$schemamarkup = get_post_meta(get_the_ID(), 'Schema', true); if(!empty($Schema)) { echo $ Schema ; } 5 Proven Ways To Make Your One-On-One Meetings More Impactful - Let's Grow Leaders

Karin’s Leadership Articles

how to make your one-on-one meetings more impactful

5 Proven Ways To Make Your One-On-One Meetings More Impactful

by | Nov 2, 2016 | By Karin Hurt, Winning Well |

Are you looking to have more effective one-on-one meetings? Do you avoid one-on-one meetings because they lack structure and focus? Do you dread having a one-on-one meeting with your boss? Here are 5 ways to make your one-on-one meetings more impactful, no matter which side of the desk you are on.

Create a Cadence

“Nicole” called me looking for help on employee engagement. “Karin, I’m looking at our employee engagement survey and 80% of the respondents said they haven’t had a one-on-one meeting with their boss in the last year. How is that possible? And what do we do now?”

Sadly, it’s not the first time I’ve run into such a situation. If you’re not having one-on-one meetings regularly (ideally once a week) with your direct reports, just start. Show up and listen. Ask where they need help. Recognize effort and accomplishment. Say thank you. Connect.

Don’t over-think, just start.

On the other hand if you’re doing one-on-one meetings, and they feel like a waste of time on either side, read on to discover a few tips to make them more impactful.

I learned the value of a great one-on-one meeting from my boss, Mel, when I took over a new division at Verizon Wireless. She had her assistant schedule a “pull-up,” on my calendar,  so I thought we were in for a casual chat. She jumped  in eagerly and inquired, “So, what’s on your list?”

My list? I didn’t have a list, and asked her for hers to get a sense of the “pull-up” scene.

Mel’s list was scratched in various colored ink and pencil … clearly she’d been keeping it all week. Apparently, she’d saved interrupting me on instant messaging, phone calls and email by keeping a list of important, but less urgent topics and highlighting the decisions that required dialogue.  I could have leaned over the desk and kissed her.

From that moment on, I replicated the process with my direct report team, saving all of us from needless interruptions and ensuring we had quality-time for a focused conversation.

5 Proven Ways To Make Your One-On-Ones Meetings More Impactful

  1. Build a Two-Way Agenda
    Mel taught me the power of a two-way, one-on-one agenda. Come with an agenda and ask your direct report to do the same. Develop a cadence of keeping a list throughout the week.  As both a leader and follower, after I learned the fine art of a great one-on-one, I would keep a growing list for each direct report (and my boss)  each week of the important/less urgent things we needed to discuss. This saved us a lot of interruptions and emails along the way. 
  2. Reinforce the MIT (Most Important Thing) and link to the Bigger MIT
    In Winning Well, we talk about identifying the MIT or Most Important Thing you can do each day, each week, and each quarter to make the biggest strategic impact. Meaningful one-on-one sessions link clearly back to that. If you’re finding yourselves stuck in a continuous conversation that has nothing to do with what matters most, that’s an important indicator that it’s time for a prioritization conversation.  This is an easy way to prepare for, and hold, these discussions (no matter which side of the desk you are on).
  3. Notice Something Great
    The most impactful recognition is often what you notice along the way — it’s the small behaviors and efforts that you reinforce that lead to breakthrough outcomes. If you’re preparing for a one-on-one and can’t think of a single thing going right, here’s the lay-up question, “What are you most proud of this week?”
  4. Ask Great Questions
    Terrific one-on-ones are a conversation. Come prepared with a few great questions and build from there.  You can download our FREE MIT Huddle Planner which includes these questions here.
    -What was the MIT (most important thing you accomplished last week– and why was this so impactful?)
    -What’s your MIT for this week?
    -Where are you stuck?
    -Who else can we engage to help?
    -What do you need from me?
  5. Say Thank You
    Mean it. Be specific.

It’s seriously hard to have a bad one-on-one if you’re coming from a balanced perspective of strengthening results and relationships. The hardest part is carving out the time and preserving it for your team.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Terri Klass

    Great suggestions as always Karin! I love the idea of a 2-way agenda because it helps both people take responsibility for the one-on-one. I have witnessed meetings with bosses where they were clueless about my needs. I wish they had been open to hearing my perspective too.

    Thanks Karin!

    • Karin Hurt

      Terri, Thanks so much. So agree. Effective one-on-ones are always a two way conversation.

  2. Jay Brantley

    I couldn’t agree more with your conclusion that the hardest part is carving out the time and preserving it for the team. My brain is quite clever and skilled at convincing me that I don’t have 30 minutes or even 15 minutes to meet one on one. The best suggestion I have received on how to combat brain resistance is to initiate a 2 minute protocol. It is hard for the brain to deny you 2 minutes so that is where you start the first week. Take 2 minutes to explain to each member of your team that you are clearing a path to the one on one room where the 2 of you will be focusing on the MIT’s. Eventually 2 minutes will become 3, 3 will become 4, etc. until you have carved out quality time to spend with your staff one on one much to your brains chagrin!
    The road is long when creating new habits but worth it if you want quality, lasting results.

    • Karin Hurt

      Oh, Jay, I LOVE THAT SUGGESTION! The power of just starting… and the value will emerge. Thanks for sharing your insights. We always love to hear your ideas.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Virtual Leadership Training Programs


Join the Let’s Grow Leaders community for free weekly leadership
insights, tools, and strategies you can use right away!


Join the Let’s Grow Leaders community for free weekly leadership
insights, tools, and strategies you can use right away!

Where in the World are
Karin & David?

Where in the World are
Karin & David?

Other Related Articles