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The 3 Elements of a Great One to One


October 15, 2014

Have you ever had a great one to one conversation at work? As a manager, how many times have you congratulated yourself for a job well done after holding a one to one meeting with a team member? What exactly did you congratulate yourself for? How did you know that you’ve held a great one to one?

Many managers instinctively know that they ought to have regular individual meetings with each of the people who report to them but they’re unsure about what to talk about. As one HR Director put to me recently – so many meetings start with the manager opening a fresh page in their notepad and saying “so, what shall we discuss today?” It’s a great way to get the team member to ‘own the agenda’ but, at its worst, it’s a great way to avoid having to prepare for the meeting at all and to risk it being viewed as a waste of time!

3 Key Agenda Items

In my view there are 3 key agenda headlines to include in a great One to One:

1 Performance: a one to one is a great opportunity to link the employee’s performance with the latest organisational or departmental results – a key element of engagement. Inclusion of performance data is therefore vital.

The subject of Performance also includes feedback by the manager of what the employee is doing well and areas to work on. Managers need the assertiveness to be able to state the expectations they have of high performance. There is also the opportunity to work on any performance dilemmas and challenges by taking a coaching approach.

2 Development: the employee will be learning as they are performing. They will also be identifying the extra skills, knowledge and approaches that they need to learn so that they can continue to perform well and develop in their career. A great one to one will include the manager facilitating the capturing of this learning and needs. You might also look for ways to bring about this learning – and this usually won’t mean flicking through a training course catalogue together!

3 Welfare: “How are you?” Three words we say so often in a routine way. However, our one to ones gives us the chance to really listen to the answer to this question. The manager’s role is key in gauging the levels of satisfaction, pressure or even anxiety or stress that our team members are feeling. Also, our work and our life outside of it are inextricably linked. A discussion about work/life issues can really help team members to feel supported, boosting their engagement and therefore positively influencing their potential to perform well.

The Skills We Need

So, to hold a great one to one, a manager will use a wide range of skills including:

  • Questioning
  • Listening
  • Building rapport
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Everyday Coaching
  • Giving Performance Feedback
  • Stating expectations
  • Collective problem-solving

The good news is that all of these can be learned and refined.

What do you need from Me?

The final element of a great one to one is when the manager asks the question “what do you need from me?” Asking this question requires a degree of courage and humility but managers who can receive feedback (and act on it) will generate the levels of respect and leadership that organisations need in order to deliver their desired results.

So, how will you judge the effectiveness of your one to one now?  In my view, if the team member leaves the meeting knowing how they’ve contributed, clear about what’s expected of them and feels motivated to perform, develop and achieve then it’s time to congratulate their manager – in their one to one!

At Change Formation, we believe passionately in developing leaders so that they generate high performance and achieve fantastic results.  Contact us to book a one to one with us to discuss your organisation’s leadership development on +44 (0) 7840 323585 or send an email to  We look forward to meeting you!

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