One great option for structuring your one-on-ones is to create a template with topics that you’d like to discuss on a regular basis.
💡 Pro tip: Write a list of headings in your meeting agenda and populate them with questions throughout the week. This will help you save time and ensure that your one-on-one meetings cover topics that might get overlooked otherwise.
Here are eight key areas or headings we recommend:
- Top of mind
- Things that went well
- Challenges and concerns
- Team dynamics
- Career development
Remember that some headings might not get talking points every week – and that’s ok!
1 Top of Mind
Start every one-on-one discussing the things that are top of mind for your direct report. These could be all the random questions that they wrote throughout the week, important updates, or personal news.
This is also the perfect moment to ask rapport-building questions about your direct report’s hobbies, level of engagement/happiness and life outside of work.
Need some inspiration? Here’s a list of 200 one-on-one meeting questions.
2 Things that went well
There’s a very specific reason why you should include this heading (which could also be called Wins or Highlights) in your one-on-one template:
Leadership coaches such as Sally Helgesen argue that some people (notably women) don’t bring up milestones and important things they experience at work with their managers.
Having a section where your direct report describes the things that went well during their week will foster some great conversations about their strengths and accomplishments. On one hand, it will increase your direct report’s self-awareness and ability to reflect on their wins. On the other, it will help you recognize them for their good work and stay in the loop about their contributions to the team.
Sydney Finkelstein, the author of The Superbosses Playbook, has studied world-class leaders for more than a decade. One of his biggest takeaways is that great leaders are also great teachers:
“Star managers emphasize ongoing, intensive one-on-one tutoring of their direct reports, either in person or virtually, in the course of daily work,” says Finkelstein.
Inquiring about your direct report’s learnings (or having a heading that encourages them to write their learnings every week) will help you coach them on their work and most importantly, promote a growth mindset across your team.
One of your main responsibilities as a manager is making sure that your team is allocating their time wisely and working towards the same vision. You can do this by asking your direct reports about their priorities.
Having a priorities heading will remind you to spend some time reviewing and reorganizing your direct report’s projects, and finding ways to help them be more productive.
It’s also a great segue to talk about roadblocks 🚧.
5 Challenges and concerns
Ask your employees about the roadblocks that stand in their way. This will help you identify problems, such as processes that are not working well or internal issues that are slowing your team down.
You can also ask your direct reports about the parts of their job that annoyed or frustrated them in the past week. This will help you understand what each employee dislikes, and find ways to help with those aspects of their job (perhaps by delegating those tasks to someone else or finding ways to automate them).
6 Team dynamics
In this section, you can ask employees about their relationships with their fellow teammates. Some questions you can ask employees to measure your team culture include:
- How is the team doing?
- Do you have any suggestions on the way the team works together?
- Are co-workers exchanging enough feedback, or would you like to hear more feedback from other people on the team?
In Radical Candor, Kim Scott argues that a team’s culture has an enormous impact on its results. That’s why great managers ask about team dynamics and look for ways to foster positive relationships amongst their reports.
Quick reminder: Even though part of your job as a manager is to uncover issues that might be affecting the team, you should never encourage “backstabbing.”
“Never let one person on your team talk to you about another behind their back. It feels like you’re being empathetic to listen, but actually you’re just stirring the political pot. Instead, insist that they talk directly to each other, without you,” says Scott.
Creating a culture of ongoing feedback should start with your one-on-ones. Use this section to ask for feedback, recognize your employees for their great work, and share recommendations on how they can improve.
8 Career development
One last thing you can do during your one-on-ones is revisiting your direct report’s professional development plan.
- Read more about career conversations with employees.
Use this template in Fellow.app
We built an app to help you have more effective one-on-one meetings.
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This one-on-one meeting template was originally published in The Art of the One-on-One Meeting: The definitive guide to the most misunderstood and yet powerful tool for managers.