Yes, you had a team meeting last quarter, but what about 1-on-1 meetings? We believe that every manager should find time to talk directly to their team members. Here’s why, and how, you can not only make it happen, but also make it work.

As for why it’s all really simple. There are things that your people won’t tell you in a group meeting. And we don’t mean anything problem-related. The thing is, you can’t really get to know your people if you limit yourself to group chats. While this is coming from a software development agency, it applies to virtually every kind of business.

When you talk 1-on-1, you can build a deeper, more meaningful relation based on trust and understanding. This is possible because you get to know the personality and motivation of each person. And these can be wildly different. Besides, if you want to give feedback and hear feedback, one-on-ones are the way to go. This way you can even identify problems that are still brewing and solve them before anything actually goes awry.

Also, don’t forget that you can meet with all kinds of people. Your superiors. Your subordinates. Your mentors, even. It really helps to talk. And now, knowing ‘why’, let’s figure out how to make the most out of 1-on-1 meetings.

1. Who should you meet with, and how frequently?

In short, you should talk with everyone on your team at least once every quarter. If possible, you could even have these talks every month. And don’t remember that this goes both ways: every quarter, your leader should meet with you, providing that you’re not the CEO and also have a guardian angel.

2. How to prepare for a meeting?

First of all, inform everyone about the meeting in advance, and give them time to prepare. This includes at least teasing the subject of the meeting, or straight up sharing the questions you want to ask.

Remember to create an agenda to avoid wasting time. Write down everything you want to talk about and make sure there won’t be any radio silence why you’re trying to recall that one thing you had in mind. You should also go through your notes from the previous meeting to not miss anything important you’d like to follow up on.

What could you ask about? For example, the current challenges or difficulties. But also about all the wins. For our software house, it’s important to focus on the positives, recognize the achievements, and stay supportive no matter what.

When you’re about to end the meeting, ask if there’s anything your employee would like to discuss, now or the next time.

3. How to conduct a 1-on-1 meeting?

  • Open it softly. Ask your subordinate how they’re doing, or start off with a question about last night’s game if you know they’re into sports. After all, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! It’s also important that you tell them how you’re doing, so this is an open, honest, and two-sided communication. Be authentic and sincere, as this way you will eventually build trust.
  • Ask them about their morale and their view on the company values. Mind that at first, your employee may feel insecure and tell you what they think you wish to hear. But that’s why these discussions are necessary. Only this way, in time, you can change their approach.
  • Get an update on your team member’s progress towards their goals, and see how far they’ve managed to push it since your last meeting.
  • Ask about the current challenges and difficulties. Rather than treating these like problems, assume they’re learning opportunities. Don’t straight up tell your people what to do, but offer guidance on the way to finding a solution.
  • Create action points. Establish a time frame and goals to achieve. This way you’ll help your team members focus on the priorities.
  • Write down your coaching advice and share them whenever necessary. When you solve a problem and a similar issue arises, why reinvent the wheel if you have a solution at hand? Also, don’t hesitate to make personal notes that you can refer to later, to better understand your employee’s entire journey.

Of course, take notes during the entire meeting.

4. The meeting’s over. What now?

Your job’s not done just yet. Review your notes and share them with the person you’ve just finished talking with. If you teased any deadlines or expectations and promised to specify them later, now’s the time to do so. Since you’ll no doubt have some role in helping your man reach the goals, plan out your involvement, and set up all the meetings with the people whose help you’re going to need.

You can also create a meeting report. We at have our own report template. Feel free to use it. It was designed for Polish developers, but it’s universal enough for you to adopt it.

Meeting Report

Employee: …

Subjects discussed: …

Personal evaluation

Commitment – (Interest in the overall good of the project. Willingness to improve) …

Responsible approach – (The ability to catch inaccuracies and take action to clarify them) …

Autonomy: …

Decisiveness: …

Teamwork: …

Work coordination: …

Work precision: …

Self-discipline: …

Punctuality: (also the ability to real valuation and then implementation following the estimation)…

Work atmosphere / Motivation: (Does a person’s behavior motivate or demotivate others?) …

Will to self-develop: …

Role & outcomes: (including quarterly goals)
(the mission, role, and goals of the employee)

A mission is usually a one-sentence, inspiring, a high-level direction that determines the path of development and work of an employee. The role specifically determines the specialization of a given employee. Quarterly goals, on the other hand, are specific activities that will be undertaken in the coming quarter and are aimed at regular employee development. Goals can be suggested by the leader, they can also be set by the employee.)

Performance growth evaluation
(this meeting is a time to reflect on the achieved work, talk about the improvements that can be made, and speak about the goals.)

Major accomplishments: (Only during the evaluation period.) …

Strengths and areas of impact: (What are the key strengths and how were they used?)…

Areas for development: (What keeps the employee back?) …

Performance level: (Actual level vs. assumed level of performance.) …

Goals for the next cycle: …

Here’s a couple of good practices’ for a smooth start

Establish clear (and attainable) goals and hold your employees responsible for meeting them. Monitor their progress, and if you have any criticism, don’t wait for another meeting to share it. Your feedback will have the greatest impact if you give it right after the event you’re commenting on took place.

In our company, these were examples of development goals:

  • taking a specific course
  • training process preparing for the exam
  • taking the certification exam
  • preparation of a TechTalk presentation
  • conducting a sprint review (demo)
  • obtaining specific technical qualifications
  • gaining specific soft qualifications
  • carrying out an independent, responsible task

You probably can’t take care of every meeting yourself, so assign a qualified person(s) to conduct them. In our software house, we have a couple of people to handle these, each talking with the employees working in a specific area or for a specific brand.

1-on-1 meetings uplift employee engagement and productivity. The most important thing you can do to build trust is to spend a little time alone with each of your direct reports on a regular basis.

– Łukasz Sobisiak, Java Developer, Team Lead

What should the effects of 1on1 be?

The most important effects of regularly performed 1on1 include:

  • early detection of potential problems,
  • Troubleshooting,
  • building the process of constant employee development,
  • collecting feedback on the work of a manager, company, clients.

Last but not least, always try to express the values of your company through these 1-on-1 meetings. Make them fit the big picture of what your organization is. We at employ such qualities as transparency, trustworthiness, reliability, empathy, honesty, or respect, but you can have something else in mind.

The bottom line is, don’t do this just because it’s trendy. Make it truly count.