Make the 1:1 a place of trust and good energy, so you can create a bond that will enable great work to be done.

How to do 1:1 meetings properly

Manager-reportee meetings are extremely common practice these days. Once a month you meet and have a nice conversation discussing how work is going and how things are at home.

If that’s your regular 1:1 agenda, you might have a lot of upside in changing things up a bit.

The goal of 1:1 meetings

We all have 1:1 meetings, but why?

What do we expect from those 1:1? Why is it that having them is better than not having them? What’s the gain in investing hours of our time into these meetings?

Meetings can be good for many things but what are 1:1 meetings especially good at? Well, there are four things that you should strive to achieve in your 1:1 meetings:

There are many strategies to reach those goals and some can even contribute to both. The important thing is that you are intentional with the time and topics that are discussed.

The one-on-one agenda template

I want to share the template that I like to use in my 1:1 meetings. Sometimes we don’t get to cover everything on the template but that’s OK. Whatever we don’t cover I just take a note so I make sure we cover it in the next meeting.

My template goes like this:

In order to accomplish this, it is important to take notes during the meetings and have previous meeting notes at hand. This is so important (and so common to fail at) that I develop an app to help managers on 1:1 meetings note taking. If you don’t want help from an app, you can use Google Docs or some other general purpose note-taking tool.

Meeting frequency

I’ve seen and used very different frequencies. The one frequency that got the best results for me was once a week.

I know this will seem extreme form many people and I can already hear you thinking “I don’t have time to have ALL THOSE MEETINGS”. If that’s really the situation, that you don’t have time for all those meetings, then maybe there’s something to be adjusted about your role. A one hour quality meeting with your reportees should be basic for any manager. If you can’t make time for it then maybe you have too many reportees, or too many responsibilities besides people management.

The once-a-week frequency is great for two main reasons.

First of all, it doesn’t let important things pile up. There’s just no time during one single week to end up with issues so big that solving them would be impossible. You may argue that the same is true for a two week frequency or even a monthly meeting. Yes, but that’s where the reason number 2 comes in.

The second great thing about weekly frequency is that it’s probably fine if you need to skip it. You know, we’ll just talk next week. It’s that easy. You don’t need to reschedule, just skip it and it will be fine. We all know that sometimes you can’t make it to a 1:1. It can happen. The weekly frequency has you back.

Another great reason to do weekly 1:1s (though not as good as the other two) is that it enables you, the manager, to iterate the meetings if something is not working. Doing something a lot of times is a great way to learn, so having a lot of 1:1 meetings will make you an expert it no time.

Sharing your goals and agenda with your reportee

Now that you have an explicit agenda and steady frequency, it’s important that you share your expectations with your reportee.

Let them know that your 1:1 is a moment of privacy between you two, to discuss important issues that you might not feel comfortable discussing in the presence of others. Explain that you’ll try to go over all the points in the agenda each time and that if they want to bring some other topic to the meeting that’s totally fine too.

Make the 1:1 a place of trust and good energy, so you can create a bond that will enable great work to be done.