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Effective 1-to1’s


For a manager, having effective 1-to-1 meetings with your direct reports can be the difference between being able to deliver required tasks and projects or not; the difference between developing your staff to their full potential or not. This simple activity, done regularly, is a key to becoming a skilled manager of others.

For the individual, 1-to-1s are a means to make the most of limited time with your manager so that you can highlight your progress on key projects and get perspective that can be helpful for your work and your career.

Skill Definition:

  • I can prepare for 1:1s with my direct reports/manager (status updates are concise, critical topics to discuss are outlined in advance, key questions are identified).
  • I can lead/participate in an effective 1 to 1 (follow agenda, document agreements, hold myself/direct report accountable for follow-up tasks).

Key Learning Points:

  • 1 to 1s are a means for a manager and a direct report to connect regularly. This routine connection helps to:

o   Build the relationship. Regular, effective connections reinforce the relationship is worth investing in.

o   Bring clarity and order to the assigned work. By preparing and following a standard agenda, status of key work and projects can be shared and outstanding issues discussed and resolved.

o   Invest in an individual’s personal development. Each 1 to 1 provides an opportunity to share learning lessons with a direct report to help build their skills. In addition, they provide a means to have routine career discussion.

Learning Path:

  • Review effective Listening skills wiki. This is a critical skills to having an effective 1 to 1 meeting.
  • Review effective 1:1 training material.
  • Review sample 1-to-1 agendas template and decide what best fits your situation. Ideally you will use this standard agenda at each meeting although it’s ok to tailor your approach depending on the material to be covered.
  • For the individual:
    • Draft agenda for your 1:1. Remember that you are the ‘leader’ of the 1 to 1. They are for your benefit so you drive the agenda. Part of the agenda should be a check in with your manager on any critical items he/she wants to discuss.
    • Review any next steps from your prior 1 to 1s. Be sure to provide a status update on any items you own that are due.
  • For the manager:
    • Decide if you have any critical items you want to discuss at an upcoming 1 to 1. If possible, let your direct report know in advance so he/she can prepare.
    • Review any next steps from your prior 1 to 1s. Be sure to provide a status update on any items you own that are due.
  • Conduct your 1:1.
    • Individual – Share your agenda topics. Ask if your manager has anything to add.
    • Discuss status and outstanding issues as needed.
    • Document key decisions or follow-up.
    • In the first few meetings, be sure to include a step to ask for critique, what worked well and what did not work well. After the meeting reflect on this input and your own personal observations and jot down points to incorporate into the next meeting. This can either be things you would improve upon, or things you would not change because they were effective. Both of these are important.

 Deeper Topics:

  • Can I talk non-routine topics at 1 to 1s?

o   For the individual – The 1 to 1 is your time so you can talk about whatever you want with your manager. For example, instead of giving a progress report on a project you might want to seek advice on how to deal with a difficult co-worker or client that is making it difficult to meet your objectives. Virtually any topic that impacts your work is Ok to discuss.   If your manager is used to a certain routine, you should note at the beginning of the meeting that you want to talk about a optic you don’t typically cover or you can make a point to have one unique agenda topic so that you are always exploring new ideas with your manager.

o   For the manager – Since the 1 to 1 meeting is for the individual, you should be flexible on your expectations. You might even want to introduce non-routine topics yourself by asking open ended questions that draw out your employee. For instance, what do you see as the biggest missed opportunity with the organization? If you were me, what changes would you make? What do you like best/least about the organization and why?

  • Is a career discussion part of a 1 to 1? A career discussion should happen at least 1-2 times per year. The best way to ensure this happens is to include it in your routine 1-to-1 schedule. Given the topic, it is important for the individual and the manager to agree in advance that this topic will be discussed. This will ensure that both people are prepared to have a productive discussion.

Exercises for Older Teens and Adults:

  • None at this time.

Questions to Encourage Critical Thinking:

  • How frequently do you need to meet? – This can be weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. The key is choosing a frequency that allows the individual to provide timely updates and get timely coaching from the manager.
  • How important is documentation of key decisions and follow-up? – This is critical. Keeping commitments made in a 1 to 1 demonstrate that both the work and the relationship are important and worth making time to do what you said you were going to do.

Tools and Templates:

Word Definition:

  • n/a

Web Articles/Short Stories/Essays:



  • None at this time.


  • “The key to a good one-on-one meeting is the understanding that it is the employee’s meeting rather than the manager’s meeting. This is the free-form meeting for all the pressing issues, brilliant ideas and chronic frustrations that do not fit neatly into status reports, email and other less personal and intimate mechanisms.” — Ben Horowitz, Founder and General partner, Andreessen Horowitz
  • “The people who work with you as their manager will look to you as one of their sources of wisdom.” — Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager

One-Point Lesson:

Related Skills:

Lessons and Presentations: