One-on-one meetings are a crucial tool for managers to connect with their direct reports. When done right, they drive engagement, development, and productivity. But without structure, they can easily turn into aimless chats.
That's why having a consistent yet flexible one-on-one meeting template is so valuable. It provides guidelines on what to cover while allowing room for meaningful, unscripted dialogue. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through the key elements of an effective one-on-one meeting template.
Set the Agenda
All great one-on-one meetings start with an agenda. This sets expectations upfront so you and your employee can make the most of your limited time together.
Some one-on-one meeting templates recommend splitting the agenda into two distinct categories:
- Company and team updates
- Career and development discussions
This format works well because it separates tactical issues from more open-ended coaching. Just be sure to leave the majority of time for the second bucket.
When setting the agenda, identify 1-3 main discussion topics to cover that will make the biggest impact. This helps avoid getting bogged down in routine status updates.
Finally, send a copy of the agenda to your employee at least a day before your one-on-one. This gives them a chance to prepare and jot down any additional items they want to discuss.
Prepare Discussion Topics
Now let’s dive into the types of topics to prepare as part of your one-on-one meeting template.
Check in on key projects, milestones, and KPIs. How is their work tracking against goals and timelines? Are there any roadblocks you can remove? These conversations enable you to course correct early before issues escalate.
One-on-ones are the perfect forum to discuss long-term career ambitions. Ask what parts of their job energize them the most and if they have any areas of interest they want to develop. Then explore opportunities to increase job scope and grow new skills.
Use one-on-ones to provide candid feedback on strengths and development needs. Offer training, mentoring, or new assignments to help them improve. Be sure to balance constructive criticism with recognition of wins.
Check the “health” of key relationships that impact their work. Are there any tensions brewing with colleagues you should be aware of? Look for opportunities to improve collaboration.
Discuss the state of your team culture. Are they noticing any positive or negative trends? Get their take on how to keep culture high amidst change and growth.
Assess their current workload and bandwidth. Can you remove any roadblocks or redundant work? Is it time to hire additional help? One-on-ones provide a chance to recalibrate workloads before burnout sets in.
Ask Good Questions
The quality of your one-on-one meetings largely comes down to your ability to ask good questions then actively listen. Here are some effective questions to incorporate into your meeting template:
- What are your top priorities this week? How can I help with them?
- What recent projects have you particularly enjoyed working on?
- Who do you enjoy collaborating with? Why?
- What parts of your job would you like to deepen your skills in or get more exposure to?
- What’s an area of our business you’d like to learn more about?
- What’s one thing we could do to improve our team’s effectiveness?
- If you were me, what’s one area you would focus on?
- What’s one roadblock that’s slowing down an important project? How can we eliminate it?
- Where would you like more feedback and coaching from me? What's the best way I can provide it?
Prepare some questions upfront, but leave room to dive deeper on unplanned topics. Your goal is to foster an honest, trusting dialogue, not just move through a script.
Listening goes hand-in-hand with asking good questions. When your employee responds, resist the urge to interrupt. Allow them to fully share their perspective before reacting. Clarify any areas you don’t fully understand by rephrasing what you heard and asking follow up questions. Avoid getting defensive even if you disagree with their viewpoint.
Finally, take notes on key discussion points and follow-ups. Notes can help ensure you don't miss anything.
Just as important as having an effective one-on-one meeting template is following up afterwards.
There are a few key steps to take:
- Send a Summary: Email a brief recap of key discussion points, action items, and next steps while the meeting is still fresh. This confirms shared understanding.
- Check On Action Items: Follow up on any promises made - resources you committed to provide, connections to make, etc. Don’t let items slip through the cracks.
- Schedule Your Next Meeting: Lock in your next one-on-one before parting ways. Cadence is crucial to building trust and continuity over time.
- Share Recurring Feedback: If the same themes arise repeatedly, it’s time to share recurring feedback and coach them on improvement areas. Don’t let issues fester.
- Evaluate Your Approach: After each one-on-one, think about what went well and what you’d improve for next time. Refine your approach to strengthen the partnership.
One-on-One Meeting Templates in Action
Let’s see how one fictional manager put this advice into action. Jane Doe is a Director of Engineering at Acme Co. She has a one-on-one scheduled next Tuesday with Ari, a software developer who joined her team 6 months ago. Here are the steps Jane takes to prepare an effective one-on-one meeting:
A Week Before: Jane emails Ari the agenda, including:
- Project updates
- Skill development
- Team collaboration
- Any other topics
2 Days Before: Jane reviews her notes from past one-on-ones with Ari, recalling discussions around career growth and technical skills development. She prepares some questions to dive deeper into those areas.
Day Before: Jane checks if Ari has any additional agenda items she wants to discuss. She mentions recent tensions with a coworker. Jane makes a note to discuss this.
Day Of: Jane starts the one-on-one by asking Ari what her priorities are that week. She actively listens and takes notes while she shares project updates. She asks clarifying questions but doesn’t interrupt.
When she raises frustrations with a team member, Jane resists getting defensive. She thanks Ari for raising this issue and commits to having a discreet conversation to improve relations.
Jane wraps up by summarizing key discussion points and action items. She confirms next steps and schedules their next one-on-one.
After: Jane sends Sarah a summary email and follows up on promised action items. She coaches the other team member on improving collaboration with Ari.
Next Week: Jane fine tunes his approach for their next meeting based on feedback and areas to improve.
While one-on-ones require effort and consistency, they rapidly compound when done right. A thoughtful meeting template coupled with engaged listening leads to more trusted relationships, transparent communication, and cross-functional collaboration.
Let Supernormal handle the notes
Supernormal is an AI notetaker built for facilitating more meaningful and effective one-on-one meetings.
Here are some key features that can level up your one on one template:
Automatic Note-Taking: Get detailed meeting notes including a transcript, summary and action items for all your one on ones so you can focus on the person in front of you.
Easy Sharing: Easily share your meeting notes with your employee so everyone stays on the same page.
Action Item Tracking: Track and assign agreed upon action items in one centralized place.
Pre-Built Templates: Select from pre-made one-on-one notes templates or create your own tailored to your management style.
Integrations: Integrate notes directly with your calendar or Notion database to automatically share and easily access notes.
One-on-one meetings are a cornerstone of great management. By investing time in creating thoughtful agendas, preparing meaningful discussion topics, asking good questions, actively listening, and consistent follow-up, managers can connect with their team members in a deeper way. This compounds over time into more trusted relationships, better development, and higher engagement across the organization. And Supernormal can make it all manageable with automatic record-keeping and detailed notes.
With Supernormal and the right one-on-one meeting template, any manager can facilitate great one-on-ones that unlock growth.