Many managers and employees approach weekly 1-on-1 meetings as quick, casual check-ins, but they can – and should be – much more. Effective 1-on-1 meetings should be intentional, thoughtful check-ins that address productivity, alignment, and professional growth. They are one of the few moments a week when your direct report gets your uninterrupted attention, so it’s important to come prepared and make the most of everyone’s time.
When it comes to learning how to run a good 1-on-1 meeting, it’s important to keep in mind that every employee is different, and you should cater every check-in to that employee’s specific needs and interests. Still, there is a general framework you can follow when establishing your 1-on-1 routine and fostering an environment for honest and open conversations.
Here are a few manager best practices to help you lead efficient and effective 1-on-1 meetings.
3 steps on how to run a good 1-on-1 meeting
Personalize your 1-on-1's
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to organizing and leading a good 1-on-1 meeting. Your meetings should be tailored to fit your direct report’s needs and preferences. For example, some employees might want to touch base more frequently, while some might prefer a more hands-off approach.
Talk to your direct report and decide what would be most helpful for them. This might include how frequently and for how long you should meet, the meeting structure, and a time and place (physical or virtual) that is convenient for you both. You can, of course, update your meetings as needed and mix things up by grabbing coffee one week or taking a walking phone call from home. Still, it’s important to get on the same page from the get-go so that you both feel accountable for how you organize your 1-on-1 meetings.
Thirty minutes will go by quickly. To make the most of your time, you need to be intentional with your 1-on-1 meetings. One way to hold you both accountable for the meeting’s success is to make a shared agenda 24 hours before the meeting so that you and your direct report can add any questions or topics you want to discuss. This gives them time to pull numbers or assets to reference during your conversation and you time to look things over and put together meaningful feedback and questions.
What to cover in the meeting
While every 1-on-1 meeting will be a bit different based on you and your direct report’s needs during a given week, here are a few great 1-on-1 meeting questions and topics to cover during your check-ins. From alignment to wellbeing to professional growth, here’s how to ensure your employees know you’re invested in their success:
While it’s important to touch base on current projects and weekly to-dos, keep this section to the point as it can quickly eat up your allotted meeting time. Have your employee share a brief snapshot of what they’re working on and what they need from you to move forward.
A simple “How are you?” can go a long way. Be sure to carve out time in your conversation to get to know your employees on a personal level. You can ask how they are adjusting to remote work or how they are feeling about their workload, new company changes, team goals, etc. Give them the opportunity to open up and share their feelings, so you can ensure you’re aligned as a team and help address any concerns they may have.
1-on-1 meetings are the perfect opportunity to touch base on your direct report’s professional interests and growth. Check in on long-term career goals and regularly discuss the skills and experiences they need to gain to make those goals a reality. For example, you can discuss upcoming projects they might be interested in working on, professional mentors you could introduce them to, or classes or conferences they could attend using their learning and development stipend.
When it comes to planning and leading effective 1-on-1 meetings, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface. Want to learn more about how to run a good 1-on-1 meeting? From tips for avoiding common pitfalls to leading meetings with confidence, check out our new guide: “The Empath’s guide to 1-on-1 meetings.” Whether you’re a first time manager or seasoned people leader, this guide will remind you of everything you need to direct meaningful and productive 1-on-1s that engage your direct reports.