01 March 2023 |

Part 2: The Ultimate Guide to 1:1s


It’s frustrating to feel like your team can’t get great work done without you.

There is no better tool to connect and inspire your team than an effective 1:1.

Your time connecting with your team should have a 20x ROI. It allows you to save time by developing problem solvers, recharge the vision and keep your team inspired, and an opportunity to create future leaders in your organization. 

They are so powerful! I get fired up every time I get to talk about them.

I’m writing this for two specific managers.

Both manage 10 content creators. They are both brilliant and passionate about their work.

I might write a book about this topic. This breakdown is an attempt to distill the best of everything I know about how to run an effective 1:1. If you lead a team, I recommend taking from these lessons. (Especially since I’m guessing you are just as passionate and brilliant as the two incredible people I’m writing this for.)

Quick notes about me: I’ve been leading teams for over a decade and consulted at a Fortunate 500 company for 3 years. I’ve completed the John Maxwell Coaching certification, Myers-Briggs, and am a StrengthsFinder coach. 

I’ve studied a lot of 1:1 templates and processes.

The process I’m going to break down will work for you regardless of your level of leadership. 

There are three components to an effective 1:1 with your direct report.

  • Preparation
  • Communication
  • Inspection

These three components flow together like relay racers in an Olympic 4×100 meter race. 

Hopefully, this visual will help. (Please try not to judge my Canva skills, it’s pretty late right now.)

While this may look like running in circles, your team’s trajectory is going to look like a hockey stick if you follow this pattern consistently. 📈📈📈


“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” – Alexander Graham Bell

First, the basics:

Schedule the one-on-one at a regular cadence. Don’t let these become optional. Don’t reschedule them. Figure out the cadence your team needs, and stick to it.  

Share an agenda with your direct report before the meeting. This agenda should be a collaboration. Have sections you will fill out and sections for them to fill out. You should also empower them to add agenda items as needed. 

Here’s a template you can use for the agenda:

  • Check-in: How are you doing? What’s on your mind?
  • Updates: Share progress on projects or goals since the last meeting. Bring both qualitative and quantitative data points to support.
  • Feedback: Give feedback on performance, strengths, and areas for improvement.
  • Development: Discuss development opportunities, such as training or stretch assignments.
  • Challenges: Discuss any challenges or obstacles that need to be addressed.

To prepare your own notes for the meeting. Review the direct report’s recent work and performance, create a tracker to help identify trends in KPIs, write down feedback heard from third parties, and jot down any feedback or ideas for development opportunities. 

As you get consistent with preparing, you’ll find ways to simplify the process. It’s worth noting that your goal is not to dump all this data on them when you meet. While preparing, you should be distilling and looking for trends to help you identify small, impactful changes they can make.


“Nothing in life is more important than the ability to communicate effectively.”

– Gerald R. Ford

Whenever you talk with someone, your first goal is to build rapport. 

One way to do this is by subtly mirroring their body language and tone. This works on Zoom. With phone calls, you will need to rely on tone–this is more challenging but still possible.

What I mean by mirroring is literally to mirror what they do. If they reach for their coffee cup, you reach for your coffee cup. If they scratch their head, you scratch your head. The key is to be subtle. 

You will also be able to build rapport by starting every 1:1 by asking your direct report, “What’s on your mind?” This will give them an opportunity to share with you what is most important to them. Your role is to ask questions and get curious. This is your opportunity to show them that you care about the things that are important to them and are invested in them as people. 

Two rules here: Don’t be critical, and don’t be fake. 

If you don’t care about what they are going to say, it’s better to just skip this question.

Continue moving down the template:

  • Updates on key initiatives
  • Feedback: Don’t feel like you always need to have feedback, but be prepared to be candid when there is feedback to be provided. Be sure to bring specific data points to ensure they understand the change needed and its expected impact. 
  • Development: Take time to recognize the progress they are making, skills they are developing, and how you see these new skills contribute to the success of the larger team.
  • Challenges: Ask them what solutions they’ve already thought through. Resist the urge to jump in with solutions, but instead be ready to ask thoughtful questions and learn how you can best support them.
  • Next steps: Agree on action items for the next meeting. If you commit to doing something or need to follow up to ensure a delegated task is completed, put it on the calendar. 

The time taken for each step will vary depending on what has happened since the last 1:1. The less frequently you meet with your team, the more time you will need to spend in each 1:1 conversation. 

Three things you can focus on to ensure your team leaves each 1:1 feeling inspired and reengaged in their work.

  1. Recognize Small Wins
  2. Verbalize Gratitude Daily
  3. Focus On the Value of Others

Before you end this conversation, be sure to clarify both parties are aligned on expectations moving forward. Your goal is to catch them doing well as you inspect what you expect.


“Diligent follow-up and follow-through will set you apart from the crowd and communicate excellence.” – John C. Maxwell

Inspection is much easier when you’ve taken the time to clarify expectations and ensure your team understands what is expected of them during your conversation. 

To follow up with the 1:1 conversation, my recommendation is to find an AI tool that will document and recap the conversation for you. (Ironically, the two managers I’m writing this for are MUCH better at automating this type of tech than I am. Glad I’m able to learn from them.)

If you don’t have one, send a follow-up email as soon as possible. It’s best to do this immediately, but be sure it gets done before you go to bed. 

Keep track of KPI impacts of the changes made, but also be sure to recognize changes as they are happening. Instant gratification is sometimes needed to create change, and personal recognition is a great way to provide this for your team. 

The next phase of communication focuses on recognition, coaching, and accountability.