Best Practices for 1:1s: How To Get the Most Out of Your Meetings

What makes a good 1:1 for you and your direct reports?

1:1s are a dedicated meeting time between an employee and their manager for focused discussion. What makes these so important is that they are needed to build connection and clarity and provide coaching (when needed). They are part of the glue between strategy and execution of company goals.

Given our fast-paced environment, we rarely slow down to truly communicate with each other. 1:1s are a powerful time for exchanging feedback, resetting priorities, understanding wellbeing, providing important context, reviewing blockers, and providing thought partnership. 1:1s are the cornerstone for development, productivity, accountability, connection, and sustainability.

What are the best practices for having 1:1s?

The best approach to a 1:1 is the one that you and your employee align on and commit to. Design your 1:1s in partnership with your direct reports to get the most out of your meeting.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind for 1:1 etiquette:

  1. Schedule a recurring time at least 30 minutes weekly or 60 minutes bi-weekly.
  2. Use technology as little as possible. Use a notebook to take notes.
  3. Meet over video when you or the employee is remote.
  4. Don’t cancel. If you have to cancel, always reschedule.
  5. Align on expectations for the time with your direct report by forming an agenda. These agenda items might include:

6. Let your direct report drive the agenda and capture action items and feedback in a shared document.

7. As the manager, your job is to listen, ask questions, provide feedback and share insights.

It’s also important to keep in mind the power differential at play in these meetings. As the manager, you are in the up-power position, which means the heavier burden of responsibility is on you for knowing how your role affects these conversations. How can you ensure your direct reports feel safe and heard? In what ways might you need to use your position to advocate for them?

Questions to try in your next 1:1

Need a jumping-off point for questions to ask for certain agenda items? Here are some tried and true questions to get you started for various parts of the conversation.

Start conversation.

  • How are you today?
  • Scale of 1–10, how are you doing? What’s contributing to that?
  • What was the highlight of your week? Low light?
  • How can we make the most of our time together today?

Progress towards goals, reset priorities, and surface blockers.

  • In relation to your goals — what is going well? What could be better?
  • How could your priorities and expectations be more clear?
  • Where are you blocked, stuck, or challenged?

Check-in on well-being.

  • Where are you thriving? What work de-energizes you?
  • How do you feel about your current workload?
  • What needs to change for you to feel your best self?

Exchange feedback.

  • What feedback have you collected recently? What are the themes?
  • What areas would you like more feedback on?
  • What is one thing I can be doing more of or differently?
  • What are you not saying that would be helpful to share?
  • What are you saying that I’m not hearing or seeing?

Drive clarity.

  • What’s something I don’t know, but should?
  • Where do you feel like you need more information from me?
  • What initiatives or decisions would you like more clarity on?

Support growth and reflection.

  • Where would you like to grow?
  • What skills would you like to collect?
  • What strengths would you like to use more of?
  • Where have you surprised yourself lately?
  • How are you progressing towards your personal growth goals?

Align on next steps.

  • What do you want to complete by our next 1:1?
  • What do you need from me to be successful?

While easy to dismiss or take half-heartedly, 1:1s are the building blocks to better relationship building with the team at an individual level. This is where many folks in your organization have some of their most important meetings. The cadence and continuity, as well as content, of your time together bears on the experience they have within the organization and their potential growth within it.

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Allison Schultz

Allison Schultz

783 Followers

Co-founder and coach @RebootHQ. Lifting up the wisdom of the equines for leaders of today so we can return to our truest self.