Five-Step Checklist For An Effective One-on-One Meeting

Lori Li
8 min read
Feb 24, 2020

Meeting 1

Not another meeting…

We’ve all been there, jumping from meeting to meeting and feeling like nothing is being accomplished. But one-on-one meetings are different. They’re a powerful leadership tool you can use to connect with your employees and grow as a leader. 

The Value of One-on-One Meetings 

One-on-one meetings are about so much more than keeping yourself in the loop. Taking the time to hold one-on-one meetings shows your team that you care about their personal growth and development. It also shows that you value them as individuals. 

These meetings also have tremendous benefits for you and your organization. A recent Gallup survey, for example, found that engagement levels nearly triple when managers regularly hold one-on-one meetings. 

What’s more, regular one-on-one meetings can also enhance your employees’ perception of you as a leader and give you invaluable feedback. This, in turn, can increase employee productivity and profitability for your business—making you a stronger leader along the way. 

Overcoming Classic Leadership Challenges

Getting Started with One-on-One Meetings

TINYpulse data showed that nearly 50% of employees rated their one-on-one meetings as “not good” or “needs improvement.” In large part, this is likely because the folks running those meetings didn’t really have a clue about what they were doing.

Holding your first one-on-one meeting can often be confusing and intimidating. What do you talk about? How often do you need to hold them? 

Fortunately, there are proven things you can do to ensure your first one-on-one meeting is successful—and so are the ones after it.

With that in mind, here are the five ingredients for a perfect one-on-one meeting.

1. Preparation


Structure Your Meeting and Create an Agenda

Preparing for your one-on-one meetings is key. Doing so shows your employees that you value their time. Setting a solid agenda is the first thing you’ll want to focus on because it helps you set the stage for a successful meeting. 

Take the time to identify what you are hoping to achieve with each of your 1:1 meetings beforehand. Are you looking to increase productivity? Boost employee engagement

By identifying your desired outcome, you can ensure you are asking the right questions. 

When you structure your agenda, there are four basic areas to cover: 

  • Relationship building: The first 5–10 minutes of your meeting is a great time to catch up with your employee on a personal level and help them feel comfortable.
  • Employee-driven discussion: The majority of your one-on-one meeting should be dedicated to giving your employee the floor. This part of the meeting is their chance to share what’s on their mind and bring up any concerns they have.
  • Manager-driven discussion: After your employee has shared their thoughts, it’s your turn to speak your mind and solicit feedback. 
  • Goal setting: Use the last 10–15 minutes of your meeting to create an action plan and work together to identify up to three goals for your employee to work on. 

For your very first one-on-one meeting, your agenda will be slightly different than subsequent meetings because you are laying the foundation for all meetings to come. Asking questions prior to your 1-on-1 meeting to think and prepare how you want to coach your employees. Make sure that you allow time in your first one-on-one to discuss meeting expectations so that you and your employee are on the same page. 

Do Your Homework

Preparing for your first meeting also means taking the time to study up on your employees. 

To do this, you can review their most recent performance evaluation, client emails, and other resources you have to get a better idea of how they are currently performing. While one-on-one meetings aren’t solely about performance, this will give you a starting point to discuss the barriers and challenges your employees face.

Make sure you are also aware of any milestones coming up or events in your employees’ lives. Is someone’s birthday coming up? Are they getting ready to close on a house? Knowing these details and helps convey that they are more than just an employee to you.

2. Presence

Meeting 5

One-on-one meetings are your time to connect with your employees on a deeper level. It’s important that they feel you are transparent and honest with them. 

Depending on your current relationship with your employees, this trust may take more time to develop. In either case, it’s worth the effort.

Prevent Distractions

One of the most important things you can do before you have your first meeting is to make sure your one-on-one time is protected from interruptions. This means preventing any potential distractions so you can keep the focus on your employees. 

For example, if staff are constantly in and out of your office, post a note on the door prior to your meeting so they know not to disturb you. It’s also a good idea to silence your phone and close your computer screen. This will show your employees that they have your full attention.

Practice Active Listening

Another way to show you are engaged and present is to practice active listening. Let your employees direct the conversation. Your role as a manager is to listen and offer help when it’s needed. This is also your opportunity to provide spot coaching and make sure you and your reports are in alignment on short-term and long-term goals.

It’s also important to be mindful of the tone you are using and what your body language is conveying. If you cross your arms, for example, you may be perceived as withdrawn, or worse—angry. 

Even if that’s not the case, it’s what your employee will perceive. Remember, it’s often not what you say but how you say it.

Did you know: Only 22% of employees believe their management  is very transparent, compared with 40% of managers?

3. Collaboration 

Meeting 3

Involve Your Employees

Collaboration is another key ingredient of a successful one-on-one meeting. Involving your employees for the get-go gives them a sense of ownership, creates buy-in for the meetings, and keeps them engaged. 

An easy way to collaborate with your employee and get them involved is to share your agenda ahead of time and invite them to contribute. This gives you both the opportunity to address the most important challenges your employees face. One of the easier way to increase alignment is to automate the agenda building and sharing with TINYpulse Coach.

product_image_-_1-on-1_agenda (3)

Solicit Feedback

During the actual meeting, you’ll want to keep the collaboration going. One-on-one meetings are a great opportunity to solicit feedback about yourself and ask what you can do to help your employees be more successful. 

This will help you improve as a leader and show your employees that you are there to support them and value their opinions.

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Work Together on Long-Term Goals

Collaboration also means working together on long-term goals. A TINYpulse survey found that employees who think they have a lot of opportunities for professional growth are happier than those who don't. 

Work together to identify professional growth opportunities and set short and long-term goals. During future meetings, make sure to follow up on their progress and provide additional support as needed.

4. Acknowledgement 

Meeting 2

Acknowledgement is one of the easiest ways to improve employee morale. TINYpulse has found that, on average, only 30% of employees feel that they are recognized when they do great work. This is a big deal because, when employees don’t feel recognized, they are less engaged and twice as likely to quit.

Take advantage of your one-on-one meeting and dedicate a few minutes to recognizing your employee’s recent accomplishments. You can also use the time to acknowledge when they’ve taken steps to meet their personal growth and development goals. This will show you appreciate their work and are proud of their commitment to meeting their own career goals.

Surprising Effects of Employee Recognition

5. Consistency

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After your first one-on-one meeting, it’s important to establish consistency. Employees need to know when they can expect these meetings and what you’ll be talking about during them. 

You can do this by making sure you set regular, recurring meetings and follow a standard format for your agenda. 

Set Frequent Meetings

While the frequency will vary for every team, ideally, you will want to hold your one-on-one meetings at least every other week. There’s often a lot to pack into your one-on-one meetings. If you have irregular or infrequent meetings, you probably won’t have enough time to cover everything you need to. This also means barriers may go unnoticed and your team can suffer.

Weekly or bi-weekly meetings are also more likely to keep your employees engaged. A recent Microsoft Workplace Analytics study found that employees who had twice as many one-on-one meetings as their peers were 67% less likely to be disengaged

Your employees want to connect with you and need that one-on-one time to feel supported. The more often you can hold these meetings, the better. But at the same time, you don’t want to overdo it!

Develop Trust

As your one-on-one meetings get underway, it’s important to build trust with your employees. If you need to cancel a meeting, give as much notice as possible and reschedule. Your employees might not mind one or two missed meetings. But if cancelling becomes a regular thing, they may lose trust and you’ll miss out on the benefits of one-on-one meetings.

Ready for Your First One-on-One Meeting?

One-on-one meetings can seem daunting at first. But they are a great way to engage your employees and can have significant benefits for you and your organization. 

The most important thing to remember is that your one-on-one meetings are about your employees and about how you as a leader can support them. 

To get started with one-on-one meetings, take the time to prepare a structured agenda. During the meeting, make the experience more meaningful by avoiding distractions and remaining present throughout your discussions. 

Give your employees the opportunity to contribute and take a few minutes to acknowledge their accomplishments. After your first meeting, make sure to schedule regular recurring meetings to establish consistency. 

These five ingredients will help ensure your one-on-one meetings are successful, and your company will be much better off for it. Better yet, book a free demo to see how you can become an exceptional manager using TINYpulse Coach. 

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