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Leading Effective 1:1 Meetings Process Template

Regular one-on-one meetings between employees and their managers strengthen trust, develop talent, and lead to better collaboration. Follow this process to ensure that your 1:1 meetings are structured and effective.

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Leading Effective 1:1 Meetings Process Template

Regular one-on-one meetings between employees and their managers strengthen trust, develop talent, and lead to better collaboration. Follow this process to ensure that your 1:1 meetings are structured and effective.


Why we prioritize 1:1s

At our company, one-on-one (1:1) meetings are the heartbeat of our people-first culture. They demonstrate our commitment to enabling each employee's growth and success. As leaders, how we show up for 1:1s sends a strong message. When done with consistency and care, these meetings build trust and psychological safety while improving engagement and performance.

Regular 1:1 meetings between employees and their direct managers enable the sharing of important information, strengthen relationships, develop talent, and build trust. These meetings are a vital tool for uncovering opportunities, improving leadership skills, retaining talent, and promoting transparency.

By creating a consistent, judgment-free space for employees to share needs and feel heard, we can provide tailored coaching and mentoring. This two-way feedback loop helps us understand motivations and obstacles while empowering employees.

Ultimately, well-run 1:1s lead to better collaboration and strategic alignment across individuals, managers, teams, and the wider organization. In fact, these 1:1 connections should happen at every level, between entry-level employees and their supervisors all the way up to executives and their reports. Fostering open communication and understanding up and down the organizational chart is key for building an inclusive, engaging culture where all voices are valued. Making 1:1s a consistent priority enables stronger trust, talent development, and strategic alignment at each layer of the business.

Preparation & Scheduling 

Preparing the Employee

How to prepare your employee for the 1:1:

  • Explain the purpose of 1:1s and the benefits for their growth and success so they understand the value.
  • Reinforce it's their meeting to share ideas openly and drive the agenda to encourage transparency.
  • Encourage sharing discussion topics/questions in advance so you both can come prepared and make the most of the time.
  • Convey your role is to be their advocate and enable their goals and development so they feel supported.
  • Solicit their input on how to make the 1:1s as effective as possible and implement feedback.

Scheduling and preparing for 1:1s

Establish a consistent weekly or biweekly calendar invite and protect that time. You'll want to consider your personal bandwidth, the number of employees on your team and the individual's needs when choosing a cadence. 

Avoid the need to cancel or reschedule these meetings. Canceled meetings send the wrong message and disrupt relationship building.

  • Be reliable and unwavering in scheduling 1:1s to provide much-needed continuity for relationship building. Treat 1:1 meeting times as sacred calendar commitments to signify their priority and value.
  • Review past notes and goals to come fully prepared and present. This helps demonstrate these meetings are not an afterthought. Think of positive feedback to share to demonstrate you are invested and committed to their success.
  • Do not cancel or reschedule 1:1s except in rare unavoidable cases to reinforce trust and dependability.
  • View skipped or shortened 1:1s as lost opportunities to connect and nurture your employees.
  • Model the same level of professionalism given to other key business meetings.

Your Role as a Leader 

Managing Effective 1:1s

Now let's walk through the key actions for leaders to manage effective 1:1s:

  • Encourage the employee to own the meeting and provide an agenda beforehand. Let them drive the conversation.
  • Set clear expectations upfront. Ensure both you as the manager and employee understand the purpose and desired outcomes of the 1:1. This alignment sets the tone of the meeting.
  • Ask great questions - ask how they’re doing, what's going well, what challenges they’re facing. Seek to understand their experience, build rapport and center around their needs.
  • Separate 1:1s from status updates - use them for problem-solving, growth and development.
  • Offer resources and discuss how you can help remove roadblocks by identifying next steps and owning follow-through.
  • Share specific, positive feedback around wins and progress so employees feel recognized and know where they stand.
  • Provide empathetic, constructive feedback when warranted to help course correct. Explain the impact on the broader team/goals to provide context.
  • Create psychological safety - foster trust and open communication through engaged listening.
  • Take notes during the meeting, and share a recap to confirm understanding and action items. You can use our instant messaging tool for general updates and/or our people management platform to track important notes or targets.
  • Consider occasionally shaking up the format to keep it fresh. Do a walking 1:1, change locations, incorporate an activity, etc.

Wrap Up

While this guide provides a framework for effective 1:1s, recognize that every employee is unique. Make it a priority to understand their specific needs and motivations. Customize your approach based on how they best receive feedback and process information.

Some may prefer an informal, conversation style while others want clear bulleted talking points. Adapt your 1:1 cadence and structure to align with their work style and personality. Ask directly how they envision the ideal 1:1 experience.

When you take the time to tailor your leadership style and these crucial meetings to each individual, it demonstrates authentic care for their growth and success. 1:1s are all about the employee - investing in their growth, hearing their needs, and building an open and supportive relationship. These employees are the organization's greatest asset - let your commitment to their development shine through in every 1:1 interaction.

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