One On One Meeting Structure

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I hold one on one meetings bi-weekly with my direct reports for two reasons. First, I want to get feedback from them about how they are doing. Do they need help? Do they need more work? Different work? Is there something bothering them that isn’t going to come up without prodding?

Secondly, I use the to discuss career growth and progression. What are the options (both in the current company and in other companies) for their long term career? What do they want for their long term plans? Given that, what should they be doing now to work towards that?

This is their time to voice their concerns and ask questions.

Format of the One on One

The following is the general outline I follow when doing a one on one meeting with direct report. The exact order doesn’t matter (although I do stick to it because it’s just easier for me to remember) but I try to hit each of these beats each time. In general the conversations last about an hour.

  1. What’s up?
  2. Review goals
  3. Project status
  4. Meeting follow ups
  5. Request for feedback

What’s up?

Before getting to far in the conversation, check if there’s anything that the report would like to talk about. More often than not, there isn’t, but since the point of this meeting is to check in with them, then it’s a good idea to let them lead off.

For instance, at this point we may wind up discussing specific project statuses or blockers.

Review goals

Every other meeting I like to check in on goals. I’ve found checking too often becomes monotonous not checking enough is worse. So I make sure to ask every time, even if we wind up not talking about it half the time. I’m up front with my reports about this so they tend to either remind me if I forget, or tell me “Not this week” if we’d already talked about it recently.

This implies that we’ve already worked through and have written down goals for the upcoming year. If we don’t then it becomes a priority to create a list of goals. This will probably take several weeks of focus in the one on ones.

I leave it up to each person to track their goals however works for them. Some take notes in excel, some in word. Some don’t take notes.

When discussing goals I’m looking to see if progress is being made, and if not why not. Does the goal no longer make sense? Was it too vague to begin with? Is there nothing to do toward it until later in the project cycle? I also try to check if there are any other new goals that we should try to incorporate into our conversation.

Project status

Discuss the overall project that the team is working on, make sure that they know how their work fits in. At this point they can ask questions about any aspect of the project, e.g., timeline, design, resourcing.

I tend to ask how they feel about the general health of the project, if they think it is on schedule.

Meeting follow ups

Since we have so few team meetings I like to review each one to see:

  1. Are they getting something out of the meeting?
  2. Did they have any follow up questions from the meeting?
  3. Did they feel like they had a voice in the meeting?
  4. Is the intent of the meeting clear? Is it worthwhile to be spending this much time for that reason?
  5. Is the format of the meeting helping us get the type of information/feedback we want?

Request for feedback

Ask if there’s anyway I can be doing a better job hearing them or helping them. I tend not to get an answer to this, but when I do it’s really useful and makes it worth asking each time.