How to run effective one-on-one meetings

Lead well-organized one-on-ones with confidence, whether you’re meeting with your boss, mentor, or teammate

We’ve all been in bad meetings. But the hard truth is, a successful meeting isn’t as simple as putting time on a calendar. Our series Meeting Heroes invites you to learn how to save the [work] day with your next gathering. You’ll never have to hear the phrase, “This meeting should have been an email,” again.

(This story was originally published on Managed by Q’s blog—helping inspire workplace professionals to create the best office experience, design, and culture.)

The best one-on-one meetings are when both people are prepared, present, and on the same page. The worst one-on-one meetings can cause frustration, miscommunication, and, sometimes, unwelcome feedback.

Learning how to effectively drive successful one-on-one meetings is a relatively easy way to boost your productivity and show your colleagues you’re focused and professional. No one wants to feel that their time is wasted, so facilitating a successful, transparent, and organized one-on-one meeting will have your boss, mentor, or teammate thanking you for time well-spent.

Here are five tips for driving effective one-on-one meetings:

1. Create an agenda

A short, simple meeting agenda serves as your map. It gives you a reference to where you are, what’s next, and roughly how long you’d like to spend on each item. Meetings can easily get derailed by tangents or unnecessary detail. Use the agenda as a facilitation tool to move the meeting along.

Check-in (2 mins) – How are you feeling? What has your attention?

Metrics (5 mins) – Review progress to monthly or quarterly goals to provide context on what’s working and what needs adjusting

Items to process (18 mins) – Go through your projects in progress and coming up this week to determine what you need from the other person

Closing round (2 mins) – Summarize the actions you’ll prioritize and your next steps  

2. Come prepared

Think about what you need to bring to the one-on-one meeting. If possible, collect everything an hour before it starts; that way, you won’t feel rushed or flustered when you can’t find your notebook or the printer is on the fritz. If the meeting requires tech, be early and have everything queued up. Figuring out how to change the input of the TV at the top of the meeting looks unprofessional and eats away into those precious meeting minutes.

3. Be on time

Showing up on time seems like a no-brainer, but timeliness strongly signals engagement, commitment, and respect for the other person. Honoring deadlines communicates your work ethic and that you put your team first. Also, if you’re on time and prepared, it’s easier to ask the other person for advice or help with something if you need it.

4. Be present—and ask the same of the other person

If the meeting doesn’t require tech, ask that you both refrain from using your laptop or phones during your time together. Honor that this one-on-one meeting is a dedicated, special moment and should be treated as such. By not getting distracted by messages and emails, you’ll have a more meaningful conversation and leave room for honest feedback or personal updates.

5. Close with a reiteration of what was established, next steps

Going over the talking points of the meeting solidifies as a final check that you’re both in understanding. Verbalize your priorities and key takeaways from your discussion. Use organizational tools like Trello, Asana, or Managed by Q to keep and solidfy all of your to-dos.

Bringing purpose and organization to a one-on-one meeting sets you up for success. Showing up with a clear agenda and presence of mind gives you room for more creativity, idea generation, and successful collaboration.

Managed by Q is part of The We Company.

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