Regular 1:1 meetings between managers and reports are crucial for making employees feel valued and supported at work. These meetings are an essential ingredient of a holistic people enablement strategy and encourage managers to grow into coaches.
As a manager, your ability to coach your reports strongly impacts team performance and engagement. You owe each of your team members the time and attention to help them be successful in their roles, and 1:1 meetings are the perfect opportunity to put this into practice.
But there’s so much more to 1:1 meetings than putting time on the calendar and jumping in a video call. To reap the benefits of this meeting structure, 1:1 meetings must be intentionally designed. This is critical for improving the communication lines and coaching relationship between you and each team member.
Whether you’re new to management or just looking for a few tips on how to structure your 1:1 meetings, this guide is for you. Keep reading to find out how to run 1:1 meetings that will boost employee engagement and set your team up for success.
📥 Download our best-practice template for effective one-on-one meetings!
What is the purpose of a 1:1 meeting?
The purpose of 1:1 meetings is to check in on progress, exchange constructive feedback, celebrate wins, address challenges, and offer learning and development coaching.
These meetings make checking in quick and simple, provide a unique opportunity for private discussion, foster empathetic work relationships, make employees feel valued, and encourage a problem-solving mindset.
And if you’re still wondering why 1:1 meetings are key to your team’s success: Employees who meet with their manager regularly are more than twice as likely to be engaged at work. The workers interviewed by Gallup were all millennials (who will make up 75% of the workforce by 2030), but other generations, like Gen Z, also expect frequent check-ins and feedback.
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Topics to cover in a one-to-one meeting
While every manager has a management style, some pillars make a great 1:1 meeting. In “The Making of a Manager,” Julie Zhuo, Former VP Design at Facebook, highlights four conversation goals for managers and direct reports — and these should all be part of the 1:1 meeting framework:
- Discussing top priorities
- Calibrating what “great” looks like
- Sharing feedback
- Reflecting on how things are going
- Reviewing Salary and promotion possibilities
- Career development questions
It’s OK if you don’t cover all four in every meeting, but if your meetings regularly contain discussion points oriented around these pillars, you’ll have impactful conversations.
Skilled managers feel comfortable supporting reports with various topics. This may include long-term professional goals and even compassionate conversations about aspects of a report’s personal life that might be impacting their performance — and helping them cope and decrease stress (e.g., adjusting workload; increasing resources).
Ben Horowitz, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist and successful entrepreneur, shared his thoughts on what makes a good 1:1 meeting:
“The key to a good one-on-one meeting is the understanding that it is the employee’s meeting rather than the manager’s meeting.
This is the free-form meeting for all the pressing issues, brilliant ideas and chronic frustrations that do not fit neatly into status reports, email and other less personal and intimate mechanisms.”
This brings us to a helpful mindset for 1:1s: these meetings are owned by your report and not you, the manager. While it‘s important that you also bring topics to the meeting and share feedback, managers should mostly listen and coach.
Also, avoid making 1:1s only about day-to-day work. Unless, that is, topics can be tied into coaching and development, like discussing ways to help your report solve a challenge at work.
⭐️ Top tip: If having difficult conversations and sharing critical feedback with your reports sounds daunting, check out our step-by-step guide to giving constructive feedback.
A template for your first 1:1 meeting with an employee
While your ongoing 1:1 meetings will cover many topics (and you might even find a unique rhythm and recurring themes), your first 1:1 meeting will set the tone for the coaching relationship you’ll build with each report. And that’s why it should cover more ground. This is even more important if a new report is joining your team, as you’ll also need time to get to know each other.
At the start of the first 1:1 meeting, recap the format and the expectations for the meetings — you’ll also have outlined these expectations in an invitation email, which we’ll get to. Once you do this, you can jump into an open conversation. Given that it’s the first meeting, it’s even more crucial to prepare questions to keep the conversation moving.
There are two types of questions that will be most useful in your first 1:1:
- “Getting to know you” questions — These will help break down the barriers a little to kick off the relationship on the right foot.
- Questions to help you understand the lay of the land — These questions will help you, as the manager, get a feel for the status quo.
As the manager, you must listen intently to the answers your report gives and take notes — as long as your report is happy for you to do so and you’re not writing anything private or matters that should remain “off the record.”
Best questions to ask in your first one-on-one meeting
- What are you enjoying the most about working here?
- What are you enjoying the most about your specific role?
- What is going well?
- What is not going well?
- If you could only change one thing about the company or your role, what would it be?
- What are your expectations of me as your manager?
- What are your professional ambitions? Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
- What should I know about you and how you like to work that will help us work well together?
📥 Ready to get started? Get your free template for effective 1:1 meetings
How to schedule one-to-one meetings
As a manager, you should set up a recurring 1:1 meeting with your direct reports from week one onwards.
⭐️ Top tip: One hour every week is a good cadence — at the very least, you should have biweekly meetings. This provides enough dedicated time to build a strong relationship and cover important topics. If there aren’t many discussion points, it’s OK to shorten the meeting.
Email template for your first 1:1 with a direct report
The email serves three purposes:
- Agreeing on a day and time for meeting every week;
- Setting expectations with your report on what they should expect from the meeting; and
- [In case of a new report] Reiterating how much you’re looking forward to working with them.
Ultimately, you’re aiming to build trust and make them feel comfortable.
Subject: Scheduling our 1:1 meetings
Hi [name of report],
I’d like to set up a recurring 1:1 meeting for us to get together at the same time each week.
So that you know what to expect, here are some details on how I like to run 1:1 meetings:
• Our 1:1 meetings are your meetings. They’re a chance for us to speak about any topics on your mind, exchange feedback, discuss your career development, and anything else you would like. These meetings are meant to help you be successful in your role, so whatever would help you achieve this would make for great topics for these meetings.
• As we’ll be working closely together on projects and will have other meeting formats where we’ll speak about the progress of related tasks, our 1:1 meetings aren’t primarily for status updates.
• You should own the agenda for the meeting. We will use [insert name of meeting software] to keep track of our agenda, notes, and action items each week.
We should block out one hour for the meeting to give us enough time to cover important topics. Here are some time slots that work for me. Let me know which time you prefer; please suggest alternative times if none of these work for you.
• [insert weekday] at [insert time]
• [insert weekday] at [insert time]
• [insert weekday] at [insert time]
Once we’ve agreed on the time, I’ll send over a calendar invitation.
Looking forward to our discussions and to working with you!
Once you and your report have found a time that works for both, schedule the recurring 1:1 meeting on the calendar.
1:1 meeting calendar invitation template
Head to your business calendar app and create a new meeting to schedule the time for you and your report.
Event name & participants
We recommend a clear and concise event title (e.g., “1:1 | Taylor & Morgan”). This way, meeting participants can easily recognize the meeting when glancing at their calendars.
Don’t forget to add your report to the meeting event (whether doing it via your calendar or a meeting tool) so that they receive the invitation.
Date & time
Set up the event for the day and time that you agreed upon. Remember to set it as a recurring event.
It’s a good idea to have a permanent video conferencing link in the calendar invitation, so that you can both join the meeting without having to set up a new link each time.
Even if you plan on meeting in person, it’s helpful to have a video conferencing link set up — so if you ever need to meet remotely, things will be ready.
Include the URL of the document you’ll be using for the meeting agenda and notes. This way, you’ll be able to access the relevant documents when the time for the meeting comes around. But if you’re using a 1:1 meeting software, it will automatically include a link to the meeting.
If using something like Google Docs, ensure that the privacy settings are set up so that only the two of you have access to the document.
⭐️ Top tip: With a meeting software like Leapsome, you can easily create recurring one-on-ones or team meetings with as many team members as you’d like — and automatically sync them with Google or Outlook calendars.
You’ll be able to keep track of the agenda, notes (private or shared), action items, and have a better overview of your meetings and topics discussed (including helpful analytics).
If you’d like to make the most of your 1:1s and team meetings, have a chat with one of our product experts.
Use tools & templates for your next one-on-one meeting
If you’re using a simple Google Doc to track your meetings, here are some reminders:
- Write the date and time of the meeting.
- Create sections where participants can add agenda items and talking points, take notes, and record action items from the meeting.
- When it’s time for the next meeting, move all the previous meeting’s contents onto the next page. You’ll then have a record of every 1:1 meeting that you’ve had with a report, all in one document.
If you’re powering your meetings with a tool like Leapsome, all the above will be handled automatically within the tool.
⭐️ Top tip: A record of all of your 1:1 meetings can help you conduct performance reviews and share performance feedback. You’ll have an extensive list of all the topics you have discussed in the weeks leading up to the review.
1:1 meeting questions for managers
- How are you today?
- What’s on your mind this week at work?
- What are your priorities for this week?
- Any admin items (e.g., holidays) that we should discuss?
- How confident do you feel with where the company is going?
- Do you have questions about strategy?
- Do you have questions about our promotion policy?
- Do you need any additional input from me?
- What has challenged you since we last talked?
- What has gone well since we last talked?
Feedback & coaching
- What feedback do you have for me?
- Which skills would you like to continue working on?
- What progress have you made on your learning and career goals?
- Anything we should discuss next time?
- How can I support you between now and the next time we meet?
Leapsome’s built-in 1:1 meeting templates
To make one-to-one meetings even more efficient and easier to set up, our team of people enablement experts developed built-in questions and prompts that can be added to your agenda template within Leapsome with one click.
These prompts will be helpful for all managers looking to create a structure with their reports and have impactful conversations.
- You will find these meeting questions within the meeting settings.
- Clicking on “Show Ideas” above the agenda structure will reveal the list of suggestions.
- From this list, click on “Add” to have suggestions automatically added to your agenda as a section.
The suggestions are grouped into the following categories:
- Next steps
The admins of your company’s Leapsome account can also add suggestions. This way, if your company has internal best practices, they can be recommended to every manager to create a level of consistency in all 1:1s happening across the business.
How often should managers schedule one-to-one meetings?
One-to-one meetings are most effective when held frequently and at regular intervals. We recommend scheduling one-to-one meetings between managers and their direct reports once per week.
How do you structure a 1:1 meeting?
Efficient 1:1 meetings are focused on employee development and enablement. This means that, although it can be necessary to discuss a roadblock and support your report in overcoming it, it shouldn’t be just about pending tasks and plans for the week ahead. Leapsome’s team of people enablement experts developed a free 1:1 meeting template with questions in the following categories:
- Next steps
What do you say in a one-on-one meeting invite?
Your one-on-one meeting invite should help you build trust with your report. If you’re onboarding someone new or implementing one-on-ones for the first time, make sure to set expectations on the meeting and its structure. If it’s a new employee, reiterate that you’re looking forward to working with them. And, of course, agree on a day and time to meet consistently. We recommend meeting every week or every two weeks (at the very least).
What is a one-to-one meeting template?
A one-to-one meeting template is a set of suggested questions to help you bring structure to your one-to-one meetings and make them a space for employee enablement and coaching. Efficient, development-oriented one-to-ones can improve team culture, boost engagement and performance, and help build a feedback culture.