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
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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 work 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, ask you boss 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

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do and for FREE! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

How much do rewards cost?

At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

Does Assembly offer discounts?

We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

How do I cancel my plan if needed?

If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

What integrations are available?

Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

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