Guide to Truly Effective One-on-One Meetings

Many say an occasional "one-on-one" (1:1) with your employee will build your relationship with them and help you get to know them better. You may have thought of this practice as a "nice thing" to do when possible...


I think 1:1 meetings are SO much more important than that. These meetings, when held consistently, can become a fundamental building block to build trust. These meetings can be an important part of your work but are a vital part of your employees’ work (their engagement and development).

It is very likely that these 1:1 meetings are more important to your employee than they are to you.

So, here are my three tips to make 1:1s truly effective for your employee:


1. Clarify the “rules of the game”

  • Don’t assume basic details. Almost everyone will have a different view of these meetings. The most important part is that you two understand together what they mean.

  • Questions to clarify: What is the purpose of these meetings? When will they be held? Who will schedule the meeting? How often? Who decides the agenda topics? What might those topics include?


It might take some time to find just the right fit. Keep doing it. Keep holding these meetings, even if they aren't perfect. Stick with it, and put forth the effort into making them beneficial for your employee. You will build trust over time. They will feel a difference, and it will matter to them.


2. Be present.

  • First, show up. Keep your appointments. If you need to re-schedule, that's fine - but don't let it slip altogether. (Nothing erodes trust faster. I've seen it.)

  • Second, be engaged. When you meet, let them know through your words and your actions that they have your attention. They matter to you. It's a powerful message to send. Listen. (especially important when meeting virtually)

3. Follow up.

  • If follow-up is needed/required – do it!

  • If you say you'll do something - do it!

Remember what has been said! Even small things that seem insignificant can be valuable - details of their personal life or a favorite something, etc. Demonstrating that you are present and paying attention will go a long way. You will both notice a difference. Trust will increase. Loyalty will deepen. Work performance and results will follow.


Leadership is about people. One-on-one meetings are the best way to connect with those you lead.


Additional Resources


Templates for 1:1s:

  1. Michael Nichols - Free PDF template and guide download.

  2. Manager-tools.com - PDF download of One-on-One Basics

Additional resources:

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