Matt Blair

Matt Blair

I read that you learn more from a poor example than from a correct one. I don't believe this but that means my site will be a success.

Establishing 1-1s that work

My lessons learned

4-Minute Read


The primary purpose of one-on-one meetings is to give your reports a chance to discuss issues and topics that they find important. It’s an opportunity for them to bring up concerns, challenges, and ideas that might not surface during regular team meetings. This is not a meeting to get status updates on projects! Schedule other time for that.

Frequency and Duration

These meetings should be held regularly, ideally once a week, and should last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. The exact frequency can vary depending on the nature of the work and the needs of the team member. For newer employees, your first 1:1’s should probably be longer, as they’re going to have more questions, and need more support. For your more senior staff it might be sufficient to meet every other week for 30 minutes, depending on your relationship with them.

Agenda Setting

The agenda for the one-on-one meeting should primarily be set by your direct report. This ensures that the discussion focuses on what your direct report finds most pressing or important. However, you can also add items to the agenda as necessary. You should have some way to tracking the agenda for these meetings - whether that is a slack channel, or a google doc, or in the meeting invite itself.

Manager’s Role

Your role during these meetings is to listen actively, ask probing questions, and provide guidance and support. It’s a chance for you to understand what your direct report are working on, what obstacles they are facing, and how they can help remove those obstacles. Again, this isn’t a status update, but more to get a feeling of how your report deals with issues and how you can help them moving forward, or advice you can give them to deal with similar issues in the future.

Building Trust

One-on-one meetings are crucial for building a strong working relationship based on trust and open communication. They provide a private space for employees to speak candidly about their work, their challenges, and their career aspirations.

Examining ideas from all angles improves them. This relies on you being able to have safe communications with your direct reports. I’ve read that feedback requires three attributes:

  • Safety
    • Your direct should feel safe to give and receive candid feedback
  • Effort
    • Neither your direct nor you should feel defensive about the feedback, and feedback should be easy to give.
  • Benefit
    • Giving/receiving feedback should have impact. You have to do something, even if it’s just telling them you can’t do anything right now.

Performance and Development

These meetings are also a time to discuss performance feedback and personal development. You can provide constructive feedback and work with your direct report to set goals for improvement and professional growth. I typically like to have a separate conversation for career development outside of the normal 1:1 cadence, but that should not preclude you from speaking to your directs about their careers when they have concerns.

First Agenda

When I schedule my very first 1:1’s with a new direct report, I like to have an initial 1:1 that’s more about getting to know the person and finding out how they like to work. Here is a typical agenda I’d put forth:

This is our initial 1:1. I want to ask you a bunch of questions about how you want to work so I can more effectively work with you.

Some questions I'm looking to answer:

Where are you based out of?
How often do you want to have 1:1's?
What day/time do you prefer your 1:1s?
What makes a 1:1 valuable to you?
Do you want to have regularly scheduled career conversations?
What makes you grumpy?
How will I know you're grumpy?
How can I help you when you're grumpy?
In what medium (Slack, email, zoom, in person, etc) do you prefer to receive feedback?
When do you prefer to receive feedback?
How do you prefer to receive recognition - publicly or privately?
What do you need from your manager?
What do you need from your teammates?
What's your favorite way to treat yourself?

Normal Agenda

After that, I like to make sure all of my meetings have an agenda, so this would be the typical format for 1:1’s after that.

We’ll have a 1:1 every week to two weeks for at least 30 minutes. This meeting discusses topics of substance and updates. Edit our 1:1 notes to capture future topics for our 1:1s and to provide a handy historic record of what we’ve discussed. When you or I think of a topic, let's dump them into the 1:1 notes. During 1:1s we will go through your agenda first and if time permits I will have some questions. These meetings are for you. Urgent matters should not wait for a 1:1.

1:1's do not have to be face to face. We can take a walking 1:1 where we call one another, we can be camera down for remote 1:1's, etc. I'm flexible to find a format that works for you.

Recent Posts



This theme was developed for Hugo.