One-on-one meetings continue to be the single best tool for a manager to build rapport, ensure alignment, and keep team members active and engaged in their work. They’re also one of our favorite topics.
Throughout my years as a manager, I took various approaches to one-on-ones.
I tried keeping them very informal, but that caused us to miss important topics from time to time.
I tried adding more structure, but then one-on-ones became more like status meetings. 😱
What I’ve found to have the best balance is surprisingly simple. Use a shared document (like a Google doc) that you and your team member both have edit access to. Each of you should add discussion items throughout the week in advance of the meeting. Use a basic structure to make sure important topics are discussed, including priorities and blockers and also career and personal discussions.
When you meet, have the document open and use it to guide the discussion as well as record notes, decisions, and action items. This way you can easily refer back to the document if you need to refresh your memory and nothing gets lost.
Each time you meet, use a new entry in the document to keep a chronological record of conversations.
If you want to try this with your team, we have a simple template that can be used to help you get started. There are actually two versions available of this template. One that is the blank template, and one that has example content filled out to help you see how the template should be used.
Give it a try and don’t be scared to tweak the format to whatever works best for you and your team!