1-on-1 meetings are more than a weekly progress check-in with your direct reports. They play a critical role in employee engagement and give employees the opportunity for communication, direction, and connection they need not just to meet but to exceed their manager’s expectations.
For managers, these meetings are just as important. They are the perfect time to sit down with direct reports, catch up on personal matters, discuss career growth, check-in on progress, and identify roadblocks.
The most challenging part of leading a successful 1-on-1 meeting lies in perfecting your meetings’ structure, so both you and your employee can get the most out of your time together. After all, 30 minutes doesn’t leave much time for you to deviate from a packed agenda. Still, you can easily cater your meetings to each direct report to ensure they get the right balance of coaching, guidance, and camaraderie.
From questions you should ask every meeting to common pitfalls to avoid, we’ve put together everything you need to lead an effective 1-on-1 meeting with your direct reports:
With 87% of millennials saying they value growth and professional development in a job, it’s essential to incorporate career advancement and professional growth opportunities into your ongoing conversations. 1-on-1 meetings are the perfect time to casually and formally discuss personal and professional growth. As a manager, you want to give your direct reports ongoing feedback and identify skill gaps or improvement areas. This can help your employees focus on growing specific skills or be more conscious of their weaknesses.
You should also use these meetings as an opportunity to discuss upcoming projects, assign projects that might be in their area of interest, or give them an opportunity to learn new skills and get more facetime with senior leaders.
By investing time in understanding where their employees want to take their careers, managers can better understand how to motivate their direct reports and serve them better. Managers are a crucial link to ensuring employees have the resources they need to grow and feel that the company is invested in their career development. That might look like finding your employee an internal mentor, having them participate in stretch assignments, or encouraging them to take a class outside of work to learn new skills.
Additional resources on professional development
24 great 1-on-1 meeting questions
A manager’s ultimate checklist for effective 1-on-1s
Webinar: Best practices for meaningful & productive 1-on-1 meetings
eBook: The empath’s guide to 1-on-1 meetings
1-on-1 meetings are also the perfect time to get to know your employees on a more personal level and ask them how they are – how they really are. The alone time allows your employees to bring up any personal issues or come to you for help. For example, a problem at home could be causing their performance to slip. Being aware of your employee’s challenges allows you to help find an outcome that benefits both your employee and your business. You could agree on a flexible schedule that lets your employee pick their child up from school in the middle of the day or, if your company is in-office, give them the option to work from home when they need to. That way, they don’t have to scramble for last-minute childcare when their child wakes up sick.
That said, 1-on-1s won’t always be lighthearted chit chat or come with easy resolutions. Sometimes you’ll have to have difficult conversations with your teammates. If and when these situations do arise, just remember to act with empathy. Approach the topic softly, keep things objective, and rely on facts, not impressions, to coach employees towards a solution.
Additional resources on building trust
Using conversation to manage conflict in the workplace
How to help managers have difficult conversations at work
Using employee listening to support wellbeing
Quarterly and annual reviews are too late to check-in on project progress and goals. 1-on-1s let you check-in every week or every other week to better understand how things are moving along and if employees will meet, exceed, or miss their targets. This not only holds employees accountable, but it lets you address questions and concerns as they pop up and stay up-to-date on changes in project scope or direction. It also gives you a better idea of who’s underperforming so you can work with that employee to understand what’s causing them to fall behind and how you can help.
Additional resources on performance
How to help managers have more impactful 1-on-1 meetings
How to have more impactful 1-on-1 meetings
Another benefit of 1-on-1 meetings is their ability to increase your team’s agility. Weekly or biweekly check-ins allow you to address issues as they arise, so progress isn’t stalled on significant projects. You can quickly identify and eliminate roadblocks, so projects can move forward seamlessly and stay on track to meet established deadlines.
Additionally, if a project needs to change in scope or direction, you can easily pivot from your initial idea and discuss ways to grow, shrink, or change the project design. You can also keep on top of your employees’ workloads and better understand who needs more support and who is around to lend a helping hand. This can help you better allocate your team’s resources and move items across the finish line faster, helping your team be more efficient and stay on track to meet goals.
Resources on increasing agility:
Ensuring 1-on-1 meetings go beyond tactical performance
Why it’s important to encourage shared ownership of 1-on-1s
The importance of 1-on-1 meetings
All together now
If you think that’s a lot to cover in a weekly 30-minute call, don’t worry. The odds are you won’t get to each item on this list every single week, and that’s okay. 1-on-1s are meant to be dynamic and owned by both you and your employee.
Each week your agenda will change and evolve based on current projects and priorities, as well as the needs of your business and your employees. Just be sure to cover these four core elements at least once a month, so you can continue investing in your employees and ensure your team is on track to meet its goals.