In this article, we’re looking at One-on-One meetings and some great questions and agenda items to cover during your next Growth One-on-One either as a manager or direct report.
What is a Growth One-on-One Meeting?
A 1:1 meeting is exactly what it sounds like - a meeting between two people, generally between a manager and a direct report. This meeting can take a few different forms and not every 1:1 is going to be the same. Below are a couple of examples of One-on-One Meetings and what they entail.
- Weekly or bi-weekly check-in. This kind of meeting is focused on quick progress updates (generally lasting no more than 30 - 45 minutes) where the agenda points are more direct, actionable, and related to current projects or situations.
- Monthly check-in. Sometimes called a 30-60-90 meeting, this kind of 1:1 focuses on identifying key and desired outcomes over the time course of the next few months.
- Yearly/long-term check-in. This is the kind of One-on-One we’ll be focusing on in the rest of this article. This sort of meeting is less concerned with smaller roadblocks on current projects and is instead a growth opportunity for both the manager and direct report.
What is the main goal of a One-on-One Meeting?
The main goal of a 1:1 meeting is for both parties to learn from one another and grow together. This growth can be in leadership style for the manager, or in performance or goals for the direct report. Either way, this meeting is a two-way street and benefits most from being an open and honest discussion.
You’ll notice that the questions and discussion points we provide below are oriented towards this ideal.
When should you schedule a One-on-One Meeting?
Though there are different kinds of 1:1 meetings, a yearly one-on-one happens just once a year. Though it doesn’t particularly matter when during the year it is since this kind of one-on-one has less to do with specific deliverables and deadlines and more to do with growth, you may find that you get the most out of this meeting when there aren’t pressing deadlines.
So, you might choose to schedule your yearly 1:1 in slower parts of the year, after large releases or deadlines, or at the beginning of quarters.
How long should a One-on-One Meeting be?
Yearly 1:1 meetings can cover a lot of ground but are more conversational (and less structured) than many other kinds of meetings, so it is generally best to allocate an hour for this kind of meeting. However, keep in mind that time-boxing certain questions in a 1:1 meeting won’t work very well since you don’t want to cut off important points of conversation if you can help it.
If you do schedule an hour-long 1:1 meeting and find that it isn’t enough time, agreeing upon an additional meeting time shortly afterwards can be helpful. Keep in mind that different people may need more or less time for their 1:1 than others!
How is a One-on-One Meeting Run?
One-on-one meetings are meant to be open conversations, but it still helps to have some structure to get the most out of them. In particular, the manager should arrive with a set of questions like the ones we’ll go through below. As you’ll see, some of the questions are tailored to the employee, while others are jumping-off points for the employee to ask the manager any questions that come to mind.
Even though the manager might provide the overarching structure for the meeting, it’s a good idea to ask the other attendee to come prepared with any questions/concerns that they might have. Remember, this is a two-way street!
Additional Resources about One-on-One Meetings
Before we move into our suggested template, here are a few other resources that you might find helpful depending on the kind of 1:1 you are hoping to organize:
- Examples and Guides for One-on-One meetings: Lucid Meetings
- Ideas for collaborative One-on-Ones: Lucidspark
- Several agenda ideas for different kinds of 1:1 Meetings: Small Improvements
- A myriad of potential One-on-One questions to ask: Lighthouse
A Winning Template for One-on-One Meetings
You should always adapt any meeting templates to your particular needs, but below we have some free templates for you to get started with. Every team is different, which is what makes running great meetings a challenge, but meeting best practices often stay the same for different meeting types.
We’ll go over every section in the templates attached to this article and feel free to follow along with any of the template versions we list below.
Microsoft Work Meeting Template:
Microsoft Excel Meeting Template:
Google Docs Meeting Template: Link
At the top of the template, you should list a few important pieces of information about the current meeting so that anyone can get a good sense of what the meeting is for just at a glance. For a one-on-one meeting this can be very simple, just add who is attending and make sure to keep track of the date of the meeting itself.
Since there are a few different kinds of one-on-one meetings, you may find it helpful to keep track of what this particular meeting is for. For example, in this template’s purpose, we have:
Yearly Meeting to align on current status and future goals and growth opportunities between (Manager’s name) and (Employee’s name).
The actual meeting itself should have a few key phases which we list in the agenda. You can add notes about each agenda item and modify as needed, but we’ve provided a rough baseline for you to work with.
Since one-on-one meetings are also dynamic and should be personalized, feel free to add, modify, or remove any of the items that you think don’t quite fit the tone of the meeting that you are going for. The questions below are tailored towards tightly knit teams, perhaps at smaller organizations and require a lot of honesty from both parties. While this strategy will yield the best results, it can be tricky to navigate in some corporate and formal situations, so keep that in mind when building your template!
In this template, the agenda is broken up into 4 major sections:
- Future Plans
This particular set of agenda items is tailored towards managers who are running these meetings, but are useful regardless of your role!
These questions are largely focused on the direct report and their experience working at the company. The next section will be more about feedback on management style and decisions, but don’t forget that these questions are also two-way streets!
1. How would you describe your current role here?
Jobs, especially “Knowledge Work”, can evolve over time based on the company or team’s current needs. The current role that a particular employee is fulfilling may not be exactly what they were hired to do.
So, even though this question seems trivial, it’s good to catch up on how an employee’s role has changed in the past year. If you keep your notes to the one-on-one meetings easily accessible, then comparing how things change over time can also be a valuable asset when considering employees for promotion or career advancement!
2. How would you say you are performing at this role?
There can often be a disconnect between a manager and an employee about job performance. During performance reviews, it can be useful for the employee to get feedback about their contribution to ongoing projects, but it is also very instructive to hear from them directly. If the employee thinks that they are doing well but are, in fact, underachieving, how can this be addressed?
The opposite is also true. Some employees may stress over their deliverables extensively and believe that they are not doing high-quality work when in reality they are performing well. This question can address this divide between expectations and reality in a healthy way.
3. What kinds of tasks are you strongest at? What do you prefer working on the most?
All jobs come with some kinds of tasks that you don’t enjoy doing: Too much paperwork, a flood of constant emails, repetitive tasks, etc. Alongside this work, however, there are tasks that a given person might enjoy completing and takes pride in.
Identifying these tasks and seeing how they match against the current role this person is fulfilling can be a great way to help every employee grow and advance their career. Ideally, you would want a complete match between the job and the person’s interests, and this question gets at that goal.
4. What is an area of your work that you want to improve?
Not meant as a pointed question but rather an opportunity to help, this question aims to elucidate what kind of support the employee might find the most useful. Then you, as the manager, can later find ways to provide that support and help the employee become more proficient at these harder tasks.
5. How could I or the company in general help make you more productive?
Part of being a manager is removing barriers in the way of your direct reports’ productivity. However, it can sometimes be difficult to see exactly what is in the way. In a similar vein to the previous question, this is a great opportunity to hear directly from the employees about what they think hampers them the most.
6. What do you find are the biggest challenges about working remotely?
This question may or may not be relevant to a given employee, but if you are meeting one-on-one with a hybrid or fully remote employee, it is very useful to ask about any challenges they are facing specifically on this front.
Conversely, you may also want to ask about challenges that employees might face returning to the office from being remote. This is a great opportunity to get feedback on the transition and learn about what works best for every employee.
This next set of questions is focused on you, the manager! As we discussed above, these growth 1:1 meetings are meant to help both the manager and the direct report, so this section about what the employee thinks about the team and the company at large can be very useful.
Once again, you’ll need to be open about your experience and this will only be beneficial in a high-trust environment where employees are ready to be honest about their answers.
1. What is something I could do better?
Each of the questions in this section targets something a little bit different, and it is best to start with the general before asking about anything more specific. Though you can ask follow-up questions if you’re interested, this is a good open-ended question to start things off with.
2. What aspects of your work do you want more or less direction from me for?
Diving into the details a bit more, though it might be easiest to manage everyone in a team the same way, it often isn’t the best way to enable employees. This question leaves room for aspects of work that should be guided more or less.
For example, an employee might want more clarity on a project’s purpose before starting. Or, instead, an employee might ask to have a bit more freedom on deliverables so long as all of the main points are hit.
3. What are your thoughts on how I’ve been coming up with direction?
Depending on your style and level of management, this question may make more or less sense to ask. But for smaller companies or higher-up managers at larger firms, coming up and pursuing a particular direction is part of the role.
The employees you work with may have varying opinions about what they think the direction should be, how included they feel in the process, and whether or not they want to contribute more (or less!) to the decision-making process.
4. What are your thoughts on our project management?
This question is a bit more directly targeted at what the employee thinks about how much time they are spending in project management mode versus work mode. Are there too many project management meetings? Are there too few and the employee doesn’t know what to work on? The aggregate answers of your employees will help you get at this answer and adjust accordingly.
5. What would you change?
Closing out this section with a broader view of what the direct report might want to change about the company that they are a part of. Another great opportunity for feedback!
This final section turns back to the employee and their long(er) term goals. In particular, these questions will look into the employee’s goal trajectory and help you gain insight into how their current role fits into this plan.
Feel free to also open up about your answers to each of the following questions and help keep this meeting less like an interview and more like a conversation.
1. Where do you see yourself in 3 years? 10 years?
A pretty common question, but a great one to keep track of every following year during this kind of meeting. Have your employee’s goals changed? What may have driven this change? How can you help them advance their career to where their aspirations lead them?
2. Where do you see the team/company going this year? In 5 years?
Depending on the scope of your team and the size of your company, this question can be adapted to be more useful. As a large company, you may want to scope this specifically to your team or possibly your department. You may also want to ask on the time-scale of quarters instead of years. At a small company or startup, it makes more sense to ask about the company as a whole.
This is a great opportunity to get aligned on the team’s or company’s vision and see what everyone else thinks about its direction.
3. Are you interested in continuing to work at the company long-term? Why or why not?
Though all of the questions in this list require a high level of trust between the manager and employee, this one likely requires the most. In a low-trust situation, you simply won’t get a useful answer, but in a high-trust environment, the answer here can help you reshape the direction of your team to one that performs even better.
Are you at risk of losing key high-performing employees to a competitor because of issues within the organization? Is your team ready to tackle a new major project? This question will help you get at the answer.
Finally, no meeting is complete without action items! Hopefully, this conversation has been very useful for both parties, but logging a few action items (however broad!) can ensure that you make progress on what you’ve discussed.
If you plan on having this kind of meeting once a year, it can also be a great idea to review progress on these action items at the start of the next meeting.
1. Based on what we talked about, what are some things you are going to work on or do from here on out? Similarly, what can I do from here on out?
Though it is generally best to keep action items quite specific, when dealing with broader topics such as career trajectory and work environment, it can be challenging to point to specifics that need to be changed.
If there are specifics that can be done — great! For example, if an employee would prefer to go from fully work-from-home to hybrid, then a manager could simply jot down that they’ll need a desk soon. However, if an employee wants more support on certain kinds of tasks, a more general action item can be written to create a plan to achieve this goal.
After the Meeting
The final thing that you want to do once the meeting ends is store your notes somewhere safe and send them out or share them with the attendees for easy reference later on. We have a separate blog post that goes into detail about the best practices for handling your meeting notes after the meeting is over, which you can view here: Link.
Depending on how you write your notes, you may need to share them over email, or by using a cloud-based meeting platform like Knowtworthy, where you can freely share links to your minutes directly instead of needing to keep people up-to-date manually.
In this post, we covered some of the basics about Growth One-on-One meetings and dove into a solid template for your notes to get you started. But as we mentioned above, there is no one-size-fits-all meeting template! Furthermore, different types of meetings will require different kinds of templates.
So, if you are interested in other free meeting templates, check out the list of articles we’ve written about the subject here: Link. We also host a blog all about meetings and project management best practices which you can check out here: Link.
We’ll be back with more articles like this one soon - so if you found this article helpful, please feel free to subscribe or share the post!