One-on-One Meeting: Complete Guide for 1:1 Meetings

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One on One Meeting – A Complete Guide With Benefits and Examples

Do you know that research shows that only 58% of employees felt motivated after one-on-one meetings? On the other hand, 78% of managers reported that they felt motivated after one-on-one meetings.

As you may have observed, there is an apparent disconnection between how managers and employees feel about one-on-one meetings. When done correctly, one-to-ones have the potential to substantially increase team productivity and motivation.

However, this might not be the case. Some managers may not know how to structure such meetings with their employees. They may feel uncomfortable having difficult conversations with their employees in one-on-one meetings.

In this article, we will cover all the aspects of how you can prepare and structure effective one-on-one meetings. You will understand the importance and benefits of one-on-one meetings and the mistakes/questions you should avoid.

Lastly, you will also be getting a list of questions that you can ask in your next one-on-one meeting.

What is a One-on-One (1:1) Meeting? Theory & Definition

A one-on-one meeting (also known as 1:1, one-to-one, 1 on 1, check-in, 121) is a pre-scheduled regular check-in between a manager and an employee. While the terminology varies by organization, the meeting’s objective is very much the same.

One-on-one meetings are used to discuss work, provide feedback, keep each other informed, and handle any obstacles faced by employees. These meetings are also used to assist employees in growing and developing personally and professionally.

What distinguishes one-on-one meetings is their free-form, employee-focused approach that transcends the typical project/status updates. It is commonly regarded as the most crucial meeting that you can have with employees.

Such meetings lay the foundation for a trustworthy and effective working relationship. It is also one of the most effective ways for managers to keep their team motivation high.

Why are One-on-One Meetings Critically Important? List of 12 Benefits

When properly implemented, one-on-one meetings can increase employee performance significantly. Successful leaders utilize one-on-one meetings to understand their team strengths and weaknesses.

Unlike team meetings, they know that these meetings will give them access to honest feedback and unfiltered information. This will enable leaders to get to the root cause of problems to boost the team/organizational performance.

If you are still not convinced about the importance of one-on-one meetings, below is a list of benefits that 1:1 meetings can bring to you and your team.

12 Benefits of Having a 1:1 Meeting

  1. Build stronger manager-employee relationships.
  2. Increase employees’ productivity by empowering them to take ownership of their performance.
  3. Ensure the right questions are asked to probe and understand employees deeper, making them feel heard and acknowledged.
  4. Create engagement and trust between manager and employee through conversations and follow-up sessions.
  5. Guidance to help employees overcome employee burnout and any other challenges they face in their work..
  6. Builds team loyalty and engagement
  7. Provide and receive meaningful and personalized constructive feedback.
  8. Ensure employees are aligned with the organization’s goals and visions.
  9. Motivate both employees and managers to take action and make better decisions at work.
  10. It can be conducted with employees of all types, locations, and backgrounds.
  11. Allows managers to check in with employees and align on progress and subsequent actions to achieve their goals.
  12. Reduce administrative time and cost caused by employee turnover.

Templates & Question Examples for One-on-One Meetings

There is one extremely essential thing to keep in mind during one-to-one meetings. And that is to make sure everything shared in the meeting will be kept between the employee and the manager.

An effective one-to-one meeting requires the manager to focus on asking relevant questions and listening actively. It is recommended that managers should prepare a list of questions to kickstart the meeting.

During the meeting, they should remain open and flexible in whichever direction the conversation progresses. Also, bear in mind that one-to-one meetings are especially crucial if the employees are working remotely (such as in this current COVID-19 situation).

One on One Meeting – Templates & Question Examples

Managers need to ensure that the topics and questions related to the employees’ well-being are covered in the meeting. They should also check in with them if they require any additional support or are facing any challenges. With that being said, we have prepared a list of potential questions that you may ask during one-to-one meetings.

1:1 Meeting – Question Examples

Questions to begin the meeting:

  • Tell me about what you worked on last week?
  • When we last spoke, you said that X was a struggle for you; how is it going now?
  • What are your plans and priorities for this week?
  • What has kept you enthusiastic in your current project/role?
  • What has gone well/wrong for you since our previous meeting?
  • What is one (or a few) things you learned this week?

Questions related to work role and responsibilities:

  • How do you feel about you/your team’s current progress?
  • How are you/your team doing in terms of meeting the established goals?
  • What adjustments can be made to improve your efficiency and optimize your workflow?
  • Are you facing any obstacles at work, and if so, please share them with me?
  • What motivates and inspires you at work?
  • Do you have any concerns about your current job position or future career progression?
  • Which aspect of your current job responsibilities do you think is most essential to achieve your long-term goals?

One on One Meeting – Templates & Question Examples

Questions related to team and relationship:

  • How are things going with your colleagues or the team you are working with?
  • What feedback do you have for me?
  • Do you have any recommendations for how we can improve the way we collaborate/communicate?
  • Is my communication clear and easy for you to understand?
  • Do you feel motivated and empowered in your current job position?

Questions related to career aspiration:

  • Where do you see yourself doing in two/three years?
  • What are the skills that you are interested in picking up from the job?
  • Is there someone within or outside the organization that you’d like to learn from?
  • Can you share what you enjoy the most or least in your current job role?
  • How can I better support you to achieve your personal or professional goals?

Questions to close the meeting:

  • What are you committed to working on between now and the next time we meet?
  • How/What can I do to assist you between now and our next meeting?
  • Is there anything that we didn’t address or missed out on in this meeting?

5 Common Mistakes During a One-on-One Meeting & List of Questions to Avoid

One-to-one meetings should not be seen as the primary tool for managing employees’ performance, learning, and development, or project.

It is not feasible to fit all of this into a weekly, biweekly, or monthly meeting. These meetings are mainly to focus on employee engagement and ensuring that your team is satisfied in their current roles (read more on employee experience management).

Here are five common mistakes that you as a manager should avoid during one-to-one meetings:

  1. You do not see one-to-one meetings as a priority and often reschedule the meeting.
  2. Use one-on-one meetings to get status updates on projects or tasks from your employees.
  3. You do not make time to prepare for one-to-one meetings ahead of time.
  4. You rarely solicit input from your employees on the agenda for the one-on-one meetings.
  5. Asking questions that are too general or do not go beyond work and project updates.

One on One Meeting – 5 Common Mistakes & List of Questions to Avoid

Examples of questions to avoid:

  • How can I help you?
  • How are things going?
  • How can we improve?

One-on-one Meeting With Manager Vs One-on-one Meeting With Employees

The roles of a manager and employee in one-on-one meetings are different.

In this section, we will be covering the role a manager and employee play in one-to-one meetings.

The manager’s roles

There are three different things that a manager needs to do to have effective one-on-one meetings.

  1. Psychological safety must be prioritized
  2. Reward and benefit must be prioritized
  3. The effort from employees must be minimized

A manager’s role is to create a safe environment for employees to share their feelings, challenges, aspirations, and achievement openly. Remember, the focus of the meeting is not on the manager but the employees.

When employees share their feedback, managers should listen attentively without any judgment. They can ask probing questions and put effort into ensuring the conversation is always constructive.

Feedback should become an essential part of their one-to-one meetings with employees. Because then both parties will feel more at ease giving and receiving feedback.

As a result, everyone can improve and develop faster. Furthermore, by exchanging constructive feedback consistently, everyone will be happier and more engaged at work.

The employee’s role

While employees don’t need to create a safe environment for the meeting to happen, there are several things that employees should take note of.

Employees should take advantage of this time with their managers by leading the conversation and setting the agenda. Setting expectations with the manager is a great way to hold each other accountable and be prepared for the meeting.

Treat one-to-one meetings as a dedicated time to discuss anything you want with your manager. 1:1s provide you with the opportunity to have your manager’s complete attention, so make sure you get the most out of it.

If there are any difficulties, make sure to bring them up during the meeting. If you believe you are deserving of a promotion, bring it up in your one-on-one meeting. Use this opportunity as a stepping stone to help you achieve your long-term and short-term goals.

One-on-ones provide you with the opportunity to have your manager’s undivided attention, so take advantage of it.

If you believe you are qualified for a pay raise or promotion, bring it up in your one-on-one meeting. Use this time to put yourself up for long-term and short-term success.

List of Steps for Before, During, and After One-on-One Meeting

When it comes to conducting meaningful, effective one-on-one meetings, a little preparation makes a huge difference.

Here are a few pointers to help you prepare for each one-on-one meeting.

Before 1:1 Meeting

  1. Start explaining what and why you are having one-to-one meetings if you haven’t done so previously.
  2. Arrange a recurring meeting with your employees. Make sure to decide on the duration, frequency and location for the meeting to happen.
  3. Outline meeting objectives and expectations. Identify what you all expect to gain from this meeting. Remember that the conversations you have during your one-on-one will be guided by the goals you set earlier.
  4. Share the agenda of the meeting ahead of time. This is a great approach for you to have enough time to ponder any items on the agenda. It will also make sure that everyone does not forget about the meeting.

During 1:1 Meeting

  1. Spend your time listening to what your employees are sharing. Stop if you find yourself talking more than you’re listening. Wait for your employee to break the silence instead of you trying to fill the dead air. Practice asking open-ended questions and wait patiently for a response from the employee.
  2. Make it a habit to ask and provide feedback in every meeting. A straightforward approach to do this in one-on-one meetings is to include one or two questions on feedback. You may not receive any feedback initially, but don’t stop asking for it. Once you create a secure environment and establish enough trust, the employee will start sharing their feedback with you.
  3. Cultivate a psychologically secure environment. Be open and honest with your employee. You can be the first to express something personal about yourself. Set an example and show the employee that this meeting is safe to discuss any topics, concerns or aspirations. Be transparent and don’t hold back on sharing the uncomfortable.
  4. Begin and end every meeting on a positive note. Whether it’s a difficult conversation or negative feedback, try to conclude the meeting on a positive note. It can be in the form of a positive remark or any other kind of encouragement. By doing so, both you and the employee will feel inspired and optimistic upon leaving the meeting.

After 1:1 Meeting

Ask for their outlook. Create a baseline by asking your employees for their thoughts about the meeting regularly. Long-term monitoring can help you measure their engagement and spot any red flags more quickly. It is critical to do this right after the meeting when your feelings and thoughts are still fresh.

1:1 Meetings FAQs

What do you talk about in a one-on-one?

There are many topics that you could mention in a one-on-one meeting with an employee. For example, you could talk about that individual’s performance and productivity.

If they are doing exceptionally well, you could praise them, give them a raise, and/or assign them more responsibilities.

On the other hand, you could also inform someone their performance is not up to par via a one-on-one meeting. Company strategies, goal setting, and competition evaluation are all discussed by executives in private meetings.

What do you talk about in a 1-on-1 manager?

When you are an employee who wants to meet with your manager one on one, you could speak about a variety of topics. For example, if you recently felt unheard, unappreciated, or even bullied, you could talk to your manager about this one-on-one.

Additionally, you could also ask your boss for a raise in private. Other employees have private meetings with their managers to learn more about their strengths and recommendations for growth.

What do you say in a 1-1 meeting invite?

If you are invited to a one-on-one meeting, try your best to attend it. It is likely important, no matter if you are the CEO or a new employee.

Listen to the other person’s perspective, and address any concerns if they arise. Finally, any of your desires and requests should be mentioned last.

Overall Conclusion About One-on-One Meetings

One-on-one meetings are an excellent approach for managers and employees to develop trust. Both manager and employee share the responsibility of scheduling one-on-one meetings. They should work together to strike a balance in finding the time to meet.

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