Communication

Do this one thing to improve your one-on-one meetings

3 min read

One simple tweak to the way you have one-on-ones with your team can be the difference between a productive meeting and a "waste of time."

Shannon Maloney

One-on-one meetings are arguably the most valuable time managers spend with their direct reports, but are we always making the most out of our time together? If you’re already using a shared meeting agenda, give yourself a pat on the back because you’re on the right track đź‘Ź.

How using a shared meeting agenda will 10x your one-on-ones

You’ll share context before the meeting

In our 2019 State of one-on-ones survey, we learned than 49% of managers have one-on-ones weekly and 57% of managers meet for 30 minutes. It’s easy to spend those 30 minutes playing catch-up. If you have, “What was done last week?” on your weekly meeting agenda, and spend 5-10 minutes discussing it in your one-on-one, that’s 1/3 of your time together—poof, gone.

With a shared agenda, your direct report can share all of the pertinent updates well before the meeting, saving valuable time in your meeting together to discuss things like feedback, growth and development. Another way to put it is that shared agendas enable you and your employees to do “pre-work” before your one-on-ones.

You’ll create a two-way dialogue

If you’re a manager that finds you’re constantly dominating the conversation in one-on-ones, you’re not alone. Many managers find themselves filling the silence in meetings, often with status updates. A big reason why this happens is because the manager unintentionally hoards the agenda. Making the agenda a collaborative effort, will naturally open more two-way dialogue.

22% of managers say their biggest challenge when it comes to one-on-one meetings is getting their direct reports to contribute to the agenda.

When you have a shared agenda that both the manager and employee can contribute to, then you give your direct reports more power over the conversation. If you’re hiding meeting agendas in calendar invites and notebooks, how can you expect employees to add to the discussion?

You’ll have more focused conversations

Having a shared meeting agenda will not only allow you to better prepare before the meeting, but it will drive more focused discussions. Going into any meeting without an agenda results in tangents, but when you only have 30 minutes together weekly—that time is precious.

Knowing what’s on the agenda before coming into the meeting, you can prioritize your agenda items and allot the appropriate amount of time for each topic. Maybe you’ve got a stacked one-on-one meeting and need to schedule a 15-minute follow-up, or maybe your agenda is on the lighter side and you finally have time to review the peer-feedback you’ve been sitting on for a month.

You won’t be blind-sided

No one likes going into a meeting blind, especially if you’re preparing for a difficult conversation. When what you’re talking about in a one-on-one is on the table before you meet, you won’t be put on the spot or do the “let’s circle back to this one” to buy yourself time.


In short: The secret sauce to a successful one-on-one meeting is a shared meeting agenda. When you have a shared space where you and your direct report can both contribute to what’s being discussed in your one-on-ones, you’ll notice in the quality of your conversations improves immediately. 


Create your shared one-on-one meeting agenda in SoapBox, free!