The Power of One-on-One Meetings

Following our previous insight on The Manager’s Diary we have had numerous requests for a more detailed article on what should be discussed in a One-on-One meeting. This article is part of our wider consulting framework. If you’d like to know more please contact us on

One cannot hire a hand the whole man always comes with it.
Peter Drucker

There are few better ways for a manager to spend his or her time than with the people on the team.
For it is only in these moments of exclusive and undistracted interaction repeated on a regular basis can authentic relationships be built.
This important responsibility of a manager is often met with two common concerns: time and framework.


“How much time will it take for me to meet weekly with each of my team members one-on-one?,” is a question we often get asked. In the initial stages this can take up to an hour, but over time, especially if done weekly, it may only require 15-30 minutes.
Critical to the success of one-on-one meetings are cadence, authenticity and accountability. When practised well, it becomes one genuine conversation between two people…picking up from where you leave each week.
Regular one-on-ones ensure a direct and clear flow of information leaving little room for surprises. There may be a temptation to cancel one-on-ones due to time constraints, matters of urgency or unexpected interruptions, but this is to be avoided, except in the most serious of circumstances.
Weekly one-on-ones are so powerful that both managers and team members report high levels of functionality and engagement especially during uncertain times.
March-April 22 Harvard Business Review credits one-on-ones with managers for increases in employee engagement by 54 per cent, productivity by 31 per cent and a decrease in burnout by 16 per cent.
*(Diane Gherson and Lynda Gratton, Managers Can’t Do It All)

Seven powerful questions to ask during your one-on-one meetings

We recommend that managers meet with every individual on the team at least once a fortnight, ideally weekly.
The following seven topics provide a framework. Whilst discussing all of these every time may not be necessary, it is important to return to them regularly.

    How are you really going?
    Asking about a person’s well-being is an important first step. It seeks to understand the human context. It forms the foundation of any healthy relationship – personal and professional. The 5F’s are a good starting point: Faith (Spirituality/Mindfulness), Family & Friends (Social), Fitness (Health), Finances, and Fun (Hobbies).

    What should we as an organisation start doing, stop doing, do less of and do more of?
    This question continually re-visits the organisation’s purpose. It seeks to get valuable information from the front-line all the way up to leadership and management on how the organisation responds to the changing environment.
    We want the person to respond holistically – to what they have recently seen and experienced inside and outside the organisation.

    What should you start doing/stop doing/do less of and do more of?
    This question allows for a conversation on the behaviours of the person. It seeks to understand the intention for actions especially those that are an aberration from the norm or what is expected. Is there any feedback to be passed on?

    How are you progressing with the requirements that form part of your role and responsibilities?
    Are you meeting your effort goals/targets – the effort a person needs to put in to contribute to the organisational results they are responsible for (e.g. the number of sales calls a salesperson needs to make to achieve their targets)?
    What’s on your mind right now?
    Urgent / Concerning / Current Endeavours (top three). Finding out what is on one’s mind at the present time gives a manager insight into current concerns. Getting these resolved allows for focus on the more important matters.

    What are your three Big Rocks – the mid-term projects/goals you are working on? How are you progressing? What are your timelines and deadlines? Provide an Update/Status Report.
    In most organisations and teams, we encourage a focus on key objectives in addition to the cadence of the role or job. The fast-changing environment requires paying constant attention to new initiatives and objectives.

    What have been your significant achievements and accomplishments since the last meeting (top three)?
    This question prompts a discussion on accountabilities for commitments. It ensures what was agreed to has been actioned. It creates a routine of performance.

    The 6 Engagement Factors: Recognition and Reward, Voice and Choice, and Learning and Legacy: Are you getting what you need from the organisation? Everyone is different. Some may seek reward for effort, whilst others simply want authentic, specific recognition. Understanding a person’s engagement factors and responding accordingly is critical to a performing environment.


– The meeting is free from distractions or interruptions and both parties give each other their undivided attention.
– Summary notes are taken of each meeting so there are no open loops in communication or commitments left unaccounted for.
– These notes must be circulated to both parties immediately after the meeting so there is agreement on what was discussed.