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Help on how to have effective 1:1's

Does anyone have a helpful resource or link for managers on having effective 1:1s?

Often the manager for an individual is the person who is overseeing/leading the work that is being done by that individual. What often happens in 1:1s is they focus on talking about the tasks at hand or the work/projects that are being done and miss the development conversation part of 1:1s.

I think that happens because in many cases managers were promoted from strong performing individual contributors into roles to manage people but without enough training on how to people manage. The questions in this article can be helpful if you are a manager in starting to have more intentional 1:1s that include some of those development focused conversations.

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Occasionally when in a 1:1 I pull up this website which generates three random questions to ask. You can refresh the page for three new ones.

In general, I prefer for my direct report to drive the agenda of the 1:1 instead of me. I want them to feel like the 1:1s are useful for them, and having them take ownership of it has been a successful way to do that for me.


What I have seen in the past that works well:

  • Have a set agenda to stay on track

  • Separate the day to day to development conversations (allow the individual to drive this but if they struggle, you can provide guidance)

  • Try and set some actions for the next time you reconnect

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Agree with having questions to ask and the link above.
Although I don’t have links, I’d also add:

  • clarifying purpose of 1:1 from the get go
  • agreeing on a standard agenda (Mine: QT, ee’s agenda items to discuss, my updates/questions if not answered during ee’s portion, check in on goals/coaching session relating to something we discussed previously) --QT = quality time to share anything personal and gauge how ee is feeling that day (especially important if I’d planned some tough feedback)
  • I implemented Trello to track what my reports are working on and saves us time from having to check in on every project since I can see what is being worked on/completed. Being clear with the purpose of this tool and the benefits from the beginning was also helpful in ensuring we were using it.
  • Meeting tracker = I have a google sheet where I track all my meetings each week so that when something pops into my head I can add it to my agenda with the person. I also use it as an accountability tool and to keep track of feedback given/goals for the quarter/week. I’ve also shared the template with employees so they know how to prep for meetings effectively (see image)

For my own 1:1’s I separate it into two parts, first we discuss current projects, road blocks, and frustrations, this is given 15-30 minutes. The second 30minutes is spent on career progression, coaching, new projects that my team wants to look at and brainstorming. If more time is needed we schedule another meeting at the end of the first if we can not extend it. I like the structure suggested by radical candor’s career conversations guide ( and use some of their tips to get insights into what motivates my team. I also track everything in an Asana project specific for each team member to reference each week to help keep everyone accountable (mainly me).


I’m currently reading Unlocking High Performance by Jason Lauritsen. So far, I’ve felt his book addresses performance management, including having effective 1:1s.

This may sound quirky but I follow a personal management system one of my mentors developed. It fleshes out how I work from what expectations, values, approach to feedback and approach to decision making. It also provides a brief menu for 1-1 topics. That coupled with a team system framework serves as the foundation. Then open with brief connection questions followed by discussion around

  1. Objectives
  2. Career Goals
  3. Peer issues
  4. Blockers
  5. Tactical Items

I find this eliminates the guessing and trust that comes with the relationship. It also gives continual yet quiet clarity on how best to engage.


I wrote a blog post on this subject to help the leaders and managers I work with. Please feel free to share it with any of the managers you work with if you think it will be helpful

The 5 key points are:

  1. Have a one on one with employees about once a month.
  2. Conduct them in the employee’s office or “neutral” space.
  3. Spend about half the hour on a review of performance against short-term goals and objectives.
  4. Allow about half of the one on one with employees for them to use in the way that they would find most valuable.
  5. Let the employee do most of the talking.
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