A Guide to 1:1 Meetings

by Zach Montroy, SPHR

One of the greatest impacts you can have as a leader is 1:1 meetings with your staff. Not only do these meetings give you the opportunity to assess your employees’ progress in given areas, but they also allow you to build a healthy team culture by investing in people on a personal level. Whether meeting with a new staff member, someone moving up the ranks or an experienced team leader, use the 1:1 time to strengthen relationships while also creating continued pathways for professional growth and development. The best part? Watching your company grow and thrive – because its humans are growing and thriving!

All 1:1s Are…Not Created Equal

The needs of a new employee and a trusted senior team leader are vastly different. A cookie-cutter approach doesn’t work and may also have the unintended consequence of coming across as disingenuous. Keeping this in mind, craft custom check-ins serve you, your company and the individuals well. These custom check-ins will also honor the individual’s experience, pursuits and overall growth. Investing in your people = investing in your company. Win-win!

For the New Staffer

Weekly 1:1s are key and, as you establish the check-in pattern with a new(er) hire, you’ll want to bring in primary team members for part of the meeting. This type of introduction provides the opportunity for real-time feedback, answers to any pertinent questions and the adjustment of expectations as needed. It’s critical that you set a new team member up for success from day one through a strong onboarding process – these check-ins should be part of that process.

Structure: The Start-Stop-Continue Approach

During the first part of the meeting, bring in some team members with whom the new hire works most directly. Ask three questions per the Start-Stop-Continue approach (outlined below) and have each person – including the new team member – take a moment to share.

Start – What does this person need to start doing? What new tasks need to be assigned? What behaviors would benefit the team (e.g. a same-day response to Slack messages)?

Stop – What does this person need to stop doing? What behaviors need to be addressed? Don’t go for the jugular! The tone and delivery don’t need to be harsh; perhaps the new hire is spending too much time on a given task because they want it to be “perfect.” Take time to talk though behaviors that should discontinue.

Continue – What does this person need to continue doing? Where is the new hire shining? Positive reinforcement is the best kind of motivator, so point out those things this new team member is doing that you want to see them continue.

Following the brief group time, dismiss the team and give the new hire some coaching on the DNA of the team and how you see their skill set fitting in with the larger group. Clarify any expectations and get to know them: What are their goals and dreams? Why did they join this company? What do they hope to accomplish? What do they need from you? Most importantly, leave time for them to ask you questions.

For the Person Moving Up in the Ranks

Investment in the individual is key at this stage. Ask this person to paint a picture of where they want to be five years from now and how you can help them get there. This is hard to do, especially if they see themselves moving on to bigger and better things. But, remember, no great leader ever looks back and says, “Wow, I’m glad I trapped that person in their job.” This is the law of increasing returns – creating a growth and development culture will make great people want to stay and in turn grow and develop other people. If they choose to move on, it happens. In that case, they’ll likely look back on their time with you as fruitful and pivotal to their success. Your “growth-oriented culture” is yielding results!


A good rhythm would be a monthly 60-minute meeting that is focused on their growth and development. This is not a time for project updates, task delegation or team updates. This is a time for you to ask pointed questions about their growth and development.

  • What is encouraging them right now?
  • Where do they feel like they’re making progress (in their craft or as a leader)?
  • What is the greatest challenge or struggle they are currently facing?
  • What can we tackle together to help them move forward?

For the first go-around, craft a growth and development plan for the individual:

  • Where do they see themselves in five years?
  • What are their short term personal growth goals (as in the year)?
  • What are the risks and constraints that could hold them back in reaching their goals?
  • What are the behaviors that will drive them towards meeting their goals?

Create a working document with this information contained. Keep this in front of you and your employee, review it during the monthly 1:1 and give them the chance to update you on their progress.

For the Experienced Team Leader

At this point, your relationship should have a strong coaching element and should be focused on their continued growth and development as a practitioner or leader. Therefore, give them time to pick your brain and, in return, ask them pointed questions.

Ask them about their perspective:

  • What are they excited by?
  • What part of their work is bringing them energy?
  • What is one thing they’ve learned that they’re inspired by?
  • In what new ways are they investing in their team?
  • How can you help them continue moving forward on their unique journey?

If this is a trusted team member, consider giving them the chance to speak to your leadership style and practice. Ask questions such as: 

  • What has been your experience of my leadership style?
  • What is one thing I could be doing better?
  • What is one thing that I do well?
  • What is something you’ve always wanted to tell me but have been hesitant to?

You never arrive as a leader; it’s about continual growth and learning. It’s about being mindful and treating everyday with intentionality. What kind of impact are you hoping to make on your team as a whole? Start taking small steps forward to create the kind of environment that’s healthy, productive and intentional about growth and development.

Need help making your 1:1’s more effective? Let’s create a winning people strategy that ends the frustration and lost revenue associated with lackluster people decisions. Schedule a call today to do a people diagnostic and find out how we can help guide you to becoming a more human-focused leader!

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