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  • Writer's pictureRhys Green

Get More From Your Team: How To Do An Effective 1-to-1 Meeting

“In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.” — Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., Former CEO of IBM.

Like Gerstner says, your business is only as good as the people in it. And as the world continues to change at breakneck speed, you need to make sure that your people are constantly learning, improving, and innovating if you’re going to survive.

You can hire for curiosity (more on that in another post), but you also have to cultivate a culture of development and creativity among your existing people. While there are tons of ways to enhance your team’s skills, the most effective method, by far, is having exceptional 1-to-1s.

Why Have 1-to-1 Meetings?

There are a lot of reasons exceptional 1-to-1s are such a game changer. A report by the Personnel Management Association showed that when training is combined with coaching, individuals increase their productivity by an average of 86%, compared to 22% with training alone.

In an individualized meeting, time can be spent on whatever topic is most impactful for that person, not just what the group has in common. 1-to-1 coaching means that learning is delivered right when (and how) it’s needed. In these meetings accountability is established, which is shown to drive result. Perhaps most importantly, exceptional one-on-one coaching shows your people that you actually care about them.

To develop a culture of improving and innovating, and to reap the rewards of coaching, follow these six steps for exceptional 1-to-1 meetings:

Step 1 – Define Success

Clear expectations are the foundation of having effective 1-to-1s. With a direction in place, you’ll know when and how to course correct. It’s important to note that there are three areas wherein you should define success:

1 – Success for their career

This will help you deliver feedback and coaching to help them achieve long term goals. Their aim doesn’t have to be CEO, it could simply be, to be recognized as the very best around at the role that they’re in. But getting this clear for both of you will strengthen the relationship and make subsequent 1-to-1s far more effective.

2- Success for their role

This is a collaborative activity where you’ll need to give some direction as to what you want out of this person in their current role. Depending on their experience level, you should give them more or less input on what this looks like. Someone who is more experienced in a role will likely have a more clear idea of what ‘good’ looks like than you do.

3 – Success for the organization

Hopefully your business has a well-communicated vision and an awesome, easy to understand strategy. Whether they do or not, it’s up to you to show your team member how they fit into the big-picture success of the organization. If you do this well, they’ll feel like they’re part of building something bigger than themselves. That’s a truly inspirational feeling.

Getting aligned on these three expectations will set the stage for the following steps.

Step 2 – Set The Timing

According to Mike Ovitz, Founder of CAA and widely regarded super agent, service organizations live or die on time management. I would argue this is true in almost every organization, so get this one right!

Spend no less than 45 minutes and no more than one hour with every team member on their weekly 1-to-1. Schedule them at a time when you’ll almost never have to move it, like 8am on a monday morning. Sometimes things come up, but if you’re encountering problems more than once per quarter, rethink your timing.

I once had a leader on the other side of the world. We would do my 1-to-1s at 6am on Friday mornings because that was the only time that we could make it work. That’s extreme, but that’s how important this is!

Step 3 – Document Set Up

I use this document to plan and record my 1-to-1 meetings. If you plan to use the same one, there’s only one thing you’ll need to do. Choose the metrics that align with your definitions of success above.

If it’s an operations role, it might be something about productivity, customer experience, and quality. If it’s a sales role, it will be very different. 3-5 metrics is where you want to land. More measurements than that will be very difficult to influence for a single person.

For more on measurements for success, check out my article on the five things to measure when growing your business.

Step 4 – Prep For The 1-to-1

Team member prep

The team member will need to complete the following prior to the meeting:

  1. Fill in their results

  2. Compared their results to last week’s goals

  3. Compare their plan to what actually happened for last week

  4. Set their goals for the following week

  5. Set their plan for the following week, and

  6. Reflect on anything they learned along the way

Step 5 – The 1-to-1 Meeting


This is where you can build rapport and understand what’s taking your team members attention. Ask very open questions like, “how are things going?,” “what’s keeping you up right now?,” and “how’s the family?”.

Use your best judgement and listen for cues on what your team member wants to discuss.  Often what they most want to talk about will come up here. If it does and it’s related to the plan, follow their lead.


Discuss how they did against their goals and what their plan was to hit them last week. Did everything happen as they expected it to? What was different? Test assumptions and push for learning. This is where the questions you prepared earlier will come in handy.

Goal set

Did they sandbag or are they being too aggressive? Maybe they nailed their goal setting and it’s a 30-second conversation. Your job is to make sure they’re following the SMART methodology, and to consider all the things happening in the business that could impact their ability to achieve the goals.


When you’ve set some strong goals, decide together how the team member will get there. Ask them to walk you through their plan and listen for areas where they seem unsure. Look for opportunities to help them improve their skills to get there faster, ways you could help get them more, or helpful tools and resources.


WDWBW? You’ll see me talk about this regularly, it stands for “Who Does What by When?”. In this situation, you will tell each other (fairly formally) what you’ve committed to doing over the next week. I refer to this acronym often because when someone commits to something this deliberately, the chance that it will actually happen increases substantially.

Step 6 – Repeat from Step 3

That’s it, you’re done! It’s not too complicated, is it?

The difficult part is committing to doing this every week, finding the time to do high-quality prep, and having the patience to support a team member through their learning curve. Remember, everyone moves at different speeds.

All it takes to accomplish huge goals is moving a little closer each week. If you can hold yourself accountable to taking these simple steps weekly, you will be well on your way to helping your team execute on the big, important stuff.

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