As a manager, do you have regular one-on-one conversations with your direct reports?

Most managers will answer no – or – not as often as I should. Is that you?

If so, you are certainly not alone. Most managers don’t plan for regular individual meetings or they put them off. That’s because working managers have a lot going on and time gets away from them.

If you plan ahead and make this important task a priority, the payoff will be more than worth the effort.


The one-on-one is a great way to connect and build trust by simply showing up and engaging on a consistent basis. It can also be a goldmine of information that will help you! You will uncover issues earlier, determine employee satisfaction, solve problems, give and receive regular feedback, and get a pulse on the culture of your team.

Make some time

I recommend holding a regular meeting with each of the employees you are responsible for at least twice a month for 30-60 minutes. The key here is to be consistent. Choose a time and place that is private (no interruptions or distractions) and make the meetings a priority. If you can, go off-site to a coffee shop or a sitting area outside. Canceling and rescheduling can convey a very loud and counter-productive signal that you really don’t care. Make the time and then commit to making it work.

A Sample One-on-One Agenda

You should tailor your agenda to your style and circumstances. Here is a sample agenda that you can start with.

1. Begin with a general check-in.

Ask questions such as:

How are you? How is life? How’s your work-life balance right now? What’s on your mind? Is there anything specific you want to talk about?

2. Celebrate recent successes in their work.

Show appreciation and gratitude.

3. Give feedback (tie to performance goals).

Coach in the areas that need improvement and debrief recent projects or situations.

4. Ask for feedback.

What can I do to help you be even more successful? How can I be a better boss? What is your favorite thing I do, that I should keep on doing?

5. Set goals/next steps.

Set the stage for the next meeting. Confirm time/place.

In my online course Manager Essentials: How to Be a Better Boss, I share much more detail on how to make a one-on-one meeting successful including what questions you should ask and how to make time in your schedule. I also teach the various coaching skills you need to make your meetings a huge success.

I know you will find that one of the most useful skills you’ll develop as a manager is how to hold effective one-on-one meetings with your direct reports.

If this isn’t a consistent practice of yours already, it’s time to begin.


Betty Lochner is a human resources consultant, business coach, and expert in workplace communications. She is the author of two books on communication, and a newly published journal, Intentional Gratitude.