Working with busy executives can present many challenges—including making time for the two of you to meet each week. Once you do get that time on their calendars, making the most of it will be critical for both of you. You want to ensure the meeting is productive, that you have not wasted anyone’s time, and that you walk out of it with your needs met. How do you make the most of one-on-one meetings with your executive?
Good preparation is key to a valuable meeting, and a one-on-one is no different. Make sure that you understand why you are asking for this time (even if it is a recurring meeting) and what you want to get out of it. Is there a list of projects on hold waiting for your executive’s input? Is it a new year and you need to go over new priorities? Do you have important updates she needs to hear in person?
Set a purpose for the meeting and determine your desired outcomes. This will also ensure your executive feels like her time was well spent.
Thoughtfully Organize Your Meeting
Now that you know why you are having this meeting and what you want out of it, organize the flow of the conversations: create an agenda. An agenda will give both you and your executive a guide to follow. You will know what comes next, you’ll ensure you don’t forget any important topics, and if you run out of time, you both know what was missed.
When you are building your agenda, be thoughtful of how you structure your time. If there are any subjects that are more important than others, make sure those are addressed earlier in the meeting. Do you have a list of quick updates to fly through? Take care of those right away.
If you think you have too much on your agenda, don’t be afraid to split it into separate meetings. It may be appropriate to have a short check-in to go through quick hits and project updates and save the bigger picture conversations for another time. Be aware of how much content you are cramming into one time slot.
Don’t forget to save time for relationship building! One-on-ones are a great way for you and your executive to get to know each other and to build trust. When organizing your meeting, make sure there is space for this.
Prepare Your Executive
Once you’ve put in the time to prepare yourself for your meeting, make sure your executive will come into the meeting with the same expectations and in the right mindset for the conversation you have planned.
Share your agenda
It is completely appropriate to share your meeting agenda with your executive ahead of time; in fact, it is the courteous thing to do. Share the agenda in advance and encourage your executive to contribute to the agenda if she would like. One-on-ones are two-way conversations; give your exec the opportunity to be part of the meeting preparation.
Some meetings will benefit from the attendees completing pre-work ahead of time. It will make the time spent in the meeting more efficient, it can cut down on follow-up action items, and it can prevent the need for more time. Determine if your agenda would benefit from your executive completing pre-work or coming into the meeting with some thought-out additions. Nobody likes busy work; make sure the pre-work will be beneficial to you both before assigning it.
Control the Meeting
Now that you’ve put in the time to prepare for the meeting, make sure you stick to the plan. It can be really easy for meetings to derail, and for you to leave with unanswered questions; feeling like you need to do it all again. Utilize the agenda you and your executive have shared prior to the meeting, keep a close eye on the time, and help hold the two of you accountable to the plan.
What is a good meeting without follow-up? After your meeting, review your agenda and your notes, and reflect on the time spent. What answers did you get? What action items do you and your executive have from the meeting? What are the next steps? Is another meeting required?
Based on your answers to those questions, a follow-up email is often beneficial to consolidate action items, call out due dates, set the next meetings, and create an accountability system between you and your executive. Make sure that you aren’t just filling your executive’s inbox with yet another email; be sure there is a purpose to this follow-up. Use the follow-up to ensure that projects and action items continue to move forward, making your one-on-one that much more useful for both you and your exec.
One-on-one meetings with your executive can serve so many purposes. They will move projects forward, they will allow you to keep your executive on track and informed, and they will allow you to build a relationship. Use every part of the meeting (prep, the actual meeting, and follow-up) to ensure you build trust and show you can productively use your executive’s time.