How to conduct an effective one-on-one meeting

I’ve been experimenting with the Ink and Volt One On One Pad to help me organize my thoughts.  I organize around these 4 four pillars: 

  • Current work
  • Future work (business development and proposals out)
  • Short and long term development priorities for the person I’m meeting with
  • Personal needs/support

I use our Insightly software to refresh my memory on what everyone has going on with the first two (the software calls these “Projects” and “Opportunities”) before the meeting. I record these things on the Ink and Volt pad.  I also take a look at each person’s task list in Insightly before the meeting.  Doing this always makes me keenly aware of how on top of it everyone on our team is.  They are always juggling multiple priorities to meet multiple current and future client needs by living two of our other values- Passion and Productivity. 

Usually, the person I’m meeting with that is driving hits all of these pillars without me having to.  If they don’t, I circle back around to things I have on my list once they are finished with theirs.  Sometimes the meetings are more focused on one of these things more than the others, but I always try to hit all of them. Some people gravitate towards needing to talk about one pillar over another and it is my job as a leader to make sure I follow their lead on the needs they have.

  1. One-on-ones should lead to a greater team dynamic. We used to spend way too much time in our whole team quarterly planning meetings talking through current projects. Invariably, one or two team members were focused on the project but the others weren’t.  We were wasting other people’s time talking through every project and every proposal as a team. While it’s valuable for everyone to understand each other’s work load, spending thirty minutes of a half-day team meeting on one project in which only part of your team is involved is a waste of time and effort.  Therefore, we have made sure that when a quarterly meeting is coming up, we have one-on-ones the week before if possible.  Needs that involve the whole team come up during the one-on-ones and then can be discussed at the whole team meeting where collaboration needs to take place.
  1. Finally, one-on-ones should focus on open feedback and communication. If tough issues aren’t coming up from time to time (both personal and professional) in these meetings, then something isn’t being done right.  One-on-ones should be a place where psychological safety is being demonstrated- both ways.  If all conversations in one-on-ones are surface level and tactical, then no one is growing.  

We also spend one or two one-on-one meetings a year facilitating our Leaders as Career Agents process which dives deeper into development priorities, and at times, we schedule a longer meeting if we need to take a deep dive into a specific project, proposal, or issue. 

How do you make your one-on-one meetings the best they can be? 


Mary Ila Ward