Over the past 25 years of my career as an Executive Administrator, I have scheduled more 1:1 meetings that I care to count. During that time, I have learned a thing or two about what components help facilitate productive and effective meetings. As Administrative Professionals, we get to see the good, the bad, and the ugly - so trust me when I say that there is a right way to do this and there is a wrong way.
Learn Their Communication Style
Don't make the mistake of assuming that all executives like to have meetings the same way. They don't. It is rare for someone to ask them what their communication style is, how they like to give and receive information, if they prefer pre-reads, if they like to be presented to, or if they would prefer a more casual session like a walking 1:1. When an executive gets to a certain level, people suddenly stop asking what they like. Everyone starts to assume what they need, what they like, and what their preferences are and that always goes badly. Always. Execs will appreciate that you are interested in engaging with them in a way that brings value to them and they will reciprocate.
Avoid Status Updates & To Do Lists
Now is not the time to catch them up on every project, action item, or detailed to-do list. No one enjoys being talked at for 30 minutes - everyone's time is valuable so make sure that you use this time wisely and you don't waste it. If you have action items that need to be completed by the exec then engage their EA to help get those completed. Use collaborative tools like OneNote to manage project updates, open action items, and other status updates to keep a constant flow of communication going. This will provide them visibility to the topics, concerns, and discussion items prior to the meeting. Also, this gives you a collaborative space to track decisions, next steps, and open actions between your 1:1 meetings.
Tap Into Their Expertise
Each executive has unique experiences, expertise, and skill sets that can help you navigate the obstacles in your way... Don't waste that. Most execs are eager to share their expertise with their team, but they don't always get the opportunity to do so. If you need advice on your career road-map, how to work around personnel issues, or simply need direction on a project they are an invaluable resource.
Share Your Priorities
Don't assume they know what you need or how to help drive your priorities. Share your upcoming priorities and discuss how they can support you in achieving them. This is the perfect time to discuss areas of focus, strategy, and professional development. Be open about what you need and ask their advice on how you can drive your priorities to completion.
Don't get caught off guard and unprepared. Schedule recurring time on your calendar to prepare for your 1:1 and to complete action items, decisions, and next steps.
Don't skip out on using collaborative tools - trust me, this will revolutionize how you work. Sharing a collaborative tool (like OneNote) with your manager will drive transparency and visibility to a whole new level.
There is not a one size fits all approach. Learn their preferences and share your own best practices so that the meetings are mutually beneficial.
Engage their Executive Administrator! More than likely, they are not planning their own day or prioritizing their own workload. A critical step, but often overlooked step, is to engage their Executive Business Partner on activating action items and next steps. If you send out meeting minutes or actions, don't forget to CC their EA.