The Perfect Done-For-You One-on-One Meeting Agenda for Managers

by Michael Keeler

What do you think is the most important skill for a manager to have?

When I ask people this, they often say it’s hiring the right people, being a good problem solver, or building systems that scale. I agree that they are all super important skills, but I think the #1 most important skill for managers is the ability to conduct consistent, effective, one-on-one meetings with the folks they manage. 

A great one-on-one manager check-in does three really, really important things:

  • Helps to build a strong rapport based on trust and candid communication.
  • Gives the employee a consistent source of praise and constructive feedback.
  • Holds the employee accountable for key behaviors and deliverables.

So many of the CRUCIAL functions of a manager exist in just this one meeting — which means when you get the meeting right it can be immensely powerful. When you get the meeting wrong (or don’t do it at all), most manager-direct report relationships will stumble and crumble.

To be effective I suggest that managers meet for 30-minutes with their direct reports about every two weeks (or twice per month). Meeting only once per month isn’t enough because it gives too much time between meetings for focus and momentum to be lost. Meeting every week can feel like overkill, sometimes resulting in an employee feeling micromanaged.

There is one exception when it comes to frequency. If an employee is not performing well — for example, not meeting deadlines, having issues with lateness, etc. — I do recommend a weekly meeting pulse until the behavior improves or the employee is removed from their current role. (More about those performance improvement conversations in a later blog post.)

Without further ado, here is what I think is the perfect one-on-one meeting agenda for managers:

 

Agenda for a 30-minute Check-in with a Team Member and Their Manager:

 

0-5: Personal Check-in

Key Questions and Prompts:

  • How’s life outside of work?
  • What did you do over the weekend?
  • What have you done for fun lately?

Why it matters: Taking time to speak to the person before you speak to the employee is so vitally important for building trust and rapport. Work is personal, let’s stop pretending it isn’t.

 

5-10: Wins & Challenges

Key Questions and Prompts:

  • What has been going well and what has not been going well in the last few weeks?
  • I want to really celebrate you for a few things I saw you do in the last two weeks…
  • What have you accomplished recently that you’re most proud of?
  • Where are you currently feeling stuck or uncertain?

Why it matters: A great manager gives at least twice as much praise as critical feedback. This is your chance as a manager to recognize and reward great behaviors and address challenges head-on. This part of the conversation also helps to reinforce that you want your employees to talk to you about the good stuff and the bad.

Great managers are first to know about problems when they arise because employees aren’t afraid to tell them. Crummy managers are the last to know about problems in the business because their team is afraid to tell them.

 

10-20: Accountability

Key Questions and Prompts:

  • Let’s review your top priorities and projects one-by-one.
  • What projects have the potential to get off track in the next two weeks?
  • It looks like a deadline was missed. Let’s talk about what happened.

Why it matters: One of the manager’s core functions is to keep the engine running. The team must always be setting and meeting goals, one deadline at a time. A great manager provides accountability by celebrating the things that go to plan and problem solving when things are off-track.

 

20-25: Education

Key Questions and Prompts:

  • What knowledge or skills do you want to learn that will take your work to the next level?
  • What have you been excited to learn about recently?
  • What are you learning in your continuing education that can be applied to your work?

Why it matters: Every employee wants to feel like their manager and the company they work for are actively invested in them. They want to feel like their manager actually gives a sh*t about their personal and professional development. This part of the conversation offers a regular moment to help the employee get clear about how they will continue to learn, and how the skills and knowledge they acquire might translate to better work or career advancement.

 

25-30: Support

Key Questions and Prompts:

  • What can I do to support you between now and when we next meet?
  • What do you need from me to be able to do your best work?
  • How will I know if [insert task] is on track or off track over the next week?

Why it matters: Ultimately a manager is the #1 advocate and support system for the team they manage. Ending the meeting this way ensures that as work continues between meetings lines of communication stay open. Open communication is the life-blood of all good relationships.

 


 

What do you think? Is there anything you would change about this agenda?

Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Leave them in the comments below or email me here.

Happy Managing!

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