Lead a one-on-one
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How To Lead An Effective One-On-One

Leading an effective one-on-one can take some practice. But if you follow this simple template, you’ll be able to have productive conversations with your team that lead to higher ROI’s and a better chance of checking off your KPI’s.

The goal of a recurring one-on-one meeting between employee and supervisor (whether that’s a manager, the founder, CEO, etc.) is for the supervisor to discover how to manage that employee—within their management philosophy—in a way that helps them to be the most effective employee possible.

Why Hold a One-on-One Meeting?

Create a space for the employee to be able to open up and share…

  • It creates the space for an employee to talk about their frustrations and suggestions
  • It builds team relationships
  • It shows you what your employee’s stress, morale, and engagement levels are
  • It gives you a chance to recognize employee wins
  • It sets goals and creates accountability
  • It helps your employees, and you, grow personally and professionally
  • It mitigates future issues

As a manager, the most important way to lead an effective one-on-one is to create a space for the employee to be able to open up and share. You need them to be able to tell you about their concerns or if they feel themselves getting burnt out.

As an employee, their primary role is to come into the one-on-one in an open and honest space. They need to be able to be transparent about how this job is affecting them and if they feel positively or negatively about their projects and co-workers.

Here at DigitalMarketer, every employee has a weekly one-on-one, so we decided to build out 4 steps for how exactly you can lead an effective one-on-one.

Step #1: Understand the Objective of the Meeting

As the supervisor in the meeting, it’s your job to make sure that both parties (you included) know the purpose of this recurring meeting. Having a meeting that gets figured out in real-time is inefficient and impossible to prepare for.

For example, the objectives of the meeting should be to discuss:

  1. The employee’s performance
  2. Suggestions the employee has
  3. How happy or unhappy the employee is with current tasks

Before you go to your employee with the idea of a one-on-one, make sure you can fill in this blank:

The objective of this one-on-one is to discuss ___________________, __________________, and __________________.

Step #2: Schedule a Recurring Meeting Time

The one-on-one meeting needs to be an opt-out meeting, not opt-in. Let’s explain this. The recurring meeting should be set for every week, month, or quarter (whatever makes the most sense for your employees and business model). It’s scheduled in the calendar, and everybody is automatically opted in to the meeting.

The one-on-one meeting needs to be an opt-out meeting, not opt-in.

This means that it doesn’t get pushed weeks back from its originally scheduled date, or worse—it never happens. It’s on the calendar, and both parties are working their schedule around that meeting.

When you have the option to opt-out is when both parties know the meeting isn’t necessary. For example, maybe the meeting isn’t necessary this month because all issues discussed in the last meeting have been resolved, all tasks are on schedule, and it makes more sense to put that time toward project goals.

But even if the meeting isn’t necessary, it’s important that you’re always able to say, “My recurring meeting with [EMPLOYEE NAME] is scheduled for ____/____/____ at __:__.”

Step #3: Prepare a Meeting Agenda

Your agenda is like your travel itinerary. It’s what keeps you on track and makes sure you get to the airport in time to catch your flight. If you and your employee go on a 30-minute-long tangent about only one discussion point of your meeting, your scheduled one-hour meeting is either going to:

  • Run way longer than expected
  • Not touch upon essential points that need to be discussed

Your agenda is like your travel itinerary.

You need an agenda that you can stick to with loose time frames of how long each conversation should be—for example, summarizing an employee’s small and big wins will take about 10-minutes. Your employee’s answer to questions like, “Where do you see we could improve our on-boarding process so we can reduce friction?” might take longer.

Identify the parts of your discussion that you can quickly go over and the parts that need time.

You’re not married to this time-frame template, but you can use it as a blueprint and change it to fit your discussion.

Part One: 10-Minutes

  • Informal chit-chat and catch up
  • Talk about employee’s wins

Part Two: 10-Minutes

  • Talk about how the employee is feeling about assigned tasks, task management, workload, etc.

Part Three: 30-Minutes

  • Employee concerns and mental bandwidth review
  • Ask the employee what kind of solutions they need to improve their experience
  • Give the employee time to talk about what they feel is important

Part Four: 10-Minutes

Ask the employee for feedback on:

  • How you can improve as a manager
  • How these meetings can be improved

Step #4: Create an Action and Accountability Plan

What’s a business without a plan? The second most important part of this meeting, aside from creating a vulnerable space for your employee to open up and share feedback, is to make sure that something gets done about it.

The second most important part of this meeting… is to make sure that something gets done about it.

Your meeting should end with an action and accountability plan that is sent in a follow-up email. New tasks and goals that are going to be completed need to have set due dates, and anything that needs to be checked in on at the next meeting needs to be noted.

Before you move on to your next one-on-one with another employee or get back to working on your task list, the plan needs to be set.

Here is a template for a follow-up email:


Great talk today. I’m happy we got to connect, and thank you for your honesty and transparency. Here’s what we discussed and how we’re going to start implementing it immediately.

We talked about:

_______________ and it will be completed by  __/__/__ at __:__ (Assigned to you)

_______________ and it will be completed by  __/__/__ at __:__ (Assigned to you)

_______________ and it will be completed by  __/__/__ at __:__ (Assigned to you)

_______________ and it will be completed by  __/__/__ at __:__ (Assigned to me)

_______________ and it will be completed by  __/__/__ at __:__ (Assigned to me)

We also talked about _____________ and how it would improve your work performance. Let’s give this a one-week test run and circle back via email next week on __/__/__. If this is working well, we’ll continue and if we need to improve, we’ll do so.

Lastly, we talked about how I could improve as a manager and team leader. I really appreciate your feedback. Here’s what I’m going to do to incorporate it into my schedule:




Our next one-on-one is scheduled for __/__/__ at __:__.

Let me know if you have any questions about this email or if there’s anything I missed.


Now you know the 4 steps to leading an effective one-on-one. As a business leader, you already know that every concept and strategy needs to be adjusted to your business. Use the parts of this template that make sense for your business and add and improve the parts that will help you run productive and efficient one-on-ones.

Your employees are your key to success. Invest in them with your time and energy through one-on-ones and your business will see the results.

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