Conducting a One-on-One Meeting: Guide, Template & Tips

One-on-one meetings enable managers and employees to connect, discuss performance, set goals and address concerns. While they sound great on paper, one-on-one sessions can be a source of anxiety for both managers and employees.

But with a proper framework, agenda and mindset, one-on-ones can be one of your most effective tools for boosting productivity, morale and engagement. This guide covers the benefits and challenges of conducting one-on-one meetings, shares actionable steps to running effective ones and provides a template you can use to structure your one-on-ones.

Importance of one-on-one meetings

Gallup research shows that leadership quality accounts for 70% of the differences in how engaged or motivated team members feel. By providing opportunities for ongoing dialogue, one-on-ones enable managers to personalise their engagement with each employee and address individual needs and concerns as they crop up. 

This personalised approach is key to motivating and engaging employees and ensuring staff feel valued for their work.

Benefits for employees

No one likes to feel like a cog in the wheel. Instead, we crave connection and a sense that our work matters to the business and the people in it. One-on-ones provide a setting for managers and employees to connect on a personal level. 

They are a dedicated time and space for productive conversations, allowing employees to voice concerns, troubleshoot issues and receive personalised support. You can also discuss work-life balance, career goals and how the employee’s tasks align with broader business goals. 

Benefits for managers

We’ve already highlighted how one-on-ones lead to better management. They’re also crucial for nurturing and developing teams, especially when sessions focus on managing performance, offering feedback and helping team members grow. 

Additionally, one-on-ones are an opportunity to address interpersonal and task-specific issues, ensuring smooth team dynamics and efficient workflows.

Benefits for the company

According to a 2024 Monster poll, a whopping 95% of employees want a new job. Many of these employees are dissatisfied due to issues that could be resolved. 

Effective meetings can act as stay interviews, where managers explore what motivates individual employees to leave or stay at the company. By surfacing these reasons, managers can implement steps to retain employees. 

One-on-ones are also an opportunity to help employees navigate company culture and align their career goals with company-wide objectives.

Common challenges of running one-on-one meetings

Poorly run one-on-one meetings can be worse than no meetings at all. In fact, 80% of workers state that they would be more productive if they spent less time on meetings – according to Atlassian research

Partly, this is due to the sense of meeting overload that plagues many organisations. The answer isn’t necessarily to remove meetings. It’s to have better meetings that provide direction and inspire productivity. 

“Running effective one-on-one meetings involves creating a collaborative and open environment. Discuss successes and areas for improvement, provide constructive feedback and craft long-term development plans. Constructive criticism, when delivered effectively, is one of the best ways to improve performance.

Managers often face challenges in one-on-one meetings, such as reluctance to receive criticism and personal biases. Encourage open communication, seek additional feedback from peers and prepare evidence of performance. Setting biases aside and fostering a supportive environment are crucial.”

Maxime Bouillon, Co-founder & CEO at Archie

Addressing the following common challenges will help you maximise value from your one-on-one meetings. We also share a few tips to help improve meeting effectiveness.

Lack of structure or focus

A lack of structure in one-on-one meetings can cause you to stray off-topic or forget important discussion points. Without a clear agenda, these meetings can become unproductive and fail to address critical issues.


  • Plan out talking points beforehand.

  • Create a structured meeting agenda and share it with the employee in advance.

  • While off-topic conversation can lead to important discussion, aim to stick to the topic at hand and avoid unnecessary tangents.

  • Allocate time for each discussion point to ensure all important topics are covered.

One-sided conversation

When one person is less engaged or interested in the conversation, then your meeting more closely resembles a lecture than a dialogue. This imbalance prevents meaningful discussion and leads to disengagement. 

Another issue is that, with one-sided meetings, it isn’t clear that the other speaker understands what is being communicated. Without active participation from both the employee and manager, key points may be missed or misunderstood.


  • Ask open-ended questions to encourage detailed responses.

  • Show genuine interest in the employee's input.

  • If someone provides one-word answers, follow up by asking for more clarity.

  • Ensure both parties have equal opportunities to speak and share their perspectives.

Infrequent meetings

One-on-one meetings can easily fall by the wayside if they are not scheduled in advance or set as recurring events. Of course, you don’t want to have meetings too often. The trick is finding that sweet spot where enough time has passed for new talking points to arise but not enough time for employees to miss timely feedback and support.

The optimal frequency of one-on-one meetings will vary depending on the team member. New employees or those facing challenging work may require frequent check-ins. Established employees might benefit from less frequent meetings, such as weekly or bi-weekly, which still provide valuable feedback and maintain engagement.

“I think most managers just get really busy, and it can be hard to find the time to have one-on-one meetings. The best way I've seen people overcome this challenge is to schedule weekly standing meetings with their direct reports and to not accept conflicts that overlap (or to move the 1:1 if something comes up that cannot be skipped)."

Molly Beran, President and Founder at Projects By Molly, LLC.


  • Schedule recurring meetings to ensure they happen regularly.

  • Discuss and agree on the necessary frequency of these meetings with team members.

  • Use calendar reminders to avoid missing scheduled sessions.

  • Prioritise these meetings by treating them as non-negotiable commitments.

  • Adjust the frequency based on the individual needs of each team member.

Feeling uncomfortable with sharing concerns

People can feel vulnerable sharing ideas and concerns. To avoid this, employees and managers may dance around issues without directly addressing them to avoid confrontation.

“I think it’s not useful or constructive for both participants if the manager avoids having difficult conversations,” says Stefan Chekanov, Co-Founder and CEO of Brosix.

“If you are to discuss any performance issues, you have to give the person specifics on what the problem is and what steps they can take to address it. So do your homework and point out where and what precisely needs to be improved until the next review.”

When concerns are not openly discussed, it can lead to unresolved issues, misunderstandings and a lack of progress. However, when two parties trust each other and feel safe to express their thoughts, dialogue is more open, issues are resolved more effectively and working relationships are more productive.


  • Create a comfortable environment by choosing a relaxed setting and starting with casual conversation.

  • Practise active listening by making eye contact, nodding and summarising what the employee says to ensure understanding.

  • Build trust by being transparent and supportive, and address concerns without judgement.

  • Encourage open communication by providing a safe space for honest and constructive feedback.

  • Follow up on concerns raised in previous meetings to show they are taken seriously and being addressed.

Lack of preparation

Important topics can be missed when managers or employees come to the meeting without a clear plan. By coming prepared, managers ensure all necessary points are covered and that conversation is constructive, not aimless.


  • Create talking points or an agenda before the meeting – we share more on this below.

  • Set aside time to prepare for the meeting, reviewing relevant documents and meeting notes.

  • Encourage employees to come prepared with their own topics and questions.

  • Use templates to streamline the preparation process and ensure consistency in meeting structure.

  • Prioritise and organise discussion points to cover the most critical issues first.

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Guide to running a one-on-one meeting 

Running effective one-on-one meetings requires careful planning and execution. Here are six steps to ensure your meetings are well-organised and productive.

1. Schedule a meeting with a team member

When scheduling a meeting with a team member, start by agreeing on how often you’ll meet. Then set up recurring events on your work calendar to ensure meetings aren’t forgotten or overlooked. 

Practising good calendar etiquette, such as sending reminders and respecting the scheduled time, ensures your one-on-ones are managed professionally.

2. Decide on the meeting format

Consider the nature of your meetings and the preferences of both parties. The setting should be comfortable and free from distractions, creating an environment conducive to open and honest dialogue. 

Online meetings, for instance, offer convenience, especially for remote teams or when schedules are tight. Ensure there’s minimal background noise and reliable internet connectivity. Video calls help maintain a personal touch.

In-person meetings can be more effective for sensitive or complex discussions. Choose a comfortable and private space free from distractions, such as a quiet meeting room or a casual setting like a coffee shop, depending on the formality required.

3. Create a meeting agenda

Structure your meeting around a clear agenda that covers all important topics. Create your meeting agenda and share it with your team members so they can prepare. The one-on-one meeting template below offers an excellent starting point for structuring your meeting agendas. 

Here’s how Molly runs her one-on-one meetings:

“I think having an agenda is key. I like having standing agendas so that everyone who reports to me has set expectations on what we will discuss. It's usually some form of:

  • General check-in (Overall, how are you doing?)

  • Update on ongoing projects

  • Review new requests/issues/things you need from me

  • Management updates (this is the only part of the agenda I as a manager prepare)

  • Anything else on your mind (add this on to capture things that pop up, or don't fit elsewhere)

  • Once per month, I add a topic to check in on yearly goals and the progress made since the last month. I tend to do this in the first week of the month, but that can vary.” 

4. Prioritise active listening and open communication

Active listening is a communication technique that involves fully concentrating, understanding, responding and remembering what is being said. The method requires paying attention to the speaker's body language, tone of voice and emotional context.

Alongside active listening, encourage open communication and two-way dialogue, enabling both parties to express their thoughts and concerns freely. This is key, says Stefan.

“The keyword I’d like to use here is employee-centric. I value people’s autonomy and responsibility, so to me, giving people ownership to lead the conversation and discuss their needs is the right way to do it. 

Naturally, I prepare a checklist of what we need to address, but I mostly focus on actively listening. This gives me an opportunity to jot down clear takeaways that I can use to set actionable steps after the meeting ends.”

5. Take meeting notes and follow up

Accurate note-taking is essential for tracking progress, setting clear goals, and holding both parties accountable. Detailed notes are particularly crucial during performance reviews, where specific actions need to be taken based on the discussion. 

6. Send a meeting summary with clear expectations

After the meeting, follow up with a summary of the key points and agreed actions. Sharing summaries reinforces the discussion and ensures any decisions made during the meeting are implemented.

Communicating expectations helps guarantee everyone is on the same page and that there is a mutual understanding of what needs to be done next. 

One-on-one meeting template

Think of this template as a toolbox, where each talking point is a tool. You don’t need to bring every tool to every meeting. Quick check-ins may only require chatting through a few talking points, while important meetings need more detail and depth. For best results, tailor this one-on-one meeting template to fit the needs of each discussion.

Meeting summary 



(Write the main topic or focus of the meeting, e.g. general weekly check-in, project updates, feedback and recognition.)


(Take detailed notes during the meeting and highlight key takeaways. Include key points discussed, any concerns raised and feedback given.)

Action items:

(List specific actions that need to be taken. Ensure each action is clear and assignable.)

Next steps:

(Outline next steps following the meeting. Include deadlines and who is responsible for each task.)

Meeting agenda

1. Welcome

  • Start the meeting with a friendly greeting to create a positive atmosphere.

  • Briefly summarise the purpose of the meeting to set expectations.

2. Ask

  • Employee status updates: Invite the employee to share their recent achievements and discuss challenges they are facing.

  • Discussion: Encourage discussion about their current projects, responsibilities and feelings about their role.

  • Notes: Take notes of achievements, challenges, or other significant points.

Sample questions:

  • On a scale of 1–10, how are you feeling this week or month and why?

  • Are there any challenges you’re facing?

  • Let’s discuss your feedback to me from the past week or month.

  • Let’s discuss my feedback to you from the past week or month.

3. Supply

  • Manager's feedback: Provide specific and constructive feedback on the employee’s performance since the last meeting. Offer insights and responses to issues or challenges mentioned by the employee.

4. Review and reflect

  • Discuss key performance indicators (KPIs): Review the goals set during the last appraisal and assess progress.

  • Evaluate performance: Evaluate performance against company standards and expectations.

Sample questions:

  • What skills would you like to develop further?

  • How can we support your career path?

  • Do you feel you’re getting enough constructive feedback on your work?

  • What’s blocking you from achieving your goals this week/month?

  • How can I help you achieve your goals or overcome your challenges?

5. Plan and part

  • Set new goals: Collaboratively set goals for the next period, ensuring they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART).

  • Development plans: Identify training needs or support required to achieve these goals.

  • Next steps: Agree on action items for both manager and employee to address before the next meeting.

Sample questions:

  • What are your top priorities for the next week/month?

  • Are there upcoming projects you’re particularly excited about?

  • How do you see your role evolving in the next year?

  • Let’s review any next steps from this meeting together before we leave.

6. Closing

  • Summarise the key points discussed.

  • Express confidence in the employee’s abilities and reinforce your commitment to their career development.

  • End the meeting on a positive note, ensuring the employee leaves feeling motivated and clear about expectations.

Using Personio to streamline one-on-one meetings

While the provided template can help you run effective one-on-one meetings, the right software can streamline the process further – by automating tasks, tracking performance and centralising employee information.

At Personio, we offer an all-in-one HR platform that streamlines the entire employee development and performance management process

Our platform enables you to quickly and easily set goals, track progress and share feedback. Automated reminders ensure meetings are scheduled in advance and according to your timetable.

Another benefit, Personio’s digital employee files provide a single source of truth for all employee information, ensuring managers can access key details, from survey responses to performance reviews. This readily available information makes preparation easier and ensures that nothing important is overlooked.

If you’re looking for a tool purpose-built to streamline employee management, then consider booking a free demo to see Personio in action. 

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What is a one-on-one meeting strategy?

Unlike team meetings, your one-on-one meeting strategy is an ongoing performance management tool centred around one employee. 

One-on-one meetings involve regular, structured meetings between a manager and an employee. Discussion can focus on performance, goals, challenges and career development. These meetings aim to build rapport, share feedback and align on objectives.

What should be on your one-on-one agenda?

An effective one-on-one agenda should include status updates from the employee, feedback from the manager, discussion of key performance indicators, setting new goals and addressing challenges or career development needs.

How should you structure your one-on-one with a manager?

Your structure will vary depending on the purpose of the meeting. Generally, you can structure your one-on-ones by starting with a friendly greeting, discussing updates and feedback, reviewing performance, setting new goals and concluding with a summary of action items and next steps.

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