Maintaining an effective and efficient agenda is important to get the best out of the 1-1 meetings you have with your team members. Furthermore this page will take you through other tips and tricks to conduct an effective 1-1 meeting.

The 1-1 Agenda

  1. Make sure you use a consistent agenda format from week to week
  2. Both parties add items to the agenda. Preferably, the majority added by the team member. If the manager puts more than half of the items on the agenda this is an indication that something is wrong.
  3. Reference the suggested format for leadership as necessary.

Conducting a 1-1

  1. Meetings should normally be 25 minutes long once a week. If needed increase the frequency. Avoid scheduling 1-1s less frequently than weekly - it’s better to have a short meeting with little to discuss than to go too long without an opportunity to communicate face-to-face.
  2. Create a Google doc as the agenda and set the sharing settings exclusively between you and the team member. This should not be a public document because performance feedback should be as private as possible.
  3. From High Output Management (edited sightly for language):
    1. “A key point about a one-on-one: it should be regarded as the reports’s meeting, with its agenda and tone set by them … issues that preoccupy and nag the individual contributor.”
    2. How often you should have 1-1 meetings: “The answer is the job- or task-relevant maturity of each of your individual contributors. In other words, how much experience does a given report have with the specific task at hand?…the most effective management style instance varies from very close to very loose supervision as a report’s task maturity increases.”
  4. Bill Campbell, executive coach to top executives at Google, had a suggested approach to the 1-1. Instead of leaving the conversation open, he required both the manager and the team member to bring a list of 5 things to discuss. At the start of the meeting, they would match lists and talk about whatever is on both lists first. After that, they would spend time on 4 topics – performance on job requirements, relationships with peer teams, leadership and innovation.
  5. If you have negative or positive feedback give it right away rather than waiting for the 1-1. However, make sure bi-directional feedback is given at least as often as the 1-1 meeting. The face to face 1-1 is also useful for feedback that the person may be especially sensitive too, or is being given for the second time and needs to be taken more seriously.
  6. It’s important not to push times of the 1-1’s for “more important” tasks. Book them and ensure you always are on time. Similarly, canceling a 1-1 should be a last resort. The exception to this is recruiting interviews. If participating in an interview schedule, reschedule the 1:1 with as much advance notice as possible, but prioritize the interview.
  7. One communication style does not fit all. Some need very direct feedback. Others work better with FYI style information to then come to the conclusion you want them to come to on their own. Others work well with clear goals, but without a clear prescription as to how to reach the goal. Great managers can adapt their style to the report.
  8. It is common to start with a bit of small talk. You can also consider starting with asking how are you as a person?
  9. The end of the meeting is a good time to ask questions people might be hesitant to answer. People will often reveal their important information at the end of a conversation. Use this to get information about things that are bothering them about other people in the company, including you as a manager. Ask a question like ‘How can I make your life better?’ or ‘How’s the team and the work with other people?’. Don’t put this question on the agenda in advance. Since it is the end of the meeting it might be needed to add it to the agenda to discuss in the next meeting.
  10. Setting and managing expectations is maybe your most important task. Both the managers expectations of the work done by the report and the reports expectations about the work and company.
  11. Reports tend to assume that they must do everything added by the manager, make it clear that they can push back (not a good idea, not worth the time), and redirect (please handle it directly with this person, can you arrange for this). You want to prevent the agenda piling up. The manager will put items on the agenda because it is in the functional area of the report and the manager doesn’t want to bypass them. But in case the manager cares about something and the report doesn’t it might be preferable for the manager (or an executive assistant) to do the work.
  12. Actively listen to identify what the direct report is saying. The manager should strive to do 20% of the talking while the direct report does 80%.
  13. If you have few items on the agenda from the report try the following questions:
  • Is there anything that needs clarity?
  • What are you most proud of/excited about?
  • What can I (your manager) improve on?
  • Anything you think important that happened since the last 1-1
  • What are potential troubles you see for the team
  • What are potential troubles you see for the company
  • What went well last week?
  • What went not so well last week?
  • Is there anything I can do to help?
  • Anything non-work related worth mentioning?
  • When x happened, what will you do differently next time?
  • Have you identified any career development opportunities that I can help you with? For example: Internship for Learning
  • Other great questions to consider can be found in the Culture Amp Blog: 24 great one-on-one meeting questions or in 15Five’s The Great eBook of Employee Questions.

Career Development Discussion at the 1-1

These discussions should take place once a month and after the 360 Feedback meeting has taken place. As a manager of people you play a crucial part in developing careers for your reports. This is for them but you should be able to support this process and help them achieve their goals. This is a join collaboration so prior to the meeting think about what questions to ask, specifically identifying competencies(c),skill gaps(sg) and career objectives (co). Adrienne Smith who wrote increase employee retention with career pathing suggests the following:

  1. Which projects are you most proud of that you’ve finished here? (c)
  2. What is your favorite part of your job? (c)
  3. Which projects have you struggled with most in this role? (sg)
  4. What’s your least favorite part of your day-to-day? (sg)
  5. When do you ask for help most often? (sg)
  6. What parts of your role do you want to do more of? Less of? (co)
  7. What don’t you do in your current role that you’d like to? (co)
  8. What would you like to learn next? (co)

Once you have established the goals you can then create a career development plan

Why career development for team members is key to being a great leader

Providing team members with a clear path of advancement within the group, department or division that includes career development opportunities is a win-win-win for team members, managers and Bramble. Team members who are challenged, engaged and who are actively contributing relevant solutions stay with organizations. An engaged workforce allows the department and divisions to meet their current and future needs for talent and skills and increases performance and decreases regrettable attrition.

Please make sure as a manager you have reviewed the Career Development Section in the handbook

There are many reasons that career development conversations are important. Below are a few examples though there are many more reasons.

Increase team productivity and performance

For managers, having career development conversations offers them a chance to help develop team members which then has an impact on the overall organization. It’s a critical skill for those serious about increasing their teams' productivity and performance. Development conversations will help the group, department, division and Bramble retain great team members, which at the end of the day also contributes to the manager’s own success.

Build a bench of high contributors

On top of increasing performance, these career development conversations allow managers to build a bench of top talent contributor and create a succession pipeline. This will help reduce worries about losing top talent and who the team can turn to for critical tasks. Good managers know that if you have a strong bench, you have a lot less to worry about.

Be a great leader

When it comes down to, it the best managers or leaders — the ones that team members want to have and are happy continue being part of the team. These are the managers that take an interest in their team members lives and career. By learning about what your team members wants, what they strive for and by being able to help them drive to their goals, you will build credibility, trust and respect. This in turns also contributes to your overall success as a manager.

Attract, engage and retain top talent

A managers’s job is not to just drive to OKRs and performance. It is also to attract, engage and retain top talent team members and maximize their contribution to the group, department or division. If you are interested in your team members aspirations and success, you will attract top talent because people will want to work for you. Once you get great team members on board, you will need a plan to get them and keep them engaged. Career development can be and should be one of the ways you as a manager invest your time and energy to help drive engagement, performance and results.

Preparing for a team member’s performance and development conversation

Career conversations do not have to be intimidating

Career development conversations are vital for the team members, managers and Bramble’s success. However, not all managers are prepared to address career development due to either lack of experience in having these conversations or a fear that the conversation will be difficult or unpleasant. Here are a few other reasons that managers may avoid having these conversations:

  • Career development conversations will take up time they do not have and create more work
  • Team members will want different roles or opportunities on an unrealistic timeframe
  • Team members will have aspirations that do not match their current skill level
  • Team members will take conversations about their career as a promise of a promotion
  • Team members will leave after they have developed new skills

Not discounting these concerns, but as a manager it is your job to engage team members in meaningful career development conversations.

If a team members expectations or timeframe is unrealistic, you can explore having them use their time to find opportunities that will engage and prepare them for when they opportunities arise. If they are ready for promotion but the opportunity is not in scope or plan for the business it is best to be transparent with the team member. Discuss any timeline of if/when a position may be available or if there is no plan currently to add that role. You can also work with the team member to look for internal opportunities like internship or cross collaborative projects to help keep the team member engaged while continuing in their role.

If a team members expresses career ambitions that are beyond their current skill set, then that is an opportunity to talk about the next level skills and experience that might help prepare them to get them where they want to go. If your department or division has job matrices or competencies this is a good time to review those with the team member. Technical skills are only one part of the team members ability to continue to grow and succeed. If there are issues with attitude and behaviors this is a good time to also share what the team member needs to work on in regards soft skills as part of their career growth and development.

If you are concerned that your career development conversation could be construed as a promise of a promotion, focus the conversation around skills gap development and opportunities. Try to focus on the things needed now rather than focusing on a specific time frame.

It is possible that some team members may leave for other opportunities after they acquire a new skill set. However, it is even more possible that they will leave if they believe you or Bramble is not interested in their career aspirations or development. Engaging in meaningful career development conversations show that you as a manager care about them personally and their future development.

Preparing for the discussion

Strengths and wins

As a manager part of your job is to learn more about the team members you manage. What are their skills, interests and career goals? The tone of the career development conversation should be transparent, encouraging, curious and show that you are interested and invested in the team member. Spend some time before you have a conversation to think about the following:

  • The team members key strengths, skills and wins
  • The team members engagement level
  • What are opportunities for their development
  • Current level of skills in technical or functional areas
  • What are their strong leadership competencies or behaviors

Career development conversations shouldn’t be done on a whim or just “winging it,” but instead these should be thought out and conversations that you prepare for ahead of time. You should come prepare to provide to provide to offer team members feedback, offer suggestions and to ask pertinent questions.

What questions might team members ask?

Team members want feedback on their strengths, performance and their potential within Bramble. Be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • What you say are my top strengths or top skill?
  • What skills should I build on?
  • Are you aware of any development opportunities that would be helpful for me?
  • I see this as my career path, what career path do you see based on my skills?
  • Should I be gathering career development feedback from others?

Since you are already having regular 1:1s with your team member you may have ideas regarding your team members development aspirations. Plan ahead and take the time to think about what questions they may ask and come prepared to the conversation.

Having the discussion

Maintain the right frame of mind

Coming to the meeting with an open mind and the willingness to learn more about the team members career development aspirations will set the right tone for the conversation.

A best practice could be having the team member start the meeting by expressing their goals for the conversation. Your job as a manager is to listen and understand their desires and help them explore options that may be available for reaching those goals. Try and refrain from interjecting, let the team member finish before you start talking. Try not to be judgemental on what they say, different people will have different career goals and it is important to respect their ideas. However, this can also be a time for you to provide them with feedback, suggestions, recommendations and guidance. It can also be an opportunity for you to connect them with different people within Bramble and additional resource that support their identified career path.

As a manager you should follow up on the goals and activities you both identify. This will show the team member that you do listen and have a vested interest in their future success. Also, career conversations should not be a one-time annual conversation. A best practice is to meet at least quarterly for a check-in. Keep in mind some team members may want to meet more often and some less frequently.

Be open about your own career goals and development

If asked, share your career goals with your team members. This transparency shows that you are not only willing to hear their career goals, but you are also willing to share your own career path. That could also include discussing with your team members the areas that you have identified to focus on in the future. Be open about questions regarding your own career path and experiences to date. Your team member may be able to take away some valuable lessons that you have learned in your own journey.

Additional resources

Below are several recommended articles regarding career development conversations.

Key Points

  1. Actively Listen. Self-assessment is difficult and people often overestimate or underestimate their skillset. Don’t be quick to discount their assessment. Look for common ground and focus on understanding their overall goals.

  2. Control. Maintain control of the conversation to ensure it stays on track. The focus should be on their current skillset and abilities and how to cultivate those for a career path within the company.

  3. Adaptation. Adapting your approach to different personality types is key. People that overestimate their skillsets should be given specifics on where they do, and don’t, meet expectations. They may need areas of failing to be pointed out more plainly (but always caringly). Those that underestimate their skillset may need more emphasis on what they are doing right as they tend to focus on the negative. Also, not everyone wants to advance. Some are very happy in the role they are in and want to stay there. That should also be supported. Learn more in our Learning & Development Handbook.