One-on-one meeting advice for managers and employees

I have weekly one-on-ones with my boss and direct reports.
Meeting regularly with my boss is an important element of my work week. I use the time to explore ideas, ask for broader company information, and request additional help for some initiatives. So I find it strange when I talk to people that rarely meet with boss. I’m not sure how they stay connected to the broader organization.

What’s my mentor have to say?
Recently, during a discussion with my business and career mentor I asked for advice on how to make the best use of the one-on-one meetings as both a manager and employee. He advised me to to use the meeting to discuss the goals and objectives I am trying to achieve and how the boss can help. In his experience, the biggest value is when the manager can help the employee to clear obstacles and stay in alignment with the business. Both the manager and the employee have responsibilities to make the meeting successful.

Advice for managers going to a one-on-one: Listen before speaking.
Let the employee speak first. Remember, this is valuable time for them get guidance and relay information. It’s not about running down a checklist from the boss, it’s about creating engagement and solving problems. So give the employee the chance to set the agenda and talk first. In this way, the employee can seek help and guidance in the areas most pressing for them.

But what if the employee has nothing to say? That could mean the employee isn’t engaged with their work of that they are in the wrong job. I’ve discussed this topic with other managers and I often hear that they don’t have trouble filling the one-on-one time because the employees are eager to share their needs and status updates. If time permits, or if there is a particular pressing need, then the boss can cover topics of need.

Advice for employees going to a one-on-one: Articulate a vision and propose solutions.
Innovation isn’t just a buzz word to make people feel good. Use the time with your boss to share ideas and a vision that is greater than your current job. Stretch ideas to cover broader solutions for clients and cost savings for your company. Impactful ideas often originate with those closer to the work because they see more of the details of the business operations and how it effects revenue and customer interaction. So articulate a bigger vision around current processes, products, and solutions.

It’s easy to get caught in the trap of complaining about processes and the task list. But remember, all employees must navigate legal guidelines, industry regulations, internal processes, budgets, etc. A better way is to acknowledge the restrictions and then propose solutions. So for each complaint, have an alternate solution ready to discuss. It may not always be possible to remove the obstruction, but show the boss that you are thinking about how to best create work more efficiently. Remember, your boss may have received the promotion to their position because they found ways to get things done despite the same set of obstacles.

What about you?
What are some learnings you have from regular one-on-one meetings with your manager or employees?