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August 18, 2021 Amelia Wilcox

Your Guide to Running An Incredible One-On-One Meeting

For employee morale, engagement, alignment, company culture, and fueling the mental health conversation

The one-on-one meeting is like that special ingredient that makes a recipe come together. They are a habit that makes all the difference for a company’s culture and employee wellbeing. One-on-ones are 100% necessary for any company—especially remote teams. Here’s some advice on one-on-one meetings, why they matter, and how to run one effectively and efficiently.

One-On-One Meeting Meaning

A one-on-one meeting is an opportunity for an employee and a manager to check in on personal and work goals, open projects, work performance, mental health, and more.

At Nivati, the one-on-one meeting is an excellent opportunity to connect on our mental health and support one another. They are a way for us to connect more deeply in our remote work environment.

Why One-On-One Meetings Matter

There are too many benefits of one-on-one meetings to list. Here are some one-on-one meeting benefits for employees, managers, and businesses:

  • Better company alignment
  • Improved employee engagement
  • Boost in employee morale
  • Time for problem-solving and strategic thinking (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught something from a one-on-one that would have evolved into a large employee or organizational problem!)
  • Connecting on a more personal level in a remote environment
  • Helps employees know where they stand
  • Creates a space to give and receive feedback
  • Helps create a system for accountability, increasing the likelihood employees will reach their goals
  • Build manager-employee trust (for work and mental health conversations)
  • Gives employees the support they need and prevents them from spinning their wheels
  • Provide leaders with better insights into their team

In my experience, is it’s an opportunity to know your employee and connect with them, for employees to get anything they need from you, and to check in on goals and objectives.

One-on-one meetings are essential to have a solid read on your team. They reduce stress for everybody by keeping the lines of communication open and transparent. They help managers keep everything straight!

two-businessmen-having-conversation-at-table—Your Guide to Running An Incredible One-On-One Meeting

Meetings and Mental Health

One-on-one meetings are an excellent opportunity to have mental health conversations at work.

Nivati provides an employee wellness platform—it’s part of who we are! But I firmly believe that mental health conversations are essential for any team. Poor mental health takes an incredible toll on people physically and emotionally, leading to plummeting quality of life, work performance, and overall health. Considering 1 in 4 people struggles with a diagnosable mental illness at some point in their lives, companies cannot afford to ignore this crucial aspect of business and our humanness.

When you take care of the whole employee, significant changes happen.

How to Run an Incredible One-On-One Meeting

There are 7 simple steps to running a one-on-one meeting that is effective and productive:

  1. Put it on the calendar
  2. Determine the meeting goals
  3. Have an agenda
  4. Determine some one-on-one meeting questions
  5. Create action items
  6. Reflect
  7. Be consistent

The key is to create a schedule and a system and stick to it!

1. Put it on the calendar

I set the same time each week for my one-on-ones. Each meeting is about half an hour long. If an employee needs a lot from me that week, I will set aside an hour for the meeting.

2. Determine the meeting goals

While you don’t need to have a specific goal in mind, it is helpful to have some general purposes for your one-on-ones to help determine their direction. A one-on-one could focus solely on projects, feedback, mental health, or goals—or it could include a little bit of each.

In the end, a great one-on-one gives employees actionable next steps and ensures that everyone is on the same page. Managers should strive to help their employees get to the next level during one-on-one meetings.

Some other meeting goals can include:

  • Providing employee training
  • Connecting more deeply on a personal level
  • Making progress on a specific task or project
  • Reducing employee stress by discussing coping strategies
  • Motivating an employee to reach their goals
  • Discussing career advancement opportunities and direction

Your meeting can focus on employee growth, communication, goals, motivation, productivity, tasks, mental health, and more.

3. Have an agenda

For one-on-one meetings, I follow this general one-on-one meeting template:

  1. Check-in chat
  2. What do you need from me?
  3. What I need from you?/goal check-in

This is their time with you, and the focus should be on them.

I have an Evernote for each employee and keep two lists on each note: new things to discuss and updates. My sales reps have a specific one-on0one sheet they fill out before each meeting. Whatever you decide to do, it is best to keep all the necessary information in one place.

It is best to encourage your employees to add to the agenda for #2 and #3.

It is great to have some wiggle-room in your agenda. Worst case, touch base on topics you didn’t get to next week.

4. Determine some one-on-one meeting questions

If you want to go further than “What do you need from me?”, try adding some of these one-on-one questions to the agenda (written down or as a mental note):

  • What do you envision your role looking like in a few months?
  • What is your favorite project right now, and why?
  • What is something you’d like to learn?
  • How can I help you grow better?
  • How have you been coping with stress lately?
  • Have you run into any roadblocks lately? How can I help you overcome them?
  • What feedback do you have for me? What can I do better?
  • What do you do for fun outside of work?
  • How do you feel about your work-life balance?
  • When are you thinking of taking PTO again?
  • Which task/aspect of work are you struggling with the most right now and why?
  • Which area can I support you better in?
  • Do you need another mentor? In which area?
  • What have you been learning from your current mentors?
  • What do you think our team is lacking? How can our team improve?
  • What was the best part of your week? The worst part?
  • What do you love about our culture, and what can we do to improve it?
  • Have you been experiencing burnout? Have you ever been burnt out before?
  • What habits have helped your mental health, wellbeing, productivity, etc., the most?

5. Create action items

Make sure to write down the action items you derived from the meeting, and encourage your employees to do the same. This will help you both stay organized and ready to take action!

6. Reflect

What did you learn from the meeting? Reflect on the conversation and write down:

  • How you can better support your employees
  • Pain points that employees are experiencing
  • Notes about employee performance
  • Notes about how to support employee mental health
  • Thoughts on strategy, problem-solving, and the bottom line

7. Be consistent

Make sure that your one-on-ones have a system, so they are easily repeatable. Fit them into your schedule at a time that is ideal for both of you. That way, you can focus on your work properly outside the meeting.

Training Managers on the Art of the One-On-One

The best way to teach your managers how to run one-on-ones is by setting the example. By creating a reliable system for your one-on-ones, you’ll ensure that they are a part of the fabric of your organization.

Here are some other one-on-one meeting tips to keep in mind:

  • If you are meeting in person, don’t sit at your desk. Sitting across the desk from someone creates a clear power dynamic. Instead, try sitting in a different part of the office or even take a walk outside.
  • Don’t be late. It’s simple and courteous. Showing up on time shows your employees that they are a priority.
  • Reduce distractions as much as possible so you can focus on the other person.
  • Talk about your own struggles. This will increase the likelihood that employees will ask for help when they need it! Being vulnerable fosters connection.
  • Always give feedback. Employees want it—65% want more input than they are currently getting.

For even more tips for managers on talking to employees, check out the Manager Training Handbook.

Amelia Wilcox

Amelia Wilcox is the Founder and CEO of Nivati, a leader in corporate massage and employee mental health support since 2010. Her high-growth B2B company provides employee stress management tools that arm businesses with actionable data and positive employee experiences to improve wellbeing, boost morale, and increase engagement.

Amelia has exponentially grown her company from a solo living-room service business to an international technology brand.

Recently listed as a Forty Under 40, Fast 50, Inc 5000 Twice awarded National Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year

Licenses, Certifications & Memberships
Licensed Massage Therapist since 2002
Member of American Massage Therapy Association
Served on Utah Worksite Wellness Council from 2012-2015

Attended Utah College of Massage Therapy
Educated in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Utah

Massage Magazine (AMTA's publication)