One-on-one meetings for employee growth
October 8, 2020

Why One-on-One Meetings Are Important for Your Team’s Collaboration?

By Brian McHale

Believe it or not, meetings can be productive and engaging.

We know that’s hard to believe in a world where 67% of employees say that too many meetings distract them from doing their jobs, and 71% of managers state that meetings are unproductive.

But as a project manager, you have another resource in your toolbox: one-on-one meetings.

In this article, we’re going to show you how to conduct effective one-on-one meetings, and plan agendas for them.


What Are One-on-One Meetings?

What are one-on-one meetings

One-on-one meetings are meetings you have with just one other team member.

Think about traditional meetings: you get your whole team in the room, and then discuss agenda items together.

But in a one-on-one meeting, you can focus on one team member, and provide them with all the support they need.

And this doesn’t just go for project-related goals, but for each team member’s personal development goals.

So if you really want to take your meeting skills to another level, it’s time to standardize one-on-one meetings and make them a part of your project management process.


The Benefits of One-on-One Meetings with Your Project Team Members

Michael Wolfe does a phenomenal job of explaining how 1-on-1s help startups attract and engage top talent, as well as make best decisions about work division.

One-on-one meetings

Source: Michael Wolfe

In general, one-on-one meetings come with a variety of benefits:

  • Improved productivity: Since one-on-ones provide you with quality time with each team member, you can understand what their biggest obstacles to productivity are, and help your teammates overcome them. Additionally, you can check in on their project-related progress.
  • Improved trust: During effective one-on-ones, you should focus on your team member’s goals, not just their project participation. And when your team members see that you care about their personal development, your relationship will strengthen.
  • Improved team collaboration: Project teams are comprised of diverse people. Everyone has their own method of working and thinking. Scheduling one-on-ones allows you to understand each employee, and help them communicate with others.

The importance of one-on-one meetings lies in the fact that they help you become a better project manager, and a better leader.

Consequently, your team will place more trust in you, improving their overall productivity, and helping you get to the project finish line in time.


How Do You Conduct One-on-One Meetings? [One-on-One Meeting with Direct Reports Template]

Your one-on-ones largely depend on your leadership style.

However, if you don’t have a lot of management experience, getting started can be complicated.

Here’s what you need to do to get the most out of one-on-one meetings:

1. Create Your One-on-One Meeting Agenda (and Stick to It)

Effective one-on-one meetings focus on the following:

  • Emotional state of your team member (Are they engaged and motivated? Are they stressed?)
  • Team member’s personal goal progress (Are they making the steps toward achieving their goals?)
  • Team member’s project goal progress (Are they meeting milestones and completing tasks? How is their performance?)
  • Specific issues (Are there any obstacles? Is the team member struggling with something?)
  • Recognition and feedback (What did the team member do right? How could they improve? What did you do right, and how could you improve?)
  • Planning for the future.

At the start of every 1-on-1, your goal should be to assess the team member’s emotional state.

If they’re stressed, you can inquire about that, and proceed to discuss the issue and create a resolution plan.

For example, your team member could be conflicting with another team member.

As the project manager, you can use your 1-on-1 session to help your team member resolve it.

Your second step should be checking up on the team member’s progress. Start with their personal development.

It’s important to understand their ambitions in the very first 1-on-1 so you can help them create a plan.

Touch on project progress, as well.

Your agenda for one-on-one meetings with staff should include discussions about status updates, progress, and potential roadblocks.

Make sure you are motivating your team members to engage with their jobs.

Free Project Plan Template in Excel

Click to download our Free Project Plan Template in Excel to begin simplifying your project management.

Help team members create a plan for resolving issues or achieving goals.

Pay the same attention to project-related issues and your team member’s ambitions. Help them create a plan for resolving issues, and achieving their goals.

For example, maybe Tim wants to become a better communicator.

Help him find opportunities to improve his skills in the workplace (e.g. he could hold the next stakeholder presentation.)

Recognize and reinforce positive behavior, and make plans for improvement.

It’s important to recognize desirable behavior and reinforce it.

However, when giving feedback to the team member, make sure you give them space for feedback of their own.

How could you become a better manager and provide better support?

What do they wish you did?

At the end of every effective one-on-one meeting, you and the team member should create a plan for moving forward.

Use the SMART goal-setting method to create realistic goals with key performance indicators (KPIs).

SMART Goal Setting for Project Managers


2. How to Get the Most Out of One-on-One Meetings?

Schedule your one-on-ones.

One-on-ones shouldn’t be formal, but they’re important.

The best way to demonstrate their importance is to schedule them at regular intervals.

At the very least, you should meet once a month.

If you’re working with a team for the first time, meet more often.

Both you and the team member own the 1-on-1, and the agenda.

Avoid micromanaging the 1-on-1.

It should primarily be a safe, open space for discussing different topics.

You and the team member should create the agenda together, and choose topics that matter to both of you.

Your one-on-one meetings with certain team members will be short and project-focused, and that is normal.

Others may be more interested in discussing their personal goals. Stay flexible!

Ask open-ended questions and let the team member guide the conversation.

This tip is especially valuable if you’re not managing direct reports, but coworkers and “equals.”

The goal of 1-on-1s isn’t to assert authority; it’s to help you maximize the productivity and engagement of each team member.

Pose questions about:

  • Emotional state (e.g. What was the best part of your day so far? What are your most important accomplishments?)
  • Work habits (e.g. What do you love doing the most at work? What do you do when you feel stuck?)
  • Team collaboration (e.g. Who do you love working with, and why?)
  • Short-term goals (e.g. What do you find interesting about this project? What do you think would help the project flow better?)
  • Long-term goals (e.g. What do you want to achieve in the next few years?)
  • Manager development (e.g. What is something you think I could have done better? What areas do you need more of my support in?).

We’re big fans of the detailed questions the folks at 6Q provide.

They can be excellent 1-on-1 starters for experienced and new project managers alike!

Start the meeting with a win.

Start with a reflection of positive events to get the good mood going.

You can provide negative feedback later if necessary, but it’s important to start with positive feedback.

Tell the employee what was particularly desirable about their behavior, instead of simply praising them for the win. Help them understand how to replicate it in the future.

Practice active listening and take notes.

Take notes during the one-on-one meeting.

Reference them when you and the team member are creating the agenda at the end of your 1-on-1.

One-on-one meetings should be informal.

One-on-one meetings shouldn’t be conducted over a desk.

If possible, grab a cup of coffee and find comfortable seating to encourage the team member to open up, instead of feeling like they’re being managed.

Create action items.

At the end of every one-on-one, you and your team member should create a list of actionable items. Use the SMART goal-setting method, and then review the progress during the next one-on-one.


Finally, you should follow up on important action items in the time between meetings.

This can help you provide support to the team member, and show them that you are more than a manager.

Soon enough, you’ll become a leader.

And it all starts with sitting down with a team member and asking:

“How are you feeling?”

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