Want to take your remote management skills to the next level? Understanding how to run effective one-on-one meetings with your team is a great place to start. These focused catch-ups are beneficial for you, your colleagues, and the wider business, especially if you work in a remote or global environment.
Why Are One-on-One Meetings So Important?
Remote work often feels synonymous with back-to-back video calls, which isn’t optimal for your team’s productivity or well-being. So while we’re big fans of reducing meetings and working more asynchronously, we've found one type of meeting to be crucial - and that’s the manager-employee one-on-one.
After all, organizing effective touchpoint meetings with your direct reports can help you:
✓ Build strong relationships founded on trust, support, and mutual respect.
✓ Track progress and offer guidance without the need for detrimental micromanagement.
✓ Improve performance and productivity through regular feedback sharing and problem-solving.
✓ Enhance engagement and retention by providing valuable mentorship and career growth opportunities.
All of the above contribute to a healthy, successful, and competitive team (and business). Eager to get started? Read on for our step-by-step guide to running a successful one-on-one meeting.
One-on-One Meeting Tips for Managers
As a manager, you have a lot on your plate. Keeping your direct reports engaged, motivated, and productive is just one element of your job, but it’s essential for business growth. Use the tips below to get the most out of your one-to-one meetings.
1. Define the Purpose
It’s helpful to define a clear purpose for your meetings to ensure they’re as productive as possible. Is the goal to increase productivity? To build a relationship? To help your employee progress? Or perhaps it’s a combination of these.
Without a defined purpose, you risk reducing one-to-ones to a basic run-through of your colleague’s to-do list, which doesn’t add much value for either of you. So here are some purpose-driven activities you can use to make your next touchpoint meeting more meaningful:
- Ice-breakers and relationship-building exercises
- Formal and informal feedback exchange
- Performance and goal tracking
- Well-being check-in
- Overcoming blockers and providing solutions
- Discussing career progression and learning opportunities
- Communicating top-level decisions and strategy
It’s worth remembering that the purpose of your one-to-ones will probably be slightly different for each person you're managing and will also differ from week to week. For example, your meetings with a brand-new hire will have a different purpose from your weekly check-ins with a well-established team member, as will a meeting with an underperforming colleague vs. someone who’s excelling.
You have to define the purpose of your one-on-ones based on individual circumstances and contexts.
2. Make Meetings Regular
Once you’ve defined and communicated the purpose of your meetings, you should specify a dedicated time for them. Scheduling a recurring calendar invite is much more effective than relying on ad-hoc catch-ups. In fact, it’s proven that regular one-to-ones are beneficial for employee engagement.
So find a time and cadence that works for you both, taking any time zone differences into account. Weekly or biweekly one-to-one meetings lasting between 30 and 60 minutes is the recommendation from the pros at Google re:Work. When you’ve settled on a regular time, be sure to stick to it and make your one-to-one meetings a priority. Canceling meetings without good reason can break the rhythm and make your team member feel undervalued.
Outside of regularly scheduled one-to-ones, there’s nothing stopping you from catching up more frequently in an ad-hoc manner, whether it be for a quick brainstorming session or to address an urgent matter.
3. Prepare Beforehand
Preparation is key to the success of your one-on-one meeting. It provides structure and allows both parties to really think about what they need to bring up during the meeting. Preparation can also help participants process emotionally charged events or feedback, so they’re able to have a productive conversation about it later.
This is where a dedicated tool or one-to-one meeting template comes in handy. For example, employee experience platform Culture Amp provides a useful one-to-one template line managers and employees can fill in ahead of their meeting. It includes a shared agenda, an employee well-being check-in, highlights, and blockers, as well as an area for note-taking.
Below, we’ve created a basic one-to-one template you can use as a starting point. Skip ahead to take a look.
4. Minimize Distractions
Remote work can be full of distractions: Slack notifications, children or pets running around, laundry piling up in the corner, and much more. However, one-on-one meetings should be a time of complete focus, both for managers and their team members. This ensures both parties feel valued and respected.
Here are some practical ways you can keep distractions to a minimum during your next touchpoint meeting:
- Find a quiet room and shut the door, if possible.
- Pause notifications.
- Keep your phone on silent or store it in a drawer.
- Close or hide extra web browser tabs.
5. Build a Trusting Relationship
Trust is an essential part of a manager-employee relationship, especially in a remote setting. Building a trusting culture can boost company performance, employee engagement, and talent retention. It’ll also make your working life much more enjoyable!
Fostering psychological safety in the workplace is a great way to build trust. Psychological safety is the shared belief held by employees that they won’t be punished or humiliated for making a mistake, speaking up, or asking questions. Building this into your team culture can help foster creativity, productivity, and confidence - all important ingredients for a healthy workforce.
You can nurture psychological safety by encouraging moderate risk-taking and curiosity, being open-minded and compassionate, and embracing healthy conflict. In practice, that might look like actively asking for and listening to new ideas during your one-on-one meeting, admitting to your own mistakes, or responding positively to your team’s questions.
6. Encourage Open Discussion
There should be enough flexibility within your one-to-one structure to allow for free-flowing conversation. No two meetings will be the same; it completely depends on what your colleague is experiencing from week to week. As long as you cover the main points in the agenda, you should be able to go with the flow and see where the discussion leads.
To do this, it’s best to prioritize open, non-leading questions over closed, biased questions. For example, “How’s your week going?” or “How can I support you?” is much more likely to elicit an open, honest discussion than a question like “Is everything good?.” And remember, trust plays a crucial role in open discussion.
7. Give Clear Feedback
Great feedback - given in the right way - fuels productivity. As a manager, it’s a skill you have to practice and implement during your one-on-one meetings.
Here are a few qualities of good feedback you can practice:
- Timely: You should typically give feedback soon after the related behavior or action has occurred, so don’t feel the need to wait for scheduled one-to-ones to discuss important matters. Feedback should be given when the event is still fresh in their mind. However, be sure to give yourself and your colleague enough time to process and reflect before giving feedback, so it’s not too reactive.
- Appropriate: Giving feedback in an appropriate setting or environment is key. If it’s constructive, feedback is usually best given in private, such as during an employee-manager meeting. If it’s positive, you might want to share it publicly. However, it’s always best to find out your individual colleague’s preferences for feedback early on.
- Specific: Feedback shouldn’t be generic. Instead, focus on a specific event or behavior and how that has positively or negatively impacted business goals. Give clear examples to illustrate your point.
- Candid: Constructive feedback is as important as positive feedback. While you should be respectful and kind, it’s also important to be direct and purposeful. You can read more about the concept of Radical Candor™ here.
- Non-personal: While feedback is personal in the sense that it relates to a specific person, you should avoid criticizing the person themselves. This means focusing on a person’s behaviors and actions rather than their personality, which often they can’t change.
8. Take Notes & Set Action Points
Holding your one-to-one meetings is just the first step; it’s equally important to keep track of what you discussed and what you both need to do moving forward. That’s why it’s useful to take brief notes throughout the meeting and agree on some time-bound action points at the end. This ensures you’re both on the same page and understand what’s expected of you afterward.
Store your meeting notes in a centralized place, like Google Drive, Culture Amp, or your project management software. This allows you to easily access notes from previous weeks and can help you identify trends and patterns in your colleague’s work and overall well-being. That way, you can preemptively take action where necessary.
One-to-One Meeting Template
It’s helpful to use a one-to-one meeting template to get the most out of your catch-ups. Here’s an example you can build on and tailor to your specific needs:
- Start with an open question asking how they are: “How’s your week been?”
- Ask them what they’d like to focus on today: “What would you like to discuss today?”
- Actively listen and ask further questions to prompt deeper discussion if necessary: “How did you interpret that situation?”
- Let them know you’re there to support them: “Is there anything I can do to help you?”
- Give them an opportunity to ask more questions: “Would you like to chat about anything else today?”
Here are some more example questions you can use during your weekly check-ins, depending on their purpose:
- Where would you like to take your career in the next year?
- What do you need to develop your skills further?
- How do you feel you managed X project?
- Do you need guidance on prioritizing tasks?
- What are you most proud of at the moment?
- Do you understand how your work fits into the mission of the company?
- How are you doing on your objectives for this quarter?
- Would you like some feedback on X project?
We hope these tips will help make your next one-on-one meeting the best yet. Good luck!