Book Reviews

No Surprises! Making The Most of One-On-Ones

By Paul Lief Rosengren

Do you have a one-on-one coming up soon with your manager? Whether your answer is yes or no, you should consider getting IEEE-USA’s new audiobook So, How Are Things Going? Making the Most of One-On-Ones With your Manager by Paul. J KostekIn the audiobook, Kostek discusses why more is better, when it comes to one-on-ones. He outlines the types of issues you should consider addressing during your meetings and what actions you need to take afterward. This new audiobook is free for all IEEE members at the IEEE-USA Shop.

Listening to this book can help you better prepare for, and get more out of, your one-on-one meetings (or encourage you to schedule one, if there is not one already on your manager’s calendar). You can easily listen to this audiobook in the car, at the gym, or while relaxing at home.

When Kostek first entered the workforce, he found managers often only held one-on-one meetings with their staff once a year. “Managers spent too little time, gave generic advice, and provided feedback that was often just a little too late,” Kostek said.

While more and more companies are requiring these meetings two or three times a year, Kostek suggests ideally you should have a meeting of no more than 30-minutes once a month — or even more frequently. “Immediate feedback about the fit of an assignment, performance on a project, and issue(s) with working conditions… need to be addressed sooner, rather than later.”

Kostek believes that regular one-on-one meetings can improve productivity and help employee retention, increasingly important in tight job markets.

Preparation for these meetings, deciding what you want to discuss, and in what order, is key. Areas for discussion include:

  • Assistance needed with problems or projects
  • Additional resource needs
  • Available training the manager might suggest
  • Changes coming to the organization
  • Skills you need to develop to move up to the next level in the organization

Kostek urges the reader to be specific. Don’t go into a meeting expecting to say you need assistance or resources — without details as to what assistance or resources might look like. Preferably, lay out options for your manager.

Leave time for your manager to raise issues with you, as well. You want to avoid having issues raised at your end-of-the-year performance review — when, Kostek warns, it is too late to take corrective action. If your manager does not offer feedback, the author suggests you actively solicit what your manager believes you are doing well, and what areas you need to address.

Kostek also encourages the reader to make an effort to forge a more personal connection during these meetings. For instance, talk about your upcoming vacation — and ask about what vacation your manager has planned.

The author notes that when the meeting ends, your work is not over. “Take notes at the meeting. Use your notes from these meetings to build a plan to respond to any issues. Make your case for change, and ask for it to be included in your annual review.” The notes should serve as a starting point for your performance review; mention the meetings in your self-appraisal, and the actions you took because of them. If regular meetings have occurred, “there should be no surprises” when the annual review comes.

Throughout the book, Kostek gives advice for making the most of these meetings, such as avoiding meeting in your manager’s office — but instead, selecting a relaxed environment — such as the company cafeteria, or even an offsite cafe.

For remote workers who work at home, but are not a great distance from the office, Kostek strongly suggests meeting face-to-face for the one-on-ones. For workers too geographically remote to meet one-on-one, he suggests avoiding phone calls — and making video calls to eliminate the temptation, by either party, to multi-task.

Paul J. Kostek currently works at Base 2 Solutions, a Bellevue, Washington consulting firm. He is a long-time IEEE volunteer, having served as IEEE-USA President, on the IEEE Board of Directors, and as President of the IEEE Aerospace and Electronics Systems Society. He has also chaired the American Association of Engineering Societies, the IEEE Intelligent Transportation Systems Conference, and the AIAA/IEEE Digital Avionics Systems Conference. Kostek has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering Technology from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He is currently an adjunct professor in the ECE Department at Seattle University.


Paul Lief Rosengren

Paul is the coauthor of In the Time of Covid: One Hospital's Struggles and Triumphs. He worked for more than three decades in corporate communications at NBC, PSE&G, BD and in state government. He has a Master’s in Public Policy from The Kennedy School of Government, Harvard; and an undergraduate degree in political science from Dickinson College.

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