How to conduct a 1:1 meeting

TL;DR: 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 on an individual basis. 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? And how to have effective 1:1 meetings?

Did you know most people spend almost 12 hours per week preparing for and attending meetings? Since meetings take up so much of our time at work, it’s important to make sure they deliver maximum value.

Ineffective meetings are a common cause of frustration for managers and employees alike — in a survey of 182 senior managers, 71% said they find meetings unproductive and inefficient. But this doesn’t mean we should ditch meetings altogether: Productive meetings, especially 1:1s, play an important role in communication and employee engagement. 

Gallup has found that engagement is highest among employees who meet with their managers at least once a week, and employees whose managers hold regular meetings with them are almost 3x more likely to be engaged.

1:1 meetings are crucial for employee and team performance. They provide an opportunity for managers to check on employees’ progress, offer help with projects, address challenges, give praise, and otherwise help employees solve problems. Rachel Ben Hamou, co-founder of workplace consultancy PeopleStorming, defines a 1:1 as “a meeting between two people where one of them has a duty of care towards the other person's growth, well-being, and performance.”

To get the best results from 1:1 meetings, make sure to use a purposeful, organized approach — keep reading this playbook to find out how to get there, and take a look at our one-on-one meeting template for a best-practice approach.

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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 to create an organized digital agenda that fits your meeting format, and easily share it with your team.

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 an essential tool to make sure the meeting stays on-topic and all relevant points are addressed.

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 into 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, or note them down privately.

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 ideally take a few minutes to review the meeting agenda. This will serve as a quick reminder of what’s to come, and will 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:

  • Encouraging your  report to talk about their well-being;
  • Highlighting employee achievements;
  • Identifying roadblocks and brainstorming solutions;
  • Giving bidirectional feedback (from manager to employee, and vice-versa);
  • Asking about employee needs;
  • Giving employees space to share goals (for career planning or future projects within the company);
  • Emphasizing team priorities;
  • Reviewing lessons learned during the week;
  • Planning for vacations or time off if needed.

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 for just sharing 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 you can 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 make sure both parties have access to the meeting notes.

Follow-up best practices for 1:1 meetings

Keep it consistent

1:1 meetings are most useful when they’re held consistently. Be sure to make time for a meeting every week, even if you’re busy or feel like there’s not much to talk about that week. Your employees might have concerns they haven’t told you about yet.

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

💡 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 performance management, employee engagement, and learning.

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 often to have 1:1 meetings?

1:1 meetings are most effective when they’re held frequently and at regular intervals. We recommend scheduling a 1:1 meeting once per week between each manager and their direct reports.

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