Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, says “90 minutes of your time can enhance the quality of your subordinates work for two weeks, or for some, eight-plus hours.” Finding 90 minutes for everyone may not be feasible, but setting aside 30 minutes is much more manageable. Now all you have to do is figure out what you want to achieve.
Investor and blogger Ben Horowitz says the key to a successful one-to-one meeting is to remember it’s the employee’s forum in which to speak. The team member may be in the dark about how they are doing, demotivated, and issues may be festering with them. The meeting also “provides an excellent mechanism for information and ideas to flow up the organization,” he adds.
Why One-On-One Meetings Are Essential - Keeping your team member onboard | High Performance Blog

Keeping your team member onboard

A one-on-one has many advantages for the manager:

  • It keeps people engaged
  • Provides time for addressing issues
  • Helps strengthen relationship with team members
  • Makes end-of-year performance review meetings much easier and ensures there are no surprises
  • Ensures team members understand to where they are travelling
  • Lets the team member know they are part of a team

Why One-On-One Meetings Are Essential - Preparing the groundwork | High Performance Blog

Preparing the groundwork

It’s best if you do a little preparatory work beforehand to optimize results. For example:

  • Ideally, you should set aside 30 minutes, either in your own office or a neutral venue where you won’t be distracted. Make it clear you don’t want to be disturbed for this time and switch your phone to silent.
  • Bring your own list of questions and prioritize them. Ask your team member to do the same. Remember, you only have 30 minutes.

Why One-On-One Meetings Are Essential - Listen and learn | High Performance Blog

Listen and learn

Too often employees are not given the opportunity to express themselves, but resist the temptation to barge in with your more serious questions first. Instead, start slowly with some straightforward questions and practice the art of listening.
This is meant to be a one-on-one, not a monologue, so Horowitz suggests the balance of talking should be 10% you and 90% employee. That may not work for everyone, but it should tilt in favor of the employee at the very least, otherwise the employee will feel their voice isn’t being heard..
Why One-On-One Meetings Are Essential - Focus on team member not you | High Performance Blog

Focus on the team member, not you

How should you coax your team member to open up? Not by hitting them with a barrage of questions at the outset. It’s about gauging the temperature, seeing if you can help clear the obstacles, ensuring your employee is a motivated and integrated member of your team, and clarifying any issues or goals you would like them to achieve.
Here is one way of scheduling your one-on-one:

  • Open by asking questions about how the family is or how the weekend went. This breaks the ice and helps them relax
  • Ask how you could help them to do their job better
  • Discuss what has been going well since last meeting
  • Review progress towards performance goal
  • Do they need more training and in what areas
  • Are there are any ways you can help them perform better
  • Are there any issues they would like you to address
  • Ask if they have any ideas of how to help the current project
  • Have they any suggestions on ways to help the company

Why One-On-One Meetings Are Essential - The follow-up | High Performance Blog

The follow up

Once the meeting has concluded write up your notes and share a copy with your team member so you are both agreed on the points recorded. This will give you reference points should there be any confusion later.
If you offered to help in any way, or made promises, then make them actionable. This will demonstrate you can be trusted to deliver. Failure to act will have the opposite effect, which is exactly what you don’t want. It will just mean another demotivated team member.


A happy employee makes a happy manager. You’re both winners from a one-to-one meeting once you are prepared to listen and act.