Tips on Running More Insightful and Effective One-on-One Meetings

One-on-one meetings are essential to business today. A one-on-one meeting is a consistent and regular meeting between a leader and a team member. These meetings are meant to benefit employees by providing listening, advisement, affirmations, and accountability.

You might wonder what a manager gets out of the process of one-on-one meetings. Keep in mind that one-on-ones are largely for the employee rather than the leader who is on the other side. Below we’ll give you a variety of tips to help you run more effective and insightful one-on-ones.

1. Have Pocket Questions Ready for One-on-Ones

It’s always good to learn more about your team members. At the same time, not everyone wants to open up. That’s why you should have some questions that help you see under the surface a bit more. A few suggestions include:

  • Are you working on anything interesting?
  • What have you learned in the past week?
  • On a scale of one to 10, how happy are you at work?
  • What suggestions do you have?
  • Do you like what you’re doing?
  • What are we not doing that we should be doing?
  • How are you getting along with your team members?
  • What is one thing you’d like to see improved in your department?
  • As your manager, what could I be doing better?
  • Tell me about some of the challenges you’ve been having this week.

You don’t need to ask all of these questions. This is just a place to start if you aren’t sure what to ask on your own.

2. One-on-Ones Should Always Be Scheduled and Consistent

Consistency is essential to productive one-on-one meetings. As a member of the management team, you need to make a commitment to several different logistics. For instance, choose a day and a time for the one-on-one meetings. Determine how often you will be having them. Consider how long the meetings will be and choose a location to hold them. This will provide the consistency needed.

In addition, try to stay within the time limit you set. If an occasional one-on-one goes over, that isn’t a huge problem, but it isn’t something to make into a habit. This is why it’s important to watch the time throughout the meeting so you can wrap things up at the appropriate moment.

3. Always Have an Agenda for One-on-One Meetings

An agenda is a must to ensure the right things are covered in the allotted time for the one-on-one meeting. This has two different parts to it. The first is planning for how the time will be spent before the meeting ever occurs. The second is managing that time well when the meeting has started.

Here’s an example agenda to help you create your own:

Start (__ minutes)

  • Team morale and overwhelm measures
  • What’s on your agenda?
  • What’s on my agenda?

Employee Agenda (__ minutes)

  • Their topic of choice
  • Feedback and updates
  • Support requests
  • Action planning – What will you do? When will it be done? How will I know?

Management Agenda (__ minutes)

  • Open with something to praise about
  • Any manager items to share
  • Feedback and updates
  • Support requests
  • Action planning – What will you do? When will it be done? How will I know?

Wrap-Up (__ minutes)

  • Review any new action items
  • What are we planning to do?
  • How will outcomes be measured?

4. One-on-Ones Should Cover Common Topics on a Regular Basis

There are many topics that you will want to cover time and time again. You should always track when you talk about these things and make sure you don’t let too much time go in between the next time they are brought up. Some of the topics to cover regularly include:

  • Milestone check-ins
  • Career development
  • Stress level and workload
  • Personal (outside of work) topics
  • Performance feedback
  • Recognition and praise
  • Asking them for feedback
  • Coaching
  • Team culture and morale
  • Job satisfaction
  • Process improvement and innovation

You can make a list of these yourself and determine how frequently you should discuss them. This ensures you stay on schedule and keep up communication about important topics.

5. One-on-Ones Require Follow Up

Talking about things in a one-on-one is great but you also have to follow up on those things later. There are three questions of accountability that you should keep in mind.

  1. What will you do?
  2. When will it be done?
  3. How will I know you did it?

This is why you should be recording information from your one-on-ones. Make sure all decisions and action items are taken down at the end of every session. This will help you structure the next meeting appropriately.

Extra Information on How to Manage Outcomes

There are many things you can do to manage outcomes and make life easier for yourself and the company as a whole. The first is for you to clarify what needs to be done and why. You can delegate how it gets done. The important thing is to define what success looks like, provide resources, expectations, and deadlines, and ask for information about how it will be done.

In addition, make sure clear agreements are negotiated. The person who is given the assignment must have time to handle the project. There also need to be resources and people on hand to ensure you reach the deadline. In some cases, that means you will need to compromise.

When challenges or conflicts crop up, it’s important to renegotiate to keep everyone on the same page. Deliverables should also be explicitly asked for, whether that takes the form of a written summary, presentation, or lessons learned in the process. Upon the delivery of the project, you can then provide feedback.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a method to make your one-on-ones more effective and insightful, consider the tips listed above. Even making small changes can completely alter the way your team runs. If nothing else, try the template above and some of the questions to see what kind of benefits it has for your workers and yourself.


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