and annual reviews to quickly improve your performance at work:

  • What do you wish I did less of? More of?
  • What do you wish I took more ownership over?
  • Do I have any blind spots that are holding me back?

Try Assembly to make it easy for reports to prepare questions in advance for their one-on-one meetings.

Wrapping up

Hit all these marks during your regular one-to-one meetings with your manager to give yourself the best possible chances of success at work.

And check out our quick guide to one-on-ones for more help getting the most for every meeting with your manager, and dive deeper with our ultimate checklist for an effective one-on-one meeting

Browse our Free Employee Recognition Guide

Get the foundational knowledge on creating an employee recognition program that boosts employee engagement and helps them feel valued.

Explore Guide
Employee recognition guide