Magical 1:1 Meetings

One of the most critical leadership practices is holding regular 1:1 meetings with your direct reports.
Exceptional 1:1 meetings enable leaders to remain on the same page as their team. Consistent 1:1 meetings ensure that issues and questions can be thoughtfully addressed, versus ad hoc conversations and random emails.  Excellent 1:1 meetings give you an opportunity to communicate clearly and give you a chance to correct miscommunication. They also increase the value of performance reviews, improve relationships, build trust and increase overall effectiveness.
If you want to improve productivity, keep your team engaged, ensure accountability and coach your team to build bench strength then you need to make the most of your 1:1 meetings. Make them magical, excellent and exceptional by following the tips below.
HOW to hold Magical 1:1 Meetings

  • Regularly scheduled – some advocate weekly, others prefer a meeting rhythm of every two weeks. Don’t allow more than about a month to go by between meetings. With the pace of work, there is too much going on to connect less than once a month. And be careful about the message you send once the 1:1 is scheduled. If you cancel at the last minute or are constantly moving the meetings, you are communicating that this is not important, or even that your direct report is not important.
  • 30-minute meetings – Andy Grove, former CEO and co-founder of Intel, advised longer meetings. “I feel that a one-on-one should last an hour at minimum. Anything less, in my experience, tends to make the subordinate confine himself to simple things that can be handled quickly.” What’s most important is that you hold the meeting. If 30 minutes works better for you, then do that!
  • Face to face (in person or video) – phone calls miss out on much of the subtleties of communication. Make the effort to establish visual connection to increase the effectiveness of your exchange.


  • Use an agenda to establish consistency. 10, 10, 10 is a common rule of thumb – 10 minutes for the manager, 10 minutes for the team member and 10 minutes for conversation. Begin each meeting with the mindset that this is a co-creative conversation. Check in with your team member and discuss how this time can most satisfactorily be used. Close each meeting with accountability questions, “What can you do to take action or make progress on what we talked about today?” and “What can I do to take action or make progress on what we talked about today?”
  • Begin with positive energy. Bring your full self to the conversation (not your distracted self that is constantly checking emails or looking at your phone). To build a trusting relationship, start with a rapport building question. For example, “How do you feel your work/life balance is right now?” Or, “What’s one thing we could change about work for you that would improve your personal life?”
  • Listen more than you talk. Be curious and prepare questions in advance to create deeper insights. For example, “Are we focused on the right things?” or “Who do you admire in the organization and why?”. You could even insert some thought-provoking questions in the meeting invitation.
  • Coach potential – don’t criticize mistakes. There are times when you need to address shortcomings. However, neuroscience shows that criticism closes the mind. It also shuts down the thinking systems you need to be productive and solve problems. The opportunity for every leader is to help each team member grow and develop in his or her career.  In fact, research shows that development is the work benefit most valued by millennials.  Use the time to coach your team member on making the most of his or her potential and connecting them to the deeper meaning or purpose of their work.

One of the best ways to help you get the most out of 1:1’s is to use questions. Brighton Leadership Group has created a deck of Catalyst Leadership Question Cards that can help you increase your asking effectiveness and build the habit of inquiry.

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