Alban's Blog

How to run effective one-on-ones

We found that when employees are getting good one-on-ones with their manager, no matter how busy they are, no matter how many meetings they have, they want more.

This quote from an HBR podcast episode was so counterintuitive to me.

Extremely busy employees actually want more 1-on-1s? Or are they super busy because their boss is setting up so many meetings?

When I've been super busy, I dread one-on-ones. They feel like another interruption where my boss can add new requirements or ideas to my existing workload.

For years, I resisted running one-on-one meetings with my team. They're smart people, they're managers of one, and they don't need me interrupting their time.

But since I listened to this episode, I've been running one-on-ones with my team—short 20-minute meetings once a week, and I'm becoming a big fan.

The key part of the quote is "when employees are getting good one-on-ones." All of my experiences were of back one-on-ones that added to my workload.

I knew how one-on-ones could fail, but I didn't know how they could succeed.

So, I went back through the podcast transcript and wrote myself a checklist for running effective one-on-ones.

I read through this list before and after each one-on-one to try to continuously get better at them.

1-on-1s Checklist

Purpose: 1-on-1s should be focused on the report's needs

Agenda prep


During the 1-on-1

Ending the 1-on-1

The podcast episode has a lot more detail and you can listen, or read, it on the HBR website.