One-on-one meetings are a unique opportunity to have focused sessions with one of your team members. But they’ve developed a bit of a stereotype: they’re often viewed as informal and not exactly “important.” It’s just two people talking after all, right? 

Wrong. 

One-on-one meetings are incredibly important and valuable. When two people can home in on a balanced agenda, a tremendous amount of work can get done. Along the way, these hyper-efficient meetings also provide an opportunity for coaching between leaders and team members.

5 Tips for a Better One-on-One

Informality is the biggest challenge for many one-on-one meetings. Reverse the stereotype of a strictly casual session and get your one-on-one meetings back on track with these five tips. 

Create balance

At a minimum, agendas should be split 50/50 between the needs of leaders and team members. If the agenda is skewed to favor one person, it should offer additional clarity and support to the team member. 

Be prepared

Don’t mishandle people’s time. Create a plan for the meeting by sending an email or other message a few days in advance to ensure you and your team member are prepared. 

Have an agenda 

Create an agenda and a list of questions that you follow at each one-on-one, just like you would for a larger meeting with the whole team. 

Focus 

Don’t let things stray from the topics you intended to discuss. If you start getting pulled in another direction, make a note of it and add it to the agenda for your next meeting. 

Follow up 

Like any other meeting, send an email or make a phone call to touch base on the meeting’s major takeaways. “It acknowledges the input and creates a record. It’s important because it’s real. It really happened, it wasn’t a water cooler interaction. This was a sit-down,” says Tim Yeomans, FiredUp! Executive Vice President.

Ensure a visible outcome

Connect your one-on-one directly to other initiatives and actions, and bring up solutions you’ve reached when you go back to larger team meetings.

 

Remember to Honor Coaching

One-on-ones are also critical for developing positive relationships and building the capacity of others. The sessions serve as an opportunity for coaching between leaders and their team members. 

Take time to include a bit of personal checking in and a more formative evaluation. If there’s five minutes of a leader acknowledging how a person is doing professionally during every one-on-one, it allows that person to progress, stay on track, or refocus their efforts so they don’t get blindsided with their annual review. 

Want to learn more about building the capacity of others and driving creativity among your teams? For a comprehensive guide, download our workbook: The Innovative Leader’s Guide to Transforming Company Culture…Starting with Yourself.