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One-On-One Meeting: Conducting Effective 1:1s With Employees

    Man with a blue hoodie and a woman with a brown jacket having a one on one meeting in front of a silver laptop.

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    As a manager, conducting one-on-one meetings with your employees can be challenging. It’s not your fault if you’re not fully comfortable doing these. There’s often a tendency to make small talk during these meetings and discuss project activities, but managers need to use this time to work on the development needs of their employees and also encourage them for all the things they are doing right.

    In this article, we’ll provide practical tips and strategies to help managers overcome common challenges and make the most of these meetings to strengthen their relationships with their team members.

    What is a One-on-One Meeting and Why is it Important?

    A one-on-one meeting is a scheduled conversation between a manager and an employee, with the purpose of discussing feedback, development needs, and progress towards goals. These meetings provide a dedicated time and space for managers and employees to connect, build rapport, and align on expectations.

    One-on-one meetings are essential for effective management because they help managers understand the individual needs, strengths, and goals of their employees. And build trust and mutual respect between managers and team members.

    Setting Up The 1:1 Meeting Invite

    When setting up a one-on-one meeting invite, managers should ensure that they provide enough time for the meeting and allow the employee to suggest a different time if needed. It’s important to establish a regular cadence for these meetings, such as weekly or bi-weekly, and to stick to the schedule as much as possible. Also, allow employees to suggest agenda items to be discussed during the meeting.

    When scheduling one-on-one meetings, it’s essential to be clear and concise. Consider including the following information in your invitation:

    1. The purpose of the meeting.
    2. The agenda or topics to be discussed.
    3. The time and duration of the meeting.
    4. The location, if applicable.
    5. Any relevant materials or documents to review beforehand.

    How to Conduct an Effective One-on-One

    A good one-on-one meeting also involves being prepared and organized, staying on track, and ensuring that both sides have the opportunity to contribute and participate. By following these strategies, one-on-one meetings can be more productive, efficient, and effective in achieving their goals.

    To conduct a successful one-on-one meeting, consider the following steps strategies:

    1. Active Listening During a One-On-One Meeting

    Active listening is an essential component of conducting effective one-on-one meetings. It involves giving your employee your full attention and showing that you’re actively listening to what they have to say. This means putting aside any distractions, such as your phone or email, and focusing on the person in front of you.

    To actively listen, you can use nonverbal cues such as nodding your head, maintaining eye contact, and leaning forward. You can also repeat back what the employee has said to demonstrate that you understand their perspective.

    This not only helps you better understand your employee’s perspective, but it also helps build trust and rapport. When employees feel heard and valued, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated in their work.

    2. Ask Open-Ended Questions

    In addition to active listening, it’s important to ask open-ended questions that encourage employees to share their thoughts and feelings. For example, instead of asking, “Are you happy with your workload?” which can be answered with a simple yes or no, you could ask, “How do you feel about your workload? Is there anything that’s been particularly challenging?”

    By asking open-ended questions, you invite employees to share more about their experiences and give you valuable insights into their needs and concerns. This, in turn, allows you to provide more targeted support and guidance.

    3. Provide Actionable Feedback During 1:1 Meetings

    During 1:1 meetings, it’s important to provide actionable feedback to your employees. Here are some tips to help you provide effective feedback:

    Be timely – Provide feedback as close to the event as possible. This helps your employee remember what happened and makes it easier for them to implement any changes.

    Be specific – When providing feedback, be specific about what you’re praising or what needs improvement. Vague feedback won’t help your employee understand what they’re doing well or how they can improve.

    Prepare beforehand – Plan how you are going to deliver it. And make sure it is clear and concise. You want them to understand where you are coming from. And why this is something the tow of you need to address.

    Use 1-2 examples – Provide a few examples to illustrate your feedback. This helps your employee understand what you’re talking about and gives them a clear picture of what they can do to improve. But don’t get stuck in the examples. Surface back to your high-level issue quickly.

    Be constructive – Feedback should be constructive, not critical. Focus on what your employee can do to improve rather than what they did wrong.

    4. Address Development Needs

    Addressing development needs during one-on-one meetings with employees is a crucial part of effective management. It can be challenging for managers to bring up development needs in a way that doesn’t feel critical or judgmental, but it’s important to approach these conversations with a growth mindset and a genuine desire to help your employees develop and succeed.

    One approach is to start by asking your employee about their goals and aspirations, and then work together to identify any skills or areas for improvement that would help them achieve those goals. This can help frame the conversation as a collaborative effort rather than a one-sided critique.

    Be specific and offer concrete examples of where the employee can improve. And be sure to provide support and resources to help them achieve their development goals. By addressing development needs in a supportive and collaborative way, managers can help their employees grow and achieve their potential.

    5. Address Resistance to Feedback

    Providing feedback can be a tricky task, especially when an employee is resistant to it. However, it is important to address this resistance as it can prevent the employee from making progress in their development.

    If you notice resistance to feedback from an employee during a one-on-one meeting, it’s essential to try to understand their perspective. For instance, you could ask “What do you think about the feedback I gave you on your last project?” or “Is there anything holding you back from receiving feedback?”

    It’s also important to find ways to provide feedback that are constructive and respectful. Be specific about what you observed and how it impacted the project or task at hand. Avoid making personal attacks or judgments. Instead, focus on the behavior or action that needs to change.

    Finally, encourage a two-way conversation where the employee has the opportunity to share their perspective and ideas for improvement. This approach can help build trust and respect between you and your employee, leading to more productive feedback sessions in the future.


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    6. Follow up and Tracking

    At subsequent one-on-ones, it is essential to follow up with your employee to ensure that the agreed-upon actions are completed, and progress is made. Tracking progress is essential to ensure that employees are meeting their goals and developing their skills. Make use of tools like project management software, task lists, or shared documents to track progress and ensure that everyone is aware of what needs to be done.

    Additionally, it’s essential to celebrate successes and recognize when employees have accomplished their goals or have made significant progress. This recognition can take many forms, from a simple thank you to a more formal recognition program. Regardless of the form, it’s essential to recognize your employees’ hard work and dedication.

    Questions for One-on-One Meetings

    Here are some questions that managers can use during one-on-one meetings with their employees:

    What are your current priorities?
    How do you feel about your workload?
    What challenges are you facing?
    How do you feel about your progress on your goals?
    Is there anything you would like me to know about your work?
    What are your career aspirations?
    Are there any training or development opportunities you would like to pursue?
    Do you have any feedback or suggestions for me or the team?
    How can I support you better?
    What are your thoughts on the team’s performance and dynamics?

    These questions can help managers understand their employees’ needs, challenges, and aspirations. They can also promote open communication, trust, and collaboration between managers and employees. Managers can adjust the questions based on their employees’ roles, goals, and preferences.

    One-on-One Agendas and Templates

    Creating an agenda for the one-on-one meeting can help the manager stay on track and ensure that they cover all of the necessary topics. This can help keep the conversation focused and ensure that you cover all the necessary topics.

    Some suggested topics to include in your agenda:

    Updates on current projects or goals.
    Feedback on performance.
    Identification of areas for development or improvement.
    Discussion of career goals and aspirations.
    Feedback on the manager’s performance.


    One-on-one meetings are an essential tool for managers to build relationships with their employees, identify development needs, and improve overall communication. By scheduling regular meetings, creating a safe and open space for discussion, and providing actionable feedback, managers can help employees reach their full potential and feel valued as part of the team.

    Follow-up and tracking progress are equally essential to ensure that progress is made, and goals are met. With these tips, managers can conduct effective one-on-one meetings that help employees feel valued, supported, and motivated to succeed.

    Additional Reading to Help you Conduct Effective One-on-One Meetings

    A productive conversation during a one-on-one meeting can help build trust, improve performance, and increase job satisfaction. However, communication can be complex and challenging, especially when it comes to discussing sensitive topics or giving feedback. Therefore, reading books on effective communication during one-on-one meetings can be a valuable investment for both new and experienced managers.

    These books can provide insights, practical tips, and strategies on how to communicate more effectively, build strong relationships. And get the most out of one-on-one meetings with employees.

    Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen

    Provides practical advice on how to handle difficult conversations in a wide range of settings, including one-on-one meetings with employees. It offers tools for improving communication skills, understanding different perspectives, and finding common ground.

    The authors use real-life examples to illustrate their points and provide step-by-step guidance on how to navigate challenging conversations. Overall, this book is a valuable resource for anyone looking to improve their communication skills and have more effective conversations, including during 1:1 meetings with employees.

    Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, and Emily Gregory

    This New York Times bestselling book offers practical tools and strategies for engaging in difficult conversations with confidence and skill.

    “Crucial Conversations” focuses on teaching individuals how to handle conversations when emotions are high and opinions differ, making it an excellent resource for managers who need to conduct difficult conversations with their employees during one-on-one meetings. It also provides practical tools and strategies for achieving mutual understanding and reaching positive outcomes in high-stakes situations.

    This book has sold over 5 million copies and has been translated into over 28 languages, making it a widely recognized and influential book on communication.

    Cover page of "Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High."
    Cover page of "Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High."

    Shaun Mendonsa, PhD is an influencing expert and pharmaceutical development leader. He writes on the topics of influence and persuasion, and develops next generation drugs in human pharma by advising international pharmaceutical CROs and CMOs. He can be reached at [email protected].


    Effective Leadership, Communication, Leadership Development, High-Performing Teams, One-on-One Meetings, Coaching, Difficult Employees, Giving Feedback

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