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5 Conversations You Need to Have with Your Manager

Posted on May 16, 2019 at 1:30 PM



You see the "check-in" meeting with your boss looming on your calendar and you feel a familiar dread. Every once in a while, these meetings are useful, but more often, they just generate a lot of questions that mean more work for you. Sometimes, they are just a waste of time, politely wandering around random topics without covering any useful substance at all.


If your check-in meetings with your manager are not productive, YOU need to improve them fast! A big part of your manager's job is to provide you the support, direction, and feedback you need to get your job done and grow professionally. If they are not providing you with that help in your check-in meetings, are they giving you that help anywhere else? Check-in meetings are your best chance to seize your manager's focus in a one-on-one setting. Here are 5 conversations you should raise with your manager in your check-in meetings.


#1 - Feedback on Your Results - At some point in your organization's performance process, your boss is probably going to share an assessment of your performance with their boss and others. Wouldn't it be helpful for you to hear their feedback before then so you can weigh in and adjust your performance as needed? You can help focus the discussion by bringing a list of your results for the year, key performance metrics from your area, or the operational goals in your performance plan. Go over those in your meeting as a way to surface their feedback. When your manager tells you they would like to see more progress, use that as an opening to ask them to clear barriers, get resources, make decisions, or provide other support that would help you. 


#2 - Feedback on Your Competencies - In addition to your results, your manager may also assess you on skills and behaviors required for your job. Their assessment may define your potential for promotion and define your place in line for new "stretch" opportunities. A simple way to surface their feedback is to ask them to list a couple of things you should be doing more, less, or better. You can ask them to share feedback they hear about you from others. You can bring a list of competencies in your performance assessment and job description and go over that together. If you have an open relationship with your manager, you could even share job postings for bigger internal roles to get their feedback on your qualifications against those. When your manager gives you feedback on places to improve, use that as an opening to ask for their support - and budget - to get training, coaching, and other support to fill those gaps.


#3 - Decisions You Need - Your boss is better-positioned (and maybe solely authorized) to make some decisions you need to get your work done. How should you prioritize new work demands versus existing ones? Which path should you take at a major decision point in your project? Where will they delegate authority so you can make decisions instead of them? Be careful not to ask them for decisions you are responsible for. And be ready to answer if they put the question back to you for what you would recommend. When your manager makes a decision, record it in your notes or an email back to them so you can remind them down the road if needed.


#4 - Support You Need - Your manager is the gatekeeper to resources and support you need to get your job done. Decisions about scarce resources like budget or new staff are often handled in formal processes, but you can lobby for your future requests in your check-ins. There are also many less formal forms of support you might need. Sometimes you need information from another area outside your purview. Maybe you need them to convene a meeting or provide air cover to resolve a conflict you are facing. Sometimes your boss might have technical expertise that could help you, especially if they have been in your field - or your job - before you. People often like to be asked for help because it makes them feel important. Your boss is no different. As long as your requests for support are things they don't expect you to do for yourself, asking them for help can feed their ego and build your relationship - especially if you remember to thank them afterwards.


#5 - Information You Need them to Know - Your manager has a boss too, and they don't want their boss to hear about news in their area before they do. They also want a chance to step in and act on things personally while they can. If you see illegal or inappropriate activity, you need to escalate that to your manager (and other required channels) immediately. If you see big operational, reputational, or other risks bubbling, let your boss know so they can take action if needed. If you see internal conflicts brewing, give them a heads up so they can address it before it blows up. Sometimes the news you need to share is good news on the horizon that they might want to celebrate. If you can foresee your boss freaking out (or being overjoyed) by potential news from your area, it is better for you to give them warnings ahead of time.


You don't have to talk though all these items in every one of your manager check-ins, but it is a good idea to make sure you think through them beforehand. If your manager has an agenda they use to run these meetings, think about the natural point where you can insert the conversations you need. If your boss doesn't prepare, consider doing an ad hoc agenda in advance like you should for any other meeting you run. Manager check-ins should be one of the most productive meetings you have at work. You should prepare for them like they are.

Categories: Coaching, Meeting Effectiveness, Career Planning