How to conduct 1 on 1 meetings with impact

TL;DR: Regular 1:1 meetings allow leaders to coach employees, check on their progress, and help them do their best job. However, conducting effective meetings is a challenge, and inefficient meetings can leave employees feeling disengaged and unmotivated. This playbook will walk you through how to have productive, purposeful 1:1 meetings.

Sometimes, there’s just no substitute for a personal conversation. “Conferences That Work” author Adrian Segar has asked conference attendees how many other people were present during the most important conversation of their life. The most common answer? One. With fewer people around, it often feels easier to open up.

This principle also applies in the workplace. 1:1 meetings are the cornerstone of a healthy working environment. They provide a crucial opportunity for managers to coach each employee individually. Leaders can use 1:1s to give praise, address challenges, and help employees problem-solve. But these meetings are most useful when they’re organized, frequent, and targeted to address meaningful topics.

What is the purpose of 1:1 meetings?

The primary purpose of 1:1 meetings is to check in with employees and provide them with the tools they need to feel engaged with their work and do their jobs as best as they can. By conducting impactful 1:1 meetings, you can also:

  • Exchange meaningful feedback
  • Discuss employee performance and identify roadblocks
  • Form and strengthen empathetic work relationships
  • Boost employee happiness and job satisfaction
  • Celebrate employee wins and make your people feel appreciated and valued
  • Offer coaching and other learning and development opportunities
  • Set, track, and update employee goals and OKRs based on in-depth discussions
  • Get status updates on ongoing projects and approach challenges with a problem-solving mindset

Gallup has found that engagement is highest among employees who meet with their managers at least once a week, and employees whose managers schedule consistent meetings with them are almost 3x more likely to be engaged. That’s why it’s vital to encourage leaders and managers to regularly hold impactful 1:1 conversations with their reports.

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1:1 meetings provide a space where managers can check on their employees and contribute to their overall well-being

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Wann Sie dieses Playbook verwenden sollten

When to use
this playbook

You can use this playbook whenever you’re ready to boost organizational alignment and psychological safety, and revamp your meeting process with more effective 1:1s.

If your managers haven't been running 1:1 meetings with their reports, or if these haven’t been consistent (we recommend a weekly recurrence), there’s no better time to take steps to improve.

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Was Sie für dieses Playbook benötigen

What you’ll need for
this playbook

A private space (physical or digital) 

Part of what makes 1:1 meetings so powerful is their highly personal nature. Many people will feel more comfortable expressing their thoughts in a 1:1 rather than in a large group. To create a safe environment, hold 1:1 meetings in a private space (public chats in an open-plan office won’t have the same effect). You can also hold effective 1:1s in a remote setting over a private video call.

Solutions to keep you organized

Planning a good meeting always starts with an agenda. You could create a separate agenda in a document each week, but this could easily become disorganized and difficult to track. Instead, why not try a people enablement software like Leapsome? You can use Leapsome Meetings — for free — to create an organized digital agenda that fits your meeting format, and easily share it with your team.

💪 Motivate and engage your people with meaningful 1:1s

Leapsome’s tools for 1:1 and team meetings let you collaborate on shared agendas, take notes, and assign action items.

👉 Get Leapsome Meetings for free
Hinweise & Tipps
  • While employees should ideally feel comfortable opening up at 1:1 meetings, this will only work if they have a trusting relationship with their manager. Employees should feel empowered to express their true feelings and concerns without fear of repercussions.
  • As a manager, a big part of your job is active listening. Try to aim for 90% employee talk time and just 10% manager talk time during your 1:1 meeting.
  • Meetings don’t necessarily have to take place in a conference room, they just need to happen in a calm and private environment. If you and your direct report are prone to stress, try taking a walk during your 1:1.
  • Your meetings don’t have to take the exact same amount of time every week. Avoid the temptation to fill up extra meeting time with “fluff” or small talk — if there’s nothing genuinely relevant to discuss and you’re just staring at one another, better to cut the meeting short.
  • At the same time, if you’re working through a particularly tough issue, you might find yourself running over the meeting time.

    If this happens and you’re unable to finish your discussion, schedule some extra time later, so your direct report can have your undivided attention and help with fixing the problem.

How to run this People Ops Playbook:

Wie Sie dieses People Ops Playbook durchführen:

1. Schedule your meetings

The first step is to schedule a meeting with each of your direct reports. For the sake of consistency, you may find it useful to meet at the same time each week.

We recommend putting aside 30 minutes to one hour for each 1:1 meeting. If there aren’t many points to talk about that week and your employee has a lot of work, you could potentially shorten the meeting time. However, it’s better to shorten the meeting than to skip it — try not to cancel or reschedule unless it’s absolutely necessary.

2. Create a meeting agenda

Before you arrive at the meeting, create an organized agenda to help you plan your time. The agenda is essential to ensure the meeting stays on-topic and you address all relevant points.

Your agenda should include talking points to discuss during your meeting. You might also want to privately note down some useful questions to ask your employee. For example, you could try asking, “How do you feel when you come to work each day?”, or “Is there anything I can do that would make your work easier or more efficient?”

Both manager and employee should be involved in creating the agenda. With Leapsome, you can have your employee add their own items directly to the meeting agenda.

If you need help creating your agenda, check out our free 1:1 meeting template. It’s filled with best-practice questions and thought-provoking prompts to help you and your employee have a productive meeting.

3. Come to the meeting prepared and ready to talk

Shortly before the meeting, both you and your employee should take a few minutes to review the meeting agenda. This will serve as a quick reminder of what’s to come, and give you some time to think about what needs to be discussed.

4. Discuss key areas during the meeting

Arrive at the 1:1 meeting prepared to discuss your selected topics. The meeting should be focused on your direct report’s areas of concern, so let them lead the discussion.

Not sure what to talk about? Here are some areas you could focus on:

  • Encourage your report to talk about their well-being
  • Highlight employee achievements
  • Identify roadblocks and brainstorm solutions
  • Give bidirectional feedback (from manager to employee, and vice versa)
  • Ask about employee needs
  • Give employees space to share their goals (for career planning or future projects within the company)
  • Emphasize team priorities
  • Review lessons learned during the previous weeks
  • Plan for vacations or time off

There’s always a chance that unexpected subjects will come up during your discussion. Don’t worry if you don’t stick precisely to the meeting agenda, although you should try your best to keep the meeting focused.

1:1 meetings shouldn’t be used just to share status updates — try to save your valuable meeting time for topics that truly require in-depth discussion. This might mean solving a thorny problem, talking about sensitive interpersonal issues within the team, or giving your employee the opportunity to share struggles, ask for help, or request extra time.

We recommend taking notes during your meeting, so you can keep track of what was discussed. You can do this within Leapsome and automatically carry over notes to the next meeting if you’d like to.

5. Send a summary with action items and next steps after the meeting

Once the meeting is over, make sure your direct report leaves with a set of goals and action items for the week. They should now have a clear idea of your expectations, and how any problems they brought up during the meeting will be addressed. In addition to sharing action items, you’ll also want to ensure both parties have access to the meeting notes.

3 best practices for excellent 1:1 meetings

1. Keep them consistent

1:1 meetings are most useful when they happen regularly, so make time for them every week, even if you’re busy or feel like there’s not much to talk about. Your employees might have concerns they haven’t told you about yet or benefit from your guidance on their upcoming tasks and projects.

And at the beginning of each meeting, don’t forget to follow up on the action items you discussed the previous week.

2. Delve deep into your discussions

It’s perfectly okay to discuss individual projects and status updates during your 1:1s. However, progress reports shouldn’t be your main focus. If your entire meeting could be held just as easily with five other team members present — or even on Slack — you’re probably not touching on issues that are vital to your employee’s engagement and motivation. Some examples include discussions related to:

  • Compensation
  • Development and training opportunities
  • Effective recognition

As a manager, you need to dig deeper and ask your employees about their well-being, their feelings about current projects or initiatives, and where they need support.

3. Always follow up

Following up on what you discussed during previous meetings and upcoming action items helps employees keep their momentum up and clarify misunderstandings or miscommunications before they turn into bigger problems

Send follow-up emails or messages to check in with your people about what was discussed, what was unclear, and identify important points that didn’t come up during the meeting. Some ways you can check in with your people include:

  • An email
  • Slack messages 
  • Voice notes
  • Slack huddles or short audio calls
  • A 15-minute video chat or in-person meeting 
💡 Ever wondered how to make your 1:1 meetings more effective? Check out our free 1:1 meeting template — it’s jam-packed with value, including best-practice meeting questions and useful prompts. 😉

Conduct better 1:1 meetings with Leapsome

Leapsome is the only platform that closes the loop between employee development, productivity, and engagement.

📈 Ready to take your meetings to the next level?

Transform your team’s meeting culture with Leapsome Meetings. Say goodbye to chaos and hello to clarity, efficiency, and actionable outcomes — all at no cost.

Sign up today

Watch this video to learn how to set up and conduct more efficient 1:1 meetings with Leapsome’s all-in-one people enablement platform.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do you lead a 1:1 meeting?

To make your people more comfortable when leading a 1:1 meeting, start by scheduling it in a private setting (either a physical space or a video call). Then, create a comprehensive meeting agenda to avoid getting disorganized and losing track of what matters during your conversation. Finally:

  • Review your agenda before the meeting and attend the 1:1 prepared and ready to talk.

  • Discuss key topics like employee well-being, goals, and progress.

  • Follow up and send your report a summary of the 1:1, complete with action items and next steps.

How often should you have 1:1 meetings?

How often you should have 1:1 meetings depends on your company’s business model, size, and culture, but generally, they should happen at least once a week. That’s because 1:1 meetings are most effective when leaders and managers hold them frequently and at consistent intervals. 

How do you structure a 1:1?

Impactful, well-structured 1:1 meetings should focus on your people’s development. It might sometimes be necessary to discuss project status updates and potential roadblocks in your conversations, but they should mainly focus on employee coaching. 

So, begin your meetings by encouraging your report to raise any questions and concerns. Then, touch on agenda points in the following categories:

  • General
  • Alignment 
  • Progress
  • Relationships
  • Aspirations 
  • Next steps

What do you say in a 1 on 1 meeting?

A 1:1 meeting is the perfect time for direct reports to speak openly about various topics related to their professional (or even personal) lives. Most meetings focus on addressing roadblocks, goals, wins, and feedback. But you can also talk about employee well-being, career development, and learning opportunities. 

Some additional areas you could focus on include:

  • Giving bidirectional feedback (from manager to employee, and vice versa)
  • Asking about your individual employees’ needs
  • Giving employees space to share their goals (for career planning or future projects within the company)
  • Emphasizing team priorities
  • Reviewing lessons learned during the week
  • Planning for upcoming time off 
  • Discussing your report’s progress with their goals and OKRs 

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