Holding regular one-on-ones with your employees can help you develop strong relationships with them. One-on-ones give you a chance to get to know your people as individuals, which allows you to be a better coach. 

Through successful one-on-ones, you can achieve all of these objectives:

  • Build a strong rapport with your direct reports. 
  • Understand how they learn best.
  • Provide employees with detailed advice on how to improve. 
  • Strengthen employee morale and engagement, making them feel valued and supported. 
  • Gain insight about your own performance or ways in which your company could improve its product and processes. 

Whether you engage in one-on-ones for 30 minutes once a week or slightly less often, create a regular schedule so they become part of your routine. That way, they’ll remain a priority in your schedule, and both you and your employees will feel more relaxed during these meetings. Arrive on time and silence your devices to show you’re giving the employee your full attention. 

Then, take these three steps to ensure your meetings have the maximum impact!

Make them informal.

When possible, hold walking one-on-ones. Getting away from your workspace creates a more informal feeling, helping you get to know your employees better rather than making the meeting feel like a formal performance review. Maintaining a relaxed tone builds trust and rapport. 

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Clarify the purpose, tone, and setting of these one-on-ones in advance so employees know what to expect, which will make them feel at ease. Tell employees you want to have an authentic exchange where they can raise concerns and discuss questions rather than defend their performance. In other words, it’s all about supporting them. 

Focus on personal growth.

Your one-on-ones shouldn’t focus on project status updates—instead, give employees actionable feedback about their performance. One-on-ones should address your employees’ professional growth, discussing their progress toward goals. Show you’re committed to their long-term career success by giving them advice on how to reach the next level.

Rather than speaking of strengths and weaknesses, speak of strengths and opportunities. This helps the conversation stay positive, keeping people from feeling defensive and boosting motivation. You might review your performance management data before the meeting to pinpoint key achievements and needs for improvement. 

Before the meeting, create a list of bullet points you want to talk about, arranging them in order of priority so you cover the most important bases. At the same time, be flexible about what subjects to cover. An important topic you may not have considered might arise. 

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Ask open-ended questions.

Pose specific but open-ended questions to prompt discussion. Inquire about how you can better support employees in their growth, asking them to provide actionable advice. Ask them about challenges they are experiencing so you can problem-solve together, as well as questions about the company’s performance and processes. Give employees a chance to voice their ideas about what your organization could do better. Remember, a game-changing idea could arise at any time.  

Allow time for brainstorming when possible. Brainstorm together on how several learning resources could benefit the employee or how your organization could improve a service it provides. The act of brainstorming puts you on an equal playing field, emphasizing that you’re both learning together—which makes employees feel validated.

Always share gratitude for your employee’s contributions, too, and work to keep the tone positive by mentioning what the employee has been doing well. Afterward, you can send a brief “recap” email to highlight the key takeaways.


Take all these steps, and you’ll get the most from your one-on-one meetings. You’ll see employee morale rise as they receive the support and encouragement to make greater strides toward career goals!