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Unlock the Full Potential of Your One-on-One Meetings

by Niamh Moynihan on

As a manager, one-on-one meetings with your team can be a powerful tool for driving productivity, fostering growth, and strengthening relationships. However, these meetings can often fall short of their true potential. In this article, we'll explore strategies to elevate the value and effectiveness of your one-on-one meetings, ensuring they become a valuable asset in your management toolkit.

Understanding the Purpose of One-on-One Meetings

The purpose of one-on-one meetings can vary depending on your role and the stage of your team members' careers. They could be predominantly focused on discussing work tasks and progress or more geared towards personal development and guidance. Regardless of the balance, it's crucial to be clear about the purpose and design the meeting structure accordingly. Remember, these meetings are not just for you as a manager but also for your team members to feel valued and important in their roles.


Critical Elements of Effective One-on-One Meetings

To ensure your meetings are genuinely effective, it's crucial to consider the following four key elements. 


Purpose:  The purpose of the one-to-one must be clearly defined. Is it intended to be a task review, a briefing on current issues or an opportunity for the team member to get clarity and support? If it’s either of the first two, you must schedule a separate meeting to cover personal development and support. It doesn’t have to be as long or as frequent, but it does need to be regular. 


People Involved:  A one-to-one meeting is usually between a team member and their manager. For the meeting to be effective, both parties must be engaged and have completed any required prep work. If one person is distracted or the prep work hasn’t been done, the conversation can quickly derail into a conversation about whatever is top of mind.


Format and Structure: An appropriate structure should support every meeting, including location, duration, style, and duration. For the location, consider whether in-person or online is best - and if it’s online, whether it’s a video call or phone call. 

The duration of a one-to-one varies from 15 minutes up to 90 minutes or even longer; it must be appropriate for the number of things to be discussed. Some managers make the mistake of assuming one-to-ones must be the same duration for all their team members, but this may not be true.

The agenda includes the topics to be covered and the order. Ideally, the team member has the opportunity to bring things they need help with or guidance on. 1:1 meetings that follow the same structure create a sense of predictability, making the meeting easier to prepare for. 


Frequency: One-to-one meetings should happen regularly, although the frequency might depend on the person’s role. If you already meet regularly to discuss day-to-day work, then this may be every two weeks; if it’s less frequent than that, the manager needs to be contactable between meetings for support if needed. 

On the other hand, if the 1:1 meeting is twice a week, then it's likely that one of these occurrences could be redefined to a task or work review and potentially merged into a team meeting. 

Whatever the duration, one-to-one meetings should be scheduled as recurring and only cancelled on rare occasions.


Dos and Don'ts for Your Next One-on-One Meeting

To get the most out of your one-on-one meetings, consider the following dos and don'ts:



  • Maintain a Regular Schedule: Ensure your 1-on-1 meetings are scheduled consistently so you and your team members know when to expect them.
  • Create a Welcoming Atmosphere: Whether the meeting is in-person or virtual, strive to create a comfortable and open environment for the discussion.
  • Balance Progress and Challenges: Encourage your team member to share both their successes and the challenges they're facing.
  • Active Listening: Avoid distractions and focus on actively listening to your team members during the meeting. This is not just about hearing what they say but truly understanding their perspective and needs.



  • Don't Cancel Meetings: Try to avoid cancelling 1-on-1 meetings unless it's necessary. If you do need to cancel, reschedule as soon as possible.
  • Don't Be Late: Respect your team member's time and avoid being late to the meeting.
  • Don't Micromanage the Conversation: Allow the discussion to flow naturally, even if it veers off the agenda occasionally.
  • Don't Monopolise the Conversation: Ensure your team member has ample opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns.

When done well, one-on-one meetings can eliminate unnecessary back-and-forth emails between meetings, reduce escalations, and improve employee engagement, as team members feel supported and know they are listened to. Take this opportunity to apply the ideas from this article in your next one-to-one meeting and help your team members create a better workday.