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How Great Managers Run 1-On-1 Meetings


Have you heard of one-on-ones (that’s a mouthful!) but aren’t sure how to run them? Thinking about it, but want to make sure they provide added value to those you manage? Look no further!

One-on-ones are a great way to encourage frequent conversations between managers and their direct reports. The concept is fairly straightforward: 1 hour every other week for an informal conversation about engagement, workload, performance and more…

There’s no denying it’s a time-consuming effort, yet the return on investment is huge. Through these regular informal conversations you can develop trust, both with individuals and within your team. In turn, trust in the workplace solidifies your team creating a safe environment for people to work in and not be afraid to try new things.

It’s also the perfect opportunity for you to develop your coaching skills as a manager, something that’s increasingly sought after. By learning to actively listen to your team members, providing guidance and feedback along the way, you are already applying a coaching mentality. These skills will only improve over time, and you will notice that people’s motivation will increase if the coaching is done well.

Even though these are informal conversations, 1:1s need a bit of preparation and structure in order to be effective. Follow these steps to run 1:1s that leave your team members feeling energized and engaged.

About the 1:1 meeting

  • Have the right mindset.

Do not overthink the meeting. The conversation should be informal and free: try to enter it with no expectations and see where it takes you. There’s no need for an agenda or minutes. To help keep it informal, you could go on a walking meeting, have a coffee or meet for breakfast. Usually having meetings outside of the formal office environment helps. Most importantly as a manager, do your best to put yourself in the background, and allow your direct report to be the focus of the conversation.

  • Set a Recurring Schedule

Even though it’s an informal meeting, it still needs to happen on a regular basis to be effective. Ensure 1:1s are scheduled into your calendar, so you and your team commit to having these conversations and stay consistent. Schedule enough time for the conversations: you don’t want to get cut off halfway through an interesting discussion.

If need be, rearrange rather than cancel a meeting. Cancelling can send the message that the meeting isn’t important to you, when in fact it should be the cornerstone of your relationship with your direct report.

  • Keep it informal.

You can ask your teammates to share what they would like to discuss so you are able to prepare for critical topics such as promotions or performance. However, it should really be up to your direct report to set the direction of the meeting.

About the conversation

What is said in the 1:1 should stay between you and your direct report. As the manager, focus on asking questions and listening attentively to understand the feedback. You many want to prepare some questions, but in general stay open to whichever direction the conversation goes in.

Listen Actively

Listening is an important skill to develop as a manager, even more so if you want to make 1:1s a staple. Listen carefully to the feedback you’re getting from people, and remember, you’re not just listening to be polite, you’re listening to get an in depth understanding of your team. By showing recognition and respect of the other person’s opinion, you are more likely to build a stronger relationship with your team.

Get personal

Sometimes you may want share some personal anecdotes or experiences of your own, in the context of the 1:1. This is a way for you to set the example, but also helps you to relate by talking about your experience. Without directly giving advice, you can talk about how you overcame a certain situation as inspiration. By doing this, you are encouraging your direct reports to open up as well if they have any problems they aren’t sure how to tackle.

Be open-minded

While running these 1:1s, it’s important for you to set the example by showing that you are open to upwards feedback. It is important to your success to know what your team thinks of you and your management style. Be open minded to the answers you receive.

Related: How To Write A Good Performance Review

One-on-ones can be about almost anything, but if you’re at a loss where to start, we’ve put together a list of questions for you in 6 different categories. For example, you may want to get a better understanding of how your team members operate, increase team cohesion, discuss workplace welfare or more.

1. Work habits

  • Which time of day do you feel most productive?
  • What changes could be made so you can optimize your day?
  • What are your biggest time wasters right now?
  • Are you encountering any roadblocks and if so, what are they?

2. Team collaboration

  • Who inspires you in the team? Why?
  • Would you like to receive more feedback from other team members?
  • Do you feel comfortable giving feedback to others?
  • Do you have any suggestions for improvement in the way we work together?

3. Levels of engagement

  • What in particular do you enjoy about working here?
  • What do you least prefer doing and why?
  • What keeps you engaged and inspired at work?
  • Do you have any concerns when it comes to your role or career opportunities?

4. Short & long-term goals

  • How are you progressing on your goals? Do you need any help?
  • Are you facing any bottlenecks? What might help remove them?
  • How have you determined your longer term goals?
  • Which part of your job do you feel is the most relevant to your long-term goals?

5. Personal development plan

  • How do you like to learn?
  • What are some skills you would like to develop?
  • Do you find feedback helpful for your personal development?
  • Would you benefit from more coaching?

6. Manager improvement

  • How can I better support you in your job?
  • What would you say are key qualities of my management style?
  • On the other hand, what qualities do you think I should improve as a manager?

After the meeting

Make sure you wrap up the talking points and if relevant, set up an action plan to be carried out by the next meeting. If need be, jot down some notes for yourself afterwards, so you can keep track of topics discussed and quickly review before the next 1:1. This doesn’t need to be formal, but a way for you to know what you discussed with each person and pick up where you left off.


One-on-ones are a great tool for team development. The sessions allow you to check in on morale, but also get to know the people you are working with better. Learn to conduct them properly so your team is engaged and feels valued.

If you see that the 1:1s are working, you can even encourage team members to replicate the behaviour and have 1:1s between themselves. This should support better synergies within the team, if they are naturally supporting each other and developing good relationships.

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