How to Get More Face Time with your Boss | One-on-One Meetings

Everyone wants more face time with their boss. Face time with your boss equals:

  • Influence
  • Deepened relationship
  • Inside knowledge
  • Likely path of promotion
How to get more face time with your boss

How do you ask for a one-on-one meeting with your boss? Find out here. (Click to tweet)

You will have more influence with your boss, a better relationship with him or her, get inside knowledge that will help you…all of which will lead to you performing better on the job. You will also be more likely to be promoted than those with not as much face time.

In the post Do You Want to Know My Number One Leadership Tool?, Mark asked a question in the comments about how to approach his boss about doing one-on-one meetings with him. I’ve written numerous posts about the power of one-on-one meetings for leaders, but never from the other side. The fact is, that if they are as effective as I say they are (they are), but your leader is not doing them, then you should make an attempt to do them.

How do you ask for a one-on-one meeting?

When I was hired to run the internet marketing division of one former employer, I knew I was in over my head. My previous leadership experience was a disaster and I was afraid. I knew I had the skills and knowledge to run the department, but not necessarily without burning some bridges in the process. I was about to lead a team with an average age of ten years older than me and figured there were only two possible results…I would be a savior or I would be fired. There wasn’t much middle ground. (Ironically, this is the one job I’ve ever quit from on my own terms…the other five all fired me…that is why I am an entrepreneur now)

I asked my boss, the CEO, this question:

“One of the things that I’ve found really opens the lines of communication and saves time for both of us is one-on-one meetings. Are you open to trying those for a few weeks?”

He immediately responded with a “yes.” Nevermind that he did not do such meetings with any other direct reports, we started what became a weekly tradition that benefited us both greatly.

Why this works

Let me break down that question to explain why it works.

  1. Lead with the benefit. I mentioned open lines of communication and saved time. Both are of value to any leader, especially CEOs.
  2. Speak from experience. I spoke from a place of experience…”I’ve found.” That is different than, “I read in a book.” I knew the value of the meetings, having used them before as a leader. If you don’t have experience, find someone who does or search your mental archives for something similar. If you’ve ever had one-on-one meetings, even irregularly, and they were effective, mention that.
  3. It was short. I didn’t have an elaborate story, though you may want a one or two-minute version if your boss asks questions.
  4. “Are you open to trying…” Five very powerful words when asking your boss to try something new. This isn’t a commitment. It’s a non-threatening way of asking.
  5. Short trial period. The trial period was “a few weeks.” In other words, “can we try three of these?”

Try my exact words or create your own…they will usually work. (But what if they don’t?…back off for a while and we’ll cover that later)

For the next seven months prior to me leaving for another company, we kept those weekly meetings. It’s not hyperbole to say we both treasured them.

What strategies have you used to get more face time with your boss?

This is a part of my series on one-on-one meetings. For all posts in the series and free downloads to help you start and run the meetings go here: One-on-One Meetings for Leaders

Free Affiliate Training from Matt McWilliams
  • Let’s Grow Leaders

    5 times? Really? Have you written a post on that? You may enjoy this one.

    • Yep. Twice from the same company twice (two companies that I worked for two times each) and once by my father.

      Only other job that I wasn’t fired from was a congressional campaign that we lost, but I don’t count that as “leaving on my own terms.”

      I have not written a post about it but it is a topic I am working on :)

      That is a great post (and the one from Michele is awesome too). Thanks for sharing!

      • Once for me early one. I think everyone should be fired once. Hmmm…not sure how you would operationalize that.

  • Great points here Matt! I definitely appreciate the impact of the one-on-one meetings you talk about. They are vitally important! The main reason that they don’t happen is because leaders aren’t making them a priority. By taking the time to ask your boss for them, all of sudden they become a priority. Squeaky wheel gets the grease…which is better than nothing!

    This is definitely a QBQ post! Nice work!

  • Here is a question – how do you tactfully get time with CEO if you don’t report to him or her?

    • Good question Jim. I have no experience with that personally. I’ve always either reported to the CEO or been the owner, so keep that in mind when I give this advice.

      Approaching a busy CEO to meet when you are 83rd in line is tough, but if you are in an optimal range, but here is what I would suggest:

      1. Ask to meet outside of work. Take him to lunch if possible. You’d be surprised how few people do that.
      2. Ask for a mentor. Not the CEO. Someone close to him or her. This does two things. First, it shows you want to learn. Second, they will have to take a few minutes to get to know you if they don’t totally suck. Once you have someone, follow up with a thank you note to the CEO.
      3. Continue to ask for training, etc.
      4. Speak up in meetings where her or she is present.
      5. Always take the opportunities to talk to him. After meetings, before meetings, in the hall, etc.

      There are more I am sure, but do those for six months or longer…then you will be in a position to.

      • Thanks Matt. I have always had pretty good access. But I lately I have had a layer installed in between me and him.

        • Hey Jim!

          I actually do have some experience with this so I thought I would chime in!

          It always helps to think about it in the long-term. One thing I’ve done is to send books. I always choose books that are high quality & relative and send them to owners or CEO’s around the first of every year (I usually pick 20 or so that I have had some kind of interaction with that year).

          I hand write a simple message about doing well in the new year in the front of the book. This has been such a positive experience for me personally! I get to further the cause of teaching better leadership to the top while at the same time I get a little attention that I wouldn’t normally get.

          The great part is when the CEO asks me about it, I get to tell him or her that I sent the same book to 20 others. That almost always gets their competitive juices going!

          If nothing else, this should move you up the list a bit.

          Good luck!!!

  • Hey Matt, thanks for answering my question! I look forward to taking those steps. I have my 90 day review coming up this week, might be a good time to ask to have a little more facetime eh?

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