Master the Art
of the 1:1 Meeting

9 min read

Who hasn’t ever felt drained by meeting after meeting? We all know that feeling. Online or offline, unnecessary meetings can be met with a grunt and exasperation by the best of teams. But not all meetings are created alike and if there is one that can make a real difference in your team it is definitely the one-on-one meeting. 

What is a 1:1 meeting and why do we need them?

Consider this as an essential tool to develop a trusting and mutually beneficial relationship at work. Think of the 1:1 meeting (pronounced one-on-one) as a space where teammates and leaders communicate in an open and honest manner. It’s a regular check-in where both participants can and should use to give feedback, align goals, solve problems, and get to know each other. 

Not convinced yet? 

Here are 3 quick reasons you need to have 1:1 meetings: 

Developing a problem-solving mindset 

Having a space where employees feel safe to talk openly about the issues they are facing, empowers everyone involved to address them head-on. You want to develop a culture of facing situations and working together to fix them.  

Creating healthier work relationships 

These kinds of meetings provide a chance for leaders and employees to talk privately about issues they may not feel comfortable discussing in a team. This safe space shows a commitment and investment from the manager to the employee as an individual. In turn, this fosters a more open and successful team that knows they can rely on their team leader.     

Sowing appreciation and loyalty in your team 

Everyone wants to feel appreciated. When done right, 1:1 meetings are an excellent way for an employee to feel valued and respected. to A leader that knows this is someone that is working towards long-term goals. This is a leader that knows that appreciation breeds loyalty towards them and the company. 
A study conducted by Microsoft’s Workplace Analytics team found that employees who don’t have 1:1 meetings are 4x more likely to be disengaged at work and 2x more likely to view leadership more unfavorably compared to those who regularly meet for 1:1s with their managers. 

“My personal scheme is having all weekly 1:1 sync-ups in one day. A benefit of having meetings on the same day is setting yourself up to find linkages between what is going on. On the other hand, having sprinkled meetings throughout the week ensures maximum mental presence.  

Figure out which one works best for you and schedule them the way that gives you back the most to your sync-ups.” – Valeriia, HR Business Partner.

Are you a manager? Here’s what you need to know 

Every 1:1 meeting you lead needs to achieve two main goals:  
1. Show your employees that you are truly listening to them. Make sure they feel seen and heard in the trusting space you have created for them. People who feel valued within a company are much more likely to feel empowered and confident in the work that they do. 

2. Express how you can help them achieve their goals and show that you are willing to work together in solving any work problems they may be facing.  

What do these two key points have in common? Openness.  

It is only through being open to feedback from your team that you know how you can be open and honest to them with their needs, goals, and missteps. 

“When setting a 1:1 meeting, first you want people to be heard, to discuss what is important to them. Then you can add something to the agenda: a project’s progress, career and self-development goals, or perhaps tech issues.  

But the most important thing here is trust. 1:1 meetings allow people to share their thoughts and discuss issues openly. It is a venue – not a tool by itself.” – Sergey, Head of Mobile Development. 

As a leader, what should you talk about?

Feedback: Ask for feedback. Take this opportunity to know how your employee is feeling about work and what is their point of view in how things are being managed. Later, you can and should also provide feedback in a respectfully honest manner. According to a study by Gallup, team members are 3.2x more likely to strongly agree they are motivated to do outstanding work when provided with regular feedback.   

Career development: What does you employee wish to accomplish in their career? What are their ambitions? Listen and understand how to unblock their career path and help them grow. 

Recognition and gratitude: Leaders are only as strong as the people they surround themselves with. Expressing gratitude can be a powerful thing in all areas of life. When it comes to working, it is a power boost to your employee’s mood and increases appreciation for their job. Important: this must be something genuine. Authenticity is key for this to work.  

Follow-up: At the end of the 1:1, don’t forget to set the next steps that are needed to develop the issues you’ve discussed. Both participants should have a general understanding of what is expected of both sides for their next meeting. This helps to establish commitment and a sense of shared responsibility. 

If you are still unsure on how to conduct these meetings, take a look at these two free templates you can use as inspiration: 

First 1:1 Meeting – Download Template (.doc) 
Download Recurring 1:1 Meeting Agenda Template (.docx) 

Are you an employee? We have 4 tips for you 

Prepare an agenda: Remember to organize and list which topics you would like to discuss with your manager. Share them before the meeting so you both can be in sync of what are the most important aspects you want to cover.  

Come prepared: Aside from your meeting agenda, compile and organize any supporting material or data you think can be useful to better illustrate the issues you want to speak of. This is important to help you feel more prepared and comfortable with the 1:1 and it shows your manager that this truly matters to you.  

Think about solutions: A 1:1 is a chance for you to go through any issues that are making you uncomfortable, frustrated, or overwhelmed at work. Take some time to clearly identify the stressors in your job and think about practical solutions to your problems. Mind you that these should function as suggestions, and you should be open to alternatives that your manager might offer. In any case, it is important to show that you are proactive and actively seeking solutions. 

Lead with honesty: Don’t be afraid to ask for support when you need it. Being open about what you want and need is a brave step towards a successful career. 

How is a 1:1 meeting different from a performance review meeting? 

It can be easy to mix these two concepts, considering that both present spaces where work performance and feedback are at their core. 

One can define performance review as a formal evaluation of an employee’s work performance conducted by their manager. It is a classic and methodical tool for companies to assess an employee’s efficiency, identify strengths and weaknesses, provide feedback and establish objectives. These meetings are usually done annually or every 6 months. 

“Besides 1:1 meetings, we have semi-annual PPRs. I believe that Devexperts is using this toolset carefully. But performance reviews are about tasks, job performance, salary, achievements, and failures. It can be a very robotic protocol to follow, which is something completely different from a 1:1 meeting. During this sort of meeting, I get to know about the personal hobbies of my employees, their personalities, and what their hopes are.  

Performance reviews are not about this, it is a much more strict and corporate-oriented meeting. I also think that 6 months is too long to know about any issues an employee might be facing at work, which is the usual time for a PPR on our company. A manager should know about issues of any kind as soon as possible. Not only to help solve them but also to ensure that people feel heard and seen within the company.” – Vitaly, Technical Manager.