Growth Strategies

12 Ways To Make Your One-On-One Meetings A Standout

By May 4, 2020 No Comments

The one-on-one meeting is ubiquitous. Having a dedicated space in your workday for an anticipated conversation between a manager and employee provides an opportunity for coaching, mentorship and breaking through challenges to rise to the next level. Justin Rosenstein, co-founder Asana, says “You spend so much time finding great people, it’s worth it to help them grow to be the best they can be.”

A one-on-one meeting is a vital part of a leader’s role. They are different from the everyday leadership conversations in a team where managers and their team members typically talk about the work being done now. Harvard Business Review identified that these meetings created a space for strategic dialogue about whether we were focused on the right things and showed people that you value them.

With a supportive framework, agenda and mindset, your one-on-one meetings can be your most important meetings. By bringing out the best in your people, workflow improves, your team brings more energy and people feel a sense of belonging.

Gallup found that “employees whose managers hold regular meetings with them are almost three times as likely to be engaged” as employees whose managers don’t.

One-on-one meetings bring a wealth of benefits and opportunity to:

  •  Be given a voice to share issues affecting you
  •  Brainstorm ideas
  •  Communicate your future goals
  •  Work through potential solutions
  •  Show how employees can support their managers and vice versa
  •  Set long and short-term goals and ambitions
  •  Ensure nothing on performance comes as a surprise
  •  Keep alignment and focus on the big picture strategy and understand your contribution to the goals
  •  Keep people engaged
  •  Build deeper professional working relationships amongst team members
  •  Highlight strengths and gaps that need to be closed
  •  Strengthen relationships between frontline people and management

There is no denying that one-on-one can be time-consuming, yet the return on investment is significant. When you take care of people, they take care of business.

Here is your tactical game plan for making your one-to-one meetings a standout:

1. Setting Up Your People For Success

At the beginning of any new relationship, a goal-setting conversation can provide a roadmap moving forward. By investing time in identifying stretch goals, barriers, and the resources needed creates a pathway for growth.

Career growth is an essential driver of employee engagement and allows the recipient to drive their development and access support and guidance when needed. These conversations can lead to life changes and professional milestones.

2. Dedicated And Consistent Time

One-on-one’s are the perfect opportunity to ensure alignment between a company’s values and people’s behaviours. Regular check-ins can prevent emotional drama in the workplace, allow for immediate and frequent feedback and promote open communication.

When managers first begin in a role, identify a thirty-minute fortnightly or one-hour monthly meeting with each member. This doesn’t preclude team members being proactive and seeking regular meetings with managers.

Be creative with locations and perhaps stepping out of the office environment may set the scene for a new working relationship. Identify whether you prefer a dedicated day for meetings or spread throughout the week. Work out what is best for you and build out your schedule to give back the most to your people.

3. Structure Your Meeting For Success

The most critical element is creating a space where individuals thrive. Preparation and planning eliminate wasted energy on what to discuss in the meeting.

Set up your meeting with a dedicated platform or through email, identifying potential items for agenda, a section for goals and tasks for review. By identifying priority topics prior to the meeting creates a shared plan and accountability.

4. Ask Employees For Agenda Items

An agenda will help get the conversation started. By asking employees to contribute to the agenda, shares the responsibility of leading conversations. It also accelerates the process of the meeting as the employee must collect their thoughts beforehand. Agendas can include retrospective thoughts on the past month, what they would like to invest their energy and time on work moving forward.

5. Your People Must Be The Focus Of One-On-One Conversations

Your initial contact with your employee must involve describing the concept of one-on-ones. For instance, “l plan to start doing one-on-one meetings with our team monthly. I intend to obtain more feedback from you through conversations. We will have an agenda and the first point of action is talking about where you are at. Discussions can be on a number of topics such as building on strengths, aspirations or whatever else you find important. Then we will make this a regular thing for one hour. Let me know if you have any questions.”

6. Listening Has A Pay-Off

The more you listen to your people before giving feedback, the better the employee experience. Harvard Business Review supports that the more the employee understands and agrees with the basis of the feedback, the more buy-in into the course of action.

By learning to actively listen to your people, providing guidance and feedback along the way, creates an environment that speaks of care, valuing people and overall team success.

7. Creating A Space Of Trust

Setting the context in your first meeting is critical to establish ground standards and expectations. Share with your people your why or purpose, what inspires you and how you can best support them. Set the standards by discussing what you both expect of each other, present values and your goals and identify the check-in points.

Through regular conversations and check-ins, managers build trust with individuals. Trust in the workplace solidifies teams and creates a safe environment for people to thrive, take risks and innovate.

8. To Create Conversation Flow, Agendas Must Contain Key Elements

Start the session with both individuals sharing their backgrounds, skills and expectations to set the tone of future meetings. Here are some features to include within your one-on-one’s:

  • Create short term and long term goals
  •  Discuss what is going well
  • Discuss the big picture, company goals and how the team members will be contributing to them
  • Explore a person’s career aspirations
  • Unlock any barriers preventing the team member from doing their job well.
  • Recognize any adjustments that the team member had created as a result of previous feedback
  • Review progress towards each performance goal and how to close the gap
  • Identify learning from training and development activities, how it is integrated every day into practice and how you can teach others

Like everything, practice makes perfect.

9. Breakdown Key Areas Of Discussion

In addition to the essential elements, managers can deliver coaching for any development or performance improvement needs. The following quality questions can be adopted through a one-on-one meeting to delve deeper.

Personal check-In:

  • How do you feel about work?
  • What is the most satisfying part of your role?
  • If you could change one thing about your job today, what would you change?
  • What’s one thing that you achieved this week that made you smile?

Your role:

  • How would you best describe yourself in the role?
  • What are the strengths you bring to the role?
  • What are the gaps you would like to close?
  • How would you like to develop your role?


  • In your role, if you were having the best workday, what would your schedule look like?
  • What motivates you?
  • What inspires you to be the best version of you?
  • Where have you been the most successful in the past?

Long-term goals:

  • What is your priority goal of focus for this year?
  • What development areas would you consider to be a priority?
  • What skills do you need to achieve your goal?
  • What obstacles will you need to overcome to achieve these goals?

Professional development:

  •  How do you like to learn?
  • What is one thing you learned this week?
  • What are some skills you would like to develop to support you to meet your goals?
  • How do you want feedback for your personal development?

10. Ongoing Sessions Encourage A Culture Of Continuous Feedback

By bringing issues to the forefront through the one-on-one meeting, prevents bad habits. When you address a potential issue before it becomes Godzilla, you minimize the behaviour from developing further and permeating the workplace.

When feedback is left unspoken, issues can fester and transition into significant workplace issues. The one-one-meeting can disrupt the workplace issue by providing an opportunity for the employee to feedback their concerns and become part of creating the solution.

11. A Powerful Tool For Improving Performance

Feedback is a two-way street. If you want to grow as a manager, then listening to the team’s feedback is a privilege. By asking for feedback, you can gain valuable insights for you to learn from. Such questions as:

  • What is something I could do better?
  • What is your favourite thing l do as a manager l should keep doing?
  • How can l best support you?

Delivering feedback is the most cost-effective performance management tool available. Constructive feedback must include specific information around potential causes and solutions to be able to improve performance. No point just pointing out that there is a problem.

12. Wrapping Up

As part of wrapping up the session, it is vital to provide an overview of the key talking points and agreed actions. When setting up an action plan to be executed by the next meeting, asking the question “what can you do to take action or make progress on what we talked about?”, and “what can I do to take action on what we talked about today?”, captures the commitment to moving forward as a team.

One way is to keep track of key deliverables through a project management tool that both parties can access. By tracking key achievements, it allows you to celebrate milestones and capture information pertinent to performance reviews.

Bring The Best Out Of Your People

Even though one-on-one meetings can be time-consuming, the return on investment is significant. When you take care of people, they take care of business. 

If you’re not having regular one-on-ones with your team, you are missing out on opportunities to get to know and better support the people you work with. The timely feedback is invaluable, and supporting your people is priceless.