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A Guide to Effective 1:1 Meeting for Managers: What, Why, How and When

Oftentimes managers avoid having personal 1:1 meetings with their team members because they find it difficult, time-consuming, or unnecessary. Yet, there’s nothing that boosts employee performance, morale, and retention more than having a regular 1:1 check-in with their manager.

In this article, we will discuss all you need to know about conducting impactful 1:1 meetings with your team members.

Table of contents

What are 1:1 meetings?

What are the benefits of 1:1 meetings?

10 tips for effective 1:1 meetings

How to take 1:1s to the next level - step by step guide

What are 1:1 meetings?

The idea of 1:1 meetings was first popularized by Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel, in his book High Output Management. In short, 1:1 meetings are weekly personalized conversations between a manager and their team members to ask questions about work challenges and performance roadblocks and finding solutions together. 

These meetings are not for discussing progress reports or performance reviews, instead 1:1s are great opportunities for managers to connect with their employees and uncover ways to guide and support them.

What are the benefits of 1:1 meetings?

The advantages of personally knowing your employees go way beyond immediate improvement in employee performance. When handled correctly they enable managers to enrich employee experience and drive retention. 

Let’s discuss some other reasons why you need to have frequent 1:1 meetings — 

1. To build trust and relationships

It is well known that as much as 50% of employees who switch organizations leave their jobs due to issues with managers. According to Gallup research, 70% of the variance in employee engagement is influenced by the managers they report to. 

1 on 1 meetings can eliminate this risk by providing managers with timely insights on what motivates their team members. As a manager, when you know their aspirations, their pain points you can customize your solutions to empower them individually as well as build relationships.

1 on 1 meetings are also great for reducing the risk of false assumptions and personal biases that arise naturally. It helps you put aside personal favourites and connect with all team members to create a sense of equality and trust within the team.

2. To catch early signs of problems

When employees trust their managers, they open up and interact honestly. Most employees in 1 on 1 meetings talk more freely with their managers than they do in group meetings, especially introverts. 

Frequent and regular check-ins build a feedback culture within the organization which further helps in proactively identifying and solving potential problems before they snowball into bigger issues with more expensive consequences.

3. To recognize and motivate employees

While it’s natural to overlook smaller wins when you are overwhelmed with millions of other responsibilities, it demoralizes team members. When employees feel that their hard work is unnoticed for longer periods, they lose the motivation to put in their best effort. As a manager, you must make sure that you are using these quick interactions to recognize good work and saying thank you-s for their efforts.

4. To develop managerial skills

1:1 meetings drive managers to listen with empathy, provide constructive feedback, build trust and relationships — thus transforming them from managers into leaders. Also, 1:1s humble managers by making them receive genuine feedback from their teammates with an open mind.

Regular personalized feedback from employees helps managers identify what’s working and what’s not in how they manage their teams and helps businesses develop learning programs for managers accordingly.

10 Tips and best practices for effective 1:1 meetings

1. Start with the right mindset

1:1 meetings are meant to be discussions. As a manager, your job here is to find ways to support, guide, and coach your team. Don’t start 1:1s with a mindset to dissect the employee’s performance, rather use this time to show your employees that you care about them.

Remember that your employees are the focus of the conversation. Instead of forcing them to comply with your orders, allow them to come up with possible solutions. Listen without judgement and then suggest your solution. Keep things informal to make the employees feel at ease so they feel free to provide honest feedback. 

2. Set a clear agenda 

To have effective and focused 1:1 discussions, you need to have a clear idea of what is happening within your team. It helps to ask employees beforehand about their challenges or revisit previous 1:1 conversations history to come up with talking points to make sure both party’s time is being used properly. 

Remember that 1:1 agenda should be collaborative and flexible. Both the manager and employee should bring their genuine concerns to the table. 

3. Schedule regularly

The primary purpose of 1:1 meetings is to develop trust between the manager and the team’s members. Building trust takes time and requires consistency. Set the right cadence that your team requires. And once the cadence is decided, set them as recurring events in your calendar. Use a tool to integrate all 1:1s with your favorite calendar to save time instead of scheduling them manually.  Regularly making time to talk to your employees will make them feel that you are really invested in their success and wellbeing. Thus, increasing their engagement and output.

Weekly cadence is good to keep in touch with your people without appearing as a micromanager. But if your team size is too large, then a bi-weekly cadence may be a good alternative. Scheduling monthly 1:1 meetings is usually ineffective as a lot can happen in a month which increases the chance that you’ll spend more time correcting mistakes than proactively solving them.

4. Remember, 1:1s are for everyone on the team 

Often, managers tend to interact with team members with whom they get along easily. But remember, as a team leader you must conduct 1:1 check-ins with all members of your team without any preference. This allows your employees to know that you are not a manager who plays favourites and increases their loyalty to you. 

5. The duration matters 

Nobody likes longer meetings that take their time away from valuable tasks. On the other hand, if your meetings are too short, you will not have enough time to talk about important issues. 

As a general rule of thumb, 30-45 minutes of weekly check-ins is good to go. Also, make sure both parties come prepared with their talking points so no time is wasted discussing pointless topics. This is where it becomes useful to use guided 1:1 meeting templates. 

6. Customize 1:1s and ensure privacy

It is natural for some employees to refrain from giving honest feedback or sharing genuine concerns about the team's performance because they fear the consequences of being known by other team members as “the one who complains”. 

Also, not everyone is equally comfortable in sharing their problems.Therefore, you must customize the tonality, context, and structure of your 1:1s to suit every employee’s personality and needs. 

As a manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that everyone feels safe and their privacy is protected. 

7. Ask questions

1:1 meetings are about employees and their needs. So, as a manager, make sure to ask as many questions as needed to get to the root of their workplace challenges and find the right solution. 

Apart from asking only technical questions, also ask about their morale to understand how they feel about their work and employer as a whole. Be genuinely interested in knowing your employees. That’s the key to an effective 1:1 meeting.

8. Take notes

Taking notes is not only useful for future references, it also shows that you care about what your team members have to say. Moreover, taking notes during and after a meeting helps you to use the learning from one conversation with a specific employee for any similar situation in the future with another employee (or even to solve your own problem). 

Also, taking personal notes (i.e. recording your own thoughts about the issue) turns out to be useful when you have to do a performance review at the end of the year.

9. 1:1 meetings for remote employees

1:1 check-ins are even more crucial when some or all of your employees are working remotely. Make sure to use a video call to understand the non-verbal cues related to a conversation. 

Ask them about what they need to feel supported in their work. Frequently letting employees know that they are cared for by the organization reduces their stress of working in isolation and increases employee engagement. 

10. Bonus tips

  • Sometimes holding your 1:1s outside of your regular office space creates an air of informality around them. This makes employees feel more at ease and serves the purpose better. For example, use coffee breaks, meet for lunch or have a walking meeting to discuss their challenges. However, make sure that informality does not lead to deviation from the meeting agenda.
  • It is natural to occasionally have your 1:1 meeting schedule be interrupted by some urgent work. In such cases, instead of cancelling, try to reschedule the meeting. It lets your employees know that these discussions are important to you and you will make time to find solutions to their problems no matter what.

How can managers take 1:1s to the next level?

Now let’s look at how you can structure 1:1 conversations to make the most of your discussions.

Before the meeting

Plan ahead

This is the time to set the agenda, create talking points, review previous conversation history and team priorities, and get into the right mindset. If things have been going well, remind yourself to focus on recognition. And if things are not going as expected, remind yourself to focus on finding a solution to the problem instead of finding faults in the concerned employee.

Set clear expectations

Share the agenda of the next 1:1 conversations with the concerned employee beforehand. Ask them to share their talking points as well. 

Also, before you get into specifics about their individual performance, let your team know (on a regular basis) what success looks like for the team as well as for each role. This way, you will make sure that employees are not using 1:1 discussions to share excuses for not meeting expectations.

During the meeting

Ease the tension with a check-in

Many employees tend to perceive 1:1 meetings with their boss as intimidating. As a result, they avoid talking about the real problems and say what they think you would like to hear. 

Ease the tension in the beginning of the discussion with a quick check-in about how they are feeling and doing. Casually ask about how they feel about their work, team mates, and what’s on the top of their minds.

Tell your side of the story

Next, share how you are doing at work. Talk about your work updates that may be relevant to the discussion. Seeing you opening up may help them to see you as a fellow employee instead of “the boss”. Thus, building trust.

Listen actively

We repeat this once again, 1:1 meetings are about employees. It is about finding out what is stopping them from being their best selves at work. To uncover their performance blockers, listening empathetically is key. Leave the urge to jump to conclusions or provide quick solutions and actively engage in what they have to say.

Welcome feedback

Take 1:1 meetings as a development exercise for yourself. Listen to what your team members have to say about your management approach. Take notes to recognize recurring patterns from different conversations and modify your managerial style accordingly. 

This would not only help you become a better leader but also improve your team’s performance and trust in you when they see that their feedback is being valued by their boss.

Hold employees positively accountable

Although the true purpose of 1:1 meetings is to recognize employee efforts and boost their morale, sometimes you will need to hold difficult conversations. Instead of criticizing their performance or behavior, talk about the high expectations you have of them. This would show them that you believe in them and thus encourage them to work harder.

Also, the quicker you provide feedback about their performance the faster they can correct their course.

It’s okay to get (a little) personal 

1:1 meetings are two-way discussions. While talking about performance, it’s okay to share personal stories in similar situations (if any). Bringing little vulnerability to the discussion helps to eliminate fear. 

Moreover, employee performance can sometimes be affected by issues outside of work.  Asking them how they are doing in their personal life (without being intrusive) will make them know you care about them on a personal level while simultaneously giving you a clearer picture of the root cause of performance fluctuations.

After the meeting

Discuss next steps

Solutions are useful to the extent they are practical. At the end of the meeting, create a set of action points and a timeline to keep track of improvement. Having a clear roadmap would  motivate employees to continuously improve their performance. 

Maintain a history

Apart from taking notes during the 1:1 meeting, it is useful to keep a history of all previous 1:1 conversations in one place that gives you a better contextual understanding of an employee’s problems at a later time. SuperBeings automatically saves all 1:1 meetings history without any additional effort from your side.

Final Thoughts

1:1 meetings are undoubtedly the best way to receive regular feedback from employees and drive continuous conversation between team members and leaders. As a manager, 1:1 conversations are your most powerful tool to develop a team of high performing individuals.

Using tools like SuperBeings can help you plan your meetings in advance, provide AI driven recommendations if you need help with specific problems, and suggest several 1:1 meeting templates to guide the conversation. It also keeps a conversation history for your future reference. 

In conclusion, whether you decide to use a specific tool to guide your 1:1 meetings or plan to do it yourself, approach all of your 1:1 conversations with your teammates with a compassionate and solution-oriented mindset. This would make you the leader your team members aspire to be.

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