How to Have a Good One-on-One Meeting

Regardless of an employee’s level of performance, it is essential that leaders/coaches meet one-on-one with each employee to "touch base", one or two times per month, depending on the number of your direct reports. This meeting is to ensure that you and your staff communicate about performance, goals and any issues facing the department. Learn how to have an effective one-on-one meeting, whether you are a supervisor or an  employee, in this week’s Hopkins Happenings’ Ask the Expert with Ruth Mitchell and Jennifer Clarke, organization and development training consultants.

For the Employee

Be prepared.

  • Go into the meeting with your agenda and questions/ challenges / barriers you need addressed.

Be proactive.

  • Think about solutions to your challenges and barriers.

Be thoughtful.

  • Recognize others who have been helpful to you.

Be open.

  • Go in ready to learn something you might not want to hear.

Consider using these open-ended questions in one-on-one meetings:

What is going well?

What isn’t going so well?

What do I need to do differently?

For the Manager

For a thirty minute meeting, follow the 10-10-10 rule.  Ten minutes for them, ten minutes for you and ten minutes for their development.

What should you do:

  1. Acknowledge the contributions this employee makes, and to demonstrate that what he/she does is important to the organization.
  2. Ask for input on what is working, what’s not working in departmental processes, operations and direction.
  3. Discuss barriers to successful performance and formulate a plan to remove the barriers.
  4. Establish and review goals.
  5. Give and seek feedback.
  6. Take interest in the employee's professional and career development.

Consider using these open-ended questions in one-on-one meetings:

How can I support you?

What progress have you made on your goals?

What barriers prevent you from accomplishing your goals?

What has been a recent success? How did that work? How do you feel about it?

If we had to do "x" project all over again, what would we do differently?

If you could change the way you do your job, what improvements would you recommend?

What frustrations are you experiencing? What steps can we take to minimize the frustrations?

What skills, experiences and/or knowledge would you like to obtain to position yourself for the future?


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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }


MD September 3, 2014 at 10:30 am

This sounds like it would be a great tool if taken seriously and acted upon.

In our division, these discussions do randomly occur (infrequently, maybe once a year), but there is no follow-up. Voicing concerns about professionalism, time-wasters, etc., yields nothing, so this in itself becomes a time-waster.


Jennifer September 3, 2014 at 10:45 am

I'm sorry to hear these are not happening regularly in your division. They really are a great oppportunity to learn about those on your team and what their challenges are. However, if what you said is true that there is no intention of doing any thing with the information you receive during these meetings then it is best to not do them. However as leaders in our divisions it is our responsibility to provide feedback to staff. This is the best way to do it. If you are a leader, then I hope you can set the example, start doing these and see how things change for you and your staff.


Ruth September 3, 2014 at 11:30 am

You have valid concerns. I truly believe that in the past that was acceptable, but the organization appears to be moving in a different direction where feedback is viewed as being more important. Each year the Gallup Survey Results tell us that employees do not know what is expected of them, that they don't understand the goals. The organization is in the process of rolling out SuccessFactors Performance Management took and will be available in 2015. By having effective one-on-ones employees will know exactly where they stand. Managers will have a better understanding of how to support their employees.

In a manager is not scheduling the one-on-ones I strongly encourage the employees to ask for it.

Vanessa Bennett September 3, 2014 at 9:24 am

This is great! Hopefully it will encourage everyone to take time and do One-on-ones with their employees. Everyone needs to have feedback and dialogue for change to occur..

Thank you!


Alease Johnson September 3, 2014 at 7:24 am

Good points to think about; distributing to my staff for review in Peer Supervision. thanks.


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