One-on-ones are important, rapport-building meetings between team members and supervisors. Make sure your one-on-one meetings as all the right questions and cover all the bases with this quick and easy checklist:
Before diving into the nuts and bolts of recent and upcoming work items, take time to connect with light, open-ended questions such as:
Getting to know team members’ feelings about their work, as well as checking in to make sure they’re getting enough time away from work to return refreshed, builds understanding and demonstrates that they can be honest with you.
The successes, the great work, the things worth celebrating—what has happened since the last meeting that deserves recognition? Both meeting attendees should be able to list a few, but even wins that have already been announced elsewhere (via email, Slack, a memo, etc.) deserve a little in-person fist-pumping.
Team members may have exciting updates. Leaders may have some good news that’s come down the pipeline. Take some time to exchange, celebrate, and boost employee morale.
Once the celebration is complete, it’s time to dig into the challenges. What’s in the way of further success? The possibilities here can cover a broad range, from communication issues to resources, and technological trouble to organizational culture.
Make space for honesty. Listen and ask probing questions to paint a full picture of the issues. Gaining a complete understanding will help with the next step.
Depending on the roadblocks discussed, team members may need help brainstorming solutions, accessing resources that require more seniority, or simply a sympathetic ear from someone who can offer moral support. (We’ve all been there—whether critical software keeps crashing or simple solutions simply aren’t in the budget, some roadblocks simply have to be tolerated until the situation changes.)
Sometimes, team members express challenges and frustrations that are best addressed by a change in their own outlook or work approach. Good leaders use one-on-one meetings to practice emotional intelligence and offer constructive feedback or reframing as needed. Repeat steps 3 & 4 if there are multiple concerns.
Short-term and long-term, specific projects and overall career trajectories, there are many possible goals to discuss on a one-on-one. Over the course of many meetings, team members and their supervisors will hopefully develop a rapport that allows for discussion of all kinds of goals.
For each meeting, consider what types of goals take priority for discussion. Are there critical items on the agenda that need attention? If so, focus on setting goals that address those items. If things are a bit calmer, take advantage of the opportunity to find out what team member’s long-term and career goals are, and how your organization fits with them.
Once team members share their goals in a one-on-one meeting, they’ll need support and/or resources to meet them. Much like step 4, this could mean helping with networking, accessing otherwise out-of-reach resources, or providing insight and encouragement.
Encouraging and supporting team members’ goals is a critical element of relationship and trust building. Don’t miss this opportunity to be a mentor for your team members.
Before wrapping up the meeting, make sure that everything that needs to be discussed, has been. Double-check the agenda for items that may have been skipped, and think about whether any of the issues brought up in the meeting opened up a window to new challenges.
If there’s nothing else, review the points covered in the one-on-one meeting. Make sure both parties are on the same page about what was discussed, where they stand on approaching issues, and what goals are a priority until the next meeting.
Each person should now have one or more action items they’re responsible for. These may be items that help overcome roadblocks or that move the team member toward their goals. Check to be sure that everyone knows what their tasks are and the deadline to complete them.
Because one-on-one meetings are about more than just getting work done, it makes sense for each attendee to take time for a post-meeting reflection on their own.
Reflecting On Your One-on-One:
- How do they feel about the way the meeting was conducted?
- Could the format of the meeting be improved for future one-on-one meetings?
- What information wasn’t on hand that should have been?
- Does it feel like both parties are invested in these meetings, and that they’re useful?
Over time, these insights and our quick guide to one-on-one meetings can lead to even better one-on-one meetings.
Depending on the main goal of your one-on-one meeting, we may have just the right agenda template for you. Check out our sample agendas for these meetings:
A downloadable checklist, plus tips for preparing for your next important meeting.
One-on-one meetings may be common, but without some care, they’re not always effective.