7 Tips for Building Effective 1:1's


Whether you are a leader or an individual contributor your weekly 1:1's are sacred time between you and your manager. It's the time where you can bubble up the challenges you're facing, highlight your achievements, ask for help and provide an update around your performance. However, there are often several challenges that prevent us from having the most effective 1:1's.

  1. There are two agendas that need to be covered, which means there's often not enough time to get to everything.

  2. Due to the time crunch, items like career growth and development often get sidelined.

  3. There's little to no 1:1 structure or organization, which makes prioritizing and covering everything very tricky.

  4. There's often times no centralized system, document or recap to reiterate what was covered and action items to be completed.

  5. The opportunity to revisit what was discussed the previous week get's skipped, resulting in a missed chance to check-in on accountability.

  6. With so much to cover, the meeting is often fast paced and rushed.

How do we make this whole process better so it's an effective and helpful use of everyone's time? Below are a few tips to try out.

  1. How are you? Psychological safety is critical between a manager and their team. Opening a 1:1 with this question is so important, but only if everyone feels safe to answer it honestly. Building a culture where both parties feel the freedom to share an open and honest response to this question will set the tone for the entire 1:1. For example, imagine right before the 1:1 either the manager or team member just learned that a family member is sick. When asked "How are you," they don't feel safe to share this. They are likely going to act a bit detached, might not be organized and could have dropped the ball on 1:1 prep. Without knowing what's going on in that person's life and how they are truly doing, room for incorrect or hurtful assumptions/interpretations could be made.

  2. If you don't have structure, build it. This responsibility does not have to fall on the manager, in fact, it's best if it's driven by the team member. To build structure think about these components:

  3. Establish a 1:1 goal. Why is this meeting so important and what should the outcome be.

  4. Items you'd like to cover each week and time allotted to each topic.

  5. Centralized shared document for note taking, delegating and assigning action items

  6. Is it 1:1 worthy? If either party has a ton of information to cover, identify which items are critical to be covered during the 1:1 and which items could be shared in an e-mail, team meeting or over a communication tool like slack.

  7. Get clear on your next steps. Assign action items with completion dates assigned to them in the meeting together and write them down so you can both go back and reference them.

  8. Prioritize time for career growth and development. Establish a cadence in which you discuss stretch projects, career goals and ways to challenge comfort zones.

  9. Have fun. 1:1's are critical for moving the needle forward, but they are also time for you to get to know each other. It's a time to get updates on things outside of work, encourage vacations, get to know families and learn about hobbies. If we don't use this time to start to uncover true motivators, it will be harder for us to connect and inspire each other.

  10. Book more time. If you come to the end of your 1:1 time and important items are not covered, don't wait until next week. Book more time. Yes we all have busy schedules, but there's ALWAYS time to grab an additional 30 minutes to chat through something important.


1:1's don't have to be one sided, they can be a time for both people to feel seen and heard in the way that will make them successful. It just takes a little preparation, communication and follow-through to make it happen!



Written By: Tara Ryan, CEO & Founder