Gallup’s research on the world's best managers reveals their fourth habit is holding one meaningful conversation weekly with each team member. Regular one-on-one meetings provide the perfect opportunity for this valuable face-to-face time.
A manager can connect with their team members on a personal level and ask deeper questions in ways team meetings can not. This helps managers gain a greater understanding of and empathy for their team members as individuals.
Yet Microsoft data indicates less than a third of managers use one-on-ones to provide clear guidance and feedback. Perhaps many fail to take full advantage of their potential. Effective managers make one-on-ones a portal for development, not just status check-ins.
Our comprehensive guide is here to help you conduct more meaningful and impactful one-on-one meetings. It includes question banks and tips on selecting the right questions to ask in different scenarios.
Timely and thoughtful questions unlock each team member's unique strengths and growth areas. Like icebreaker questions, good one-on-one questions build trust, empathy, and good connections with your team. With this foundation, performance is sure to follow!
Not all 1:1 meetings are the same. It all depends on what you and your direct report want to focus on at the time you meet. However, great 1:1s should have a smooth flow that allows you to dive into the conversation with some conversation starters or icebreakers, followed by focused questions on specific topics, and ending with a closing question to set expectations and commitments until the next meeting.
The duration depends on the context and changing needs of managers. Most one-on-one meetings last from 30 to 60 minutes based on how depth of topics that can be covered in the discussion.
For regular check-ins on aligning progress and addressing roadblocks, 30 minutes is enough. But for in-depth discussion to establish a bigger goal, and develop and build rapport, it may take 45 minutes to a full hour session.
Here is the breakdown time frame and considerations for differences in meeting lengths.
One-on-One Meeting Examples: Navigating 11 Common Scenarios
1:1 for New Employee Onboarding
The first few days when a new team member joins are really important. It's like the beginning of a new chapter in their experience with you, your team, and the company. Making a great impression is always worth it! These initial days shape how they see the team dynamics and what you expect from them. Also, use the first one-on-one meeting to start off on getting to know them better, exploring and finding out how their onboarding has been going so far. This sets the tone for a good start and builds a foundation for their journey ahead.
Duration: 60 mins
Icebreaker (5 mins): What's your go-to way to unwind and relax after a busy day?
Rapport (10 mins): What has your onboarding experience been like so far? Are there any questions or concerns you'd like to discuss?
Set goals & expectations (45 mins):
As you step into this new role, what aspects of it are you particularly excited about?
Let's ensure we're on the same page regarding role expectations. Are there any specific expectations you have in mind?
In your view, where might there be a gap between your expectations and mine? How can we bridge that gap effectively?
How do you prefer to receive feedback and constructive criticism?
1:1 for Ongoing Check-In
Managers often use one-on-one meetings to check in on priorities, monitor progress, and clear away any obstacles. Its greatest benefit is that it opens the doorway to continuously supporting each team member timely and adjusting priorities when necessary. However, flexibility is the best! You can tailor the discussion agenda based on what matters most to your team members and their needs at that moment. Don't fret, we have more scenarios to delve into below!
Duration: 30 mins
Icebreaker (5 mins): To kick things off, how was your weekend? Have you come across any intriguing topics, trends, or podcasts lately that have caught your interest?"
Priorities and Alignment (25 mins):
What's at the top of your priority list right now? Are there any tasks or projects you're feeling blocked or stuck on? How can I assist you in overcoming those challenges?
Do you feel we are communicating effectively about shifting priorities and timelines?
As we set our sights on the future, what can I clarify for you regarding the goals we're aiming to achieve next month?
1:1 for Struggling Employee
How do you know when a team member is struggling? Especially in a remote work landscape where you can't see them in person to oversee the changes in their behavior. There are signs that can tell you what is wrong with your teammate: keeping silent lacking focus on team meetings, not being able to deliver tasks on time, or lacking engagement with the team. Be intentional about the small changes! It will always be better to know sooner rather than later so you can pull them back on track and overcome challenges together with them.
Duration: 45 mins
Icebreaker (5 mins): What's something that made you laugh recently?
Uncover issues and provide support (20 mins):
I've noticed some inconsistencies in your work lately. What challenges are you facing?
What aspects of the role are unclear or need more support?
Dive into solutions (20 mins):
Let's outline clear objectives and checkpoints for getting back on track. How do you envision overcoming the challenges you've been facing?
How can I support you as you work toward improvement?
1:1 for High Potential Employee
The chance to grow is one of the great motivators that keep employees staying longer, especially for GenZ. They are willing to leave unfulfilling jobs without a backup plan. 1-1s serves as a space for you to go deeper into your team members' competencies and the aspects they expect to explore. Listening to their sharing and giving them the opportunities to try new possibilities, as their manager and mentor, you will be happy when you see them grow.
Duration: 45 mins
Icebreaker (5 mins): What's your favorite motivational quote?
Understand motivation and development (20 mins):
What parts of your role energize you the most?
What skills would you be interested in developing this year?
Offer challenges (20 mins):
I think you have strong potential to take on more responsibility. What excites you about that possibility?
1:1 for Stressed Employees
Stress and burnout stem from many factors. When team members experience exhaustion, a decline in job performance often follows, and their once-vibrant passion can dwindle. These are signs that their well-being is under strain. As a manager, it's pivotal to be a trusted channel where they can candidly share their challenges and underlying causes. By knowing the root of problems, you can give them a supporting hand to reduce their anxieties and burdens.
Duration: 30 mins
Icebreaker (5 mins): What's your favorite way to treat yourself when you need a pick-me-up?
Listening and Identifying causes (15 mins):
You seem overwhelmed lately. Is everything OK? What are the biggest contributors to your stress levels right now?
Give your support hand (10 mins):
How can I help reduce any anxieties or burdens on your plate?
1:1 for Brainstorming Session
Two heads are better than one! When seeking diverse perspectives and fresh insights, turn to your teammates during your one-on-one meetings. Their creative and innovative solutions might hold the key. Furthermore, these interactions can help uncover blind spots that you might have missed.
Duration: 30 mins
Icebreaker (5 mins): To kick things off, how has your day been? Is there something interesting or inspiring you've come across recently?
Spark creativity (15 mins):
What are some "blue sky" ideas you have to improve this process?
If constraints were not a concern, how would you reimagine this process to be more innovative and forward-thinking?
Teamwork (10 mins):
If anything were possible, how could we make this project more innovative?
1:1 for Misaligned Employees
Misalignment happens when your team members' priorities get out of sync with the team's overall goals. It is often because of either a lack of clear communication regarding expectations or uncertainty among team members about what is required of them. To realign, it's essential to establish transparent expectations for both their individual roles and their contribution to broader objectives. Open the doors to 1-1s meetings for you two to discuss goals, set mutual understanding, and look for ongoing ways to improve communication going forward.
Duration: 45 mins
Icebreaker (5 mins): If you won the lottery tomorrow, what's the first thing you would do?
Discuss misalignment (30 mins):
I sense some misalignment between what I've asked you to prioritize versus your own priorities. Can you help me understand your perspective?
How can we better communicate to align on deadlines and tasks going forward?
Let's work together to establish clearer expectations for your priorities and how they contribute to our collective goals. How do you think we should proceed?
Improve Dynamic(10 mins):
What is your preferred style of receiving feedback and direction from me?
1:1 for Remote Isolated Employees
It's undeniable that the side effects of remote work can often lead employees to experience feelings of isolation and loneliness. When the connection wire of them with their colleagues is not like before, they sit for hours a day working in solitude without interacting with anyone. Unintentionally, they are slowly stuck in the circle of getting those feelings of “I’m lonely and ignored”. Make time for your remote team members and proactively take steps to help them fix those feelings.
Duration: 30 mins
Icebreaker (5 mins): If you could time travel, where/when would you go first? Why?
Understand the situation (15 mins):
How are you finding remote collaboration so far? What's working well?
Do you feel connected with your teammates and your work? In what ways?
Give your support hand(10 mins):
What could help you feel more engaged and less isolated day-to-day?
1:1 for Unconfident Employees
Low self-confidence can be the barrier that affects your team members’ potential growth and development. Avoid speaking up, being resistant to take on new challenges and make decisions, or sounding unsure of their abilities. Those are signs, consequently, their lack of confidence contributes to them slowly becoming an underperformance employee. How could you help them build up their confidence? The answer is to play the role of coaching and mentoring. Don't forget to praise their work and keep a pulse on their development in the 1-1 meetings.
Duration: 30 mins
Icebreaker (5 mins): What hobby or activity have you always wanted to try but haven't yet?
Build up employee (15 mins):
You seem hesitant lately in making decisions independently. Am I reading that right?
What could help build your confidence in your own judgment in this role?
Offer resources (10 mins):
Let's discuss ways I can support you in developing your capabilities.
1:1 for Demotivated Employees
When an employee's motivation weakens, they tend to become less engaged and may consider (quiet) quitting. Even if that comes from internal or external factors, there are always reasons behind them. Is your team member bored with their current responsibilities? Or have they lost interest in their role/ the company's mission? Rather than guessing why, have an open conversation to understand the reasons. Then, you can take targeted action to create better conditions for their motivated work.
Duration: 45 mins
Icebreaker (5 mins): What song always puts you in a good mood?
Understand the root (15 mins):
I've noticed you seem less engaged lately. What's contributing to this feeling of decreased motivation?
What parts of your role still excite and energize you? What parts feel frustrating or stagnant?
What obstacles or roadblocks do you feel are draining your motivation day-to-day?
Explore solutions (25 mins):
Looking ahead, what projects or responsibilities would reinvigorate your motivation?
Let's brainstorm what aspects of your role we could modify or refresh. I'm open to exploring adjustments that would better energize you.
What additional resources or support from me could help lift your motivation?
1:1 for Giving Negative Feedback
Giving negative or constructive feedback is not easy, especially when your ultimate goal should be helping the employee improve for next time. Feedback enables growth when delivered effectively! However, opt to provide it privately in a one-on-one setting rather than publicly criticizing. This creates a space for an open and two-way conversation. After understanding their side of the story, at the end of the conversation, provide specific guidance for improvement and make it clear that you will always be there for any future questions or advice.
Duration: 30 mins
Icebreaker (5 mins): What's a unique fact about you that not many people know?
Two-way dialogue (10 mins):
I need to share some constructive criticism about your recent work. I want to have an open conversation - Can you walk me through your approach to this project?
What do you think led to these issues, and how can we prevent them going forward?
Offer improvement (15 mins):
What strategies or approaches could you implement to enhance this aspect of your work? I'd like to provide guidance on enhancing our approach moving forward.
Are there any additional resources or training opportunities that could help you overcome these challenges?
Wrapping it Up
As we come to a close, remember not to be overwhelmed by the array of choices. One-on-one meetings are just about connecting with your team members on a personal level and helping them reach their potential. We're here with guides, tips, resources, and examples - everything you need for meaningful conversations.
Don't forget about the 1:1 Question Generator, which is designed to help you effortlessly pick the right questions to add to your agenda.