If you are a manager, you already know the importance of one on one meetings. The devil is in the details! And having a good actionable meeting template is an important part of your toolkit. Why you ask? A good template will help you document learnings, resolve critical feedback and build better rapport with your team members.
A good 1 on 1 meeting template
The template should NOT be about daily tasks
Way too many 1 on 1 meetings get wasted because both the parties start discussing tasks for the day, specific projects and brainstorm business ideas. Those things are great, but this is not the place for it. And that is why I always recommend to not have any section in your template for such tasks. Keep that in your project management tool please!
Have a balanced agenda
You should ideally split the half hour meeting into the following topics:
- Catching up / following up one action items - Use this to close the loop on any pending tasks that you or the team member have. If you have been documenting the minutes of the meeting well, this should not be a problem!
- Employee focused topics - e.g. their career development, morale, blockers at work and more! This is their meeting after all.
- Setup next steps - quickly summarise the meeting and if any important insights have come out of it!
- Feedback on each other - what does greatness look like? Do you have any feedback on
This template is owned by the team member
Share this template in advance with the team member. And encourage them to fill talking points. It sounds counter-intuitive I know, but this approach will serve you better. Ben Horowitz has a fantastic article on this and this is a great quote I love:
Generally, people who think one-on-one meetings are a bad idea have been victims of poorly designed one-on-one meetings. The key to a good one-on-one meeting is the understanding that it is the employee’s meeting rather than the manager’s meeting.
Your job is to act like a sounding board. Talk 20% of the times, and listen for 80%. Help them introspect and zoom out about their own life. This is not a time to do performance reviews and salary appraisals.
Catching up / Follow ups (5 mins)
- Have you met anyone famous? 😉
- Did you read the article I sent to you on sports marketing?
- What was your biggest win last week?
Career direction / Issues / Feedback (15 mins)
- What's an example of 'going above and beyond' in my role look like to you?
- What’s an area of my work you'd like me to improve?
- Is there any recruiting project that I can pick up? What roles are we focusing on this quarter
What does greatness look like? (5 mins)
- What are X things I can do to become great? What am I doing well?
Next steps (5 mins)
- Please add anything here in advance
Optional - include issues and roadblocks at work (5 mins)
You should encourage the team member to highlight blockers at work. Are they stuck anywhere? Do they need something from other team members? Use this opportunity to help them move forward at work.
Remember - this is not about discussing status updates. I personally stay away from this topic in 1 on 1 meetings, you can decide how it fits in your process.
Optional - ask about their mental state
You can also include a simple question around their energy levels and excitement in your template. This will help you see trends over a longer period of time. And you can quickly jump into pressing issues if the team member is feeling low. Some fun formats to try out here:
- Choose between 3 emojis - Sad, Neutral, Smile
- Select a rating between one to five / ten
Have a good list of one on one meeting questions in your template
Having a good and exhaustive set of questions within your template will ensure that you always have great conversations! Otherwise such formal meetings have a tendency to fall apart because both the parties are awkward and not asking the right things. Read about more such common mistakes here.
Ensure that your 1 on 1 meeting structure accounts for this! Choose relevant topics from your library of questions and ask them during the meeting to your reportee.
- Direct reportee vs skip level
- Remote vs face to face
- Learning & career development questions
- Morale & health questions
- Team culture
- Feedback on yourself as a leader
Some popular one on one meeting questions
- Did I give you actionable feedback in the last 2 months?
- Do you think our team meetings are productive? How can we make them better?
- Which team project which are you worried about? What #1 work is not moving fast enough..
- What is #1 thing we did really well as a team in past 3 months?
- Do you think you are growing in your role? If not, what's missing?
- What is the most exciting thing about work for you these days?
- Are your personal goals aligned with team goals? What is #1 place where I can help?
Explore more high engagement 1 on 1 meeting questions here.
Remember that a good one on one meeting template is actionable
You should be able to note down action items of a meeting, and also resolve the ones that are pending from the last time. After all, there is no reason to continue doing such meetings if all they lead to are empty gestures. As a leader, it is critically important that you show progress to build trust. And maintaining a list of items that were completed across the quarters can be a great way to have end of the year performance review questions.
If you are short on time to prepare for your upcoming 1 on 1s; you can use this section to quickly glance through agenda items that need your attention.