How to Have Effective One on One Meetings

It is true that one-on-ones can be time-consuming. Yet the hour you spend on a session will benefit you and the team a great deal if done right. If you aren’t having effective one on one meetings with your team, you are missing out.

What are one on one meetings?

One on one meetings are held between a team leader and team member.  They are conversations that usually last no longer than 10 to 30 minutes where they discuss what is going well and what needs to change. It is such a simple process but you can achieve so much with effective one on one meetings.

Most effective one on one meetings typically last about 30 minutes. A recommended agenda is:

  • 10 minutes for the direct report from the employee;
  • 10 minutes for the manager’s remarks and messages, and;
  • 10 minutes for the employee and manager to draw a way forward.

Effective one on one meetings aim to achieve the following objectives:

  • find out about the employee’s current emotional state i.e. morale and stress levels;
  • track the status of the employee’s performance and how their goals are coming along;
  • learn if there are any obstacles in the way to the employee’s goals that need to be removed;
  • discuss specific issues – either the employee’s, the manager’s, or both;
  • get honest value-added feedback from the employee;
  • provide an opportunity for the manager to coach the employee, and;
  • share formal and informal information about the team and company as a whole.

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Examples of one on one meetings

Here are some common effective one on one meetings:

  • meetings solely focused on coaching in which the individual’s personal growth inside and outside of the company is discussed, including focus on self-discovery, and self-actualisation;
  • meetings solely focused on advising in which more specific operational challenges are discussed by the employee and the manager, and solutions for them are brainstormed together, and;
  • meetings solely focused on recognition in which the individual’s top strengths both as a person and as an employee are discussed, and what they have achieved in their role is celebrated.

How to get the most out of one on ones

It is recommended that one-on-one meetings be scheduled every two weeks such that individualised communication is nurtured. If a meeting needs to be cancelled due to an overriding commitment by either the manager or the employee, no more than about a month should go by between meetings.

The employee should be in charge of preparing the specific content/agenda for each meeting. This is an effective way to develop your employees by having them drive the one-on-one meetings by bringing the specific issues, challenges, opportunities, and ideas they want to discuss.

You can always add your own topics for each meeting as the need arises. Here is a recommended step-by-step guide on how to go about the actual meeting:

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  • connect by starting each meeting with the same opening question such as “how’s it going?” for the employee to share what’s on their mind and give you a quick snapshot of how they feel;
  • track their goal development by asking if the goal is on track, what challenges have arisen, as well as any new priorities that may affect the continued relevancy or achievement of the goal;
  • get specific details on any important information you should know in order to be considered informed, including issues or changes that will, or may, impact achievement of a goal;
  • provide positive and/or negative feedback as needed to increase productivity, showing employees what they are good at and how their strengths can be leveraged to perform better;
  • coach the employee to help develop any skills that would contribute to their success and/or job satisfaction and discuss any other work-related or even personal problems they may have;
  • share both informal and formal information circulation in the team, department or organisation as a whole i.e. what’s been heard informally through the “grapevine” and what’s been communicated through formal channels like management meetings, and;
  • let employee summarise what’s been discussed and agreed to such that you know how effective the communication is between you, it should be clear who is responsible for doing what.

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Questions to ask in one on one meetings

A well-asked question is powerful because there are so many things one does not think of sharing until being asked the right question. Here is a list of common topics to cover and their respective questions.

Work habits:

  • Which part of the day do you feel most productive?
  • Which part of the day do you feel least productive?
  • What changes can be made to help you get the best out of a work day?


  • Who inspire you in the team?
  • Whose opinions do you respect?
  • Who do you turn to for help?
  • Who do you find difficult to work with?
  • What do you think would help the team work together better?


  • Are you happy working here? Why or why not?
  • What keeps you engaged with your daily work?
  • What can I do to help make daily tasks more engaging?
  • What kind of projects do you enjoy working on?
  • What is the best accomplishment you had since you are here? Do you feel appreciated for it?
  • What are the things that worry and/or irritate you?
  • Have you ever felt undervalued here? Why?

Short-term goals:

  • How is the project going?
  • What are the main bottlenecks? What can we do to help?
  • What are the projects you would like to work on next?

Long-term goals:

  • What do you want to achieve in the next 3 years?
  • How do you think about your progress on your big goals? What can we do to help?
  • What kinds of projects do you want to take part in to move toward your goals?

Personal development:

  • Do you feel like you are learning at work?
  • What are the new things you learned lately?
  • What are the areas you want to learn about?
  • Who do you get valuable feedback from?
  • What aspect of your job do you like more help and coaching on?

Manager improvement:

  • What can I do as a manager to make your work easier?
  • What do you like about my management style? What do you dislike?
  • Would you prefer more or less of my involvement in your daily tasks?
  • What could I have done better? What situations could I have helped more but didn’t?

How to evaluate your one on one meetings

Your employee could bring to each meeting two copies of an update using the agenda outline/template you provide – one for you, one for them. This could form the basis for your documentation of your one-on-one meetings.

You could use your copy to record notes, observations, next steps, etc. Make notes about the discussion points and the action plan and make sure you execute it before the next meeting.


One-on-one meetings are a great tool for managers and employees. They allow you to check in with the team’s morale and to get to know the people you are working with better. Effective one on one meetings are also great for getting employee feedback which is extremely important for managers.

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald is a freelance writer with a pen that is keen for entrepreneurship, business and technology. When he isn't writing insightful articles on employee engagement and corporate culture, Gerald can be found writing for a number of media outlets.