10 Steps to Master the Art of Creating a 1 on 1 Meeting Agenda


James Moffatt


October 22, 2023

1 on 1 meetings have emerged as an indispensable element in the corporate landscape, a cornerstone for nurturing the dynamic between a manager and their team member. Ben Horowitz, an influential figure in management paradigms, has articulated the undeniable essence of these interactions. They transcend mere operational status updates or performance reviews, morphing into sessions of trust-building, open communication, and rapport cultivation. With a meticulously curated 1 on 1 meeting agenda, managers can harness the full potential of these interactions, fortifying employee engagement, propelling productivity, and realigning individuals with their overarching professional and career goals. 

1. Recognizing the Inherent Significance: Every productive conversation stems from understanding its intrinsic worth. At the core of these 1 on 1s, as clarified by Ben Horowitz, is the intent to nurture a collaborative bond with the team member. An adeptly crafted meeting agenda template becomes the bedrock, ensuring comprehensive solving of each pivotal talking point. Regardless of the collaborative set up within a business, live conversation is crucial for OKR and professional goal reviews and subsequently fosters career development. 

2. Championing Collaboration: A 1 on 1 meeting agenda should resonate with the voices of both the manager and the team member. It isn't a one-sided list of agenda items, but rather a collective mosaic of concerns, insights, and aspirations. By weaving in items from both sides into the agenda template, an atmosphere of mutual ownership and collaboration emerges. The encouragement of increased asynchronous work aligns with mutual collaboration; effective planning fosters productivity through the addressal of talking points from all involved.

3. The Art of the Initial Check-in: The importance of a casual check-in can't be overstated. Whether you initiate the conversation with a simple "How have you been?" or a deeper inquisition into their well-being, it serves as a bridge to build rapport. Adopting a regular schedule, be it bi-weekly or weekly, and making this check-in a recurring segment sets the tone for a genuine conversation. Open ended questions such as these encourage colleagues to converse freely, increasing comfort and trust. Ultimately, this is key to achieving psychological safety throughout the team.

4. The Constructive Feedback Conduit: Performance reviews embedded within 1 on 1s can develop into constructive feedback sessions. Drawing inspiration from Kim Scott's radical candor philosophy, feedback becomes a tool and represents a beacon guiding team members in their professional journey, aiding them in refining their OKRs. Trust is essential for constructive feedback to be effective, hence the stress upon collaboration encouragement. Due to our focus on asynchronous collaboration, this talking point is critical to the success of the Bubbles team, and is covered in more detail within this Bubble.

5. Navigating the Terrain of Goals: Dedicated slots in your 1 on 1 meeting agenda should cater to the discussion around professional objectives like OKRs and broader career aspirations and career development. Managers and meeting leaders stand as catalysts, bolstering the progression towards these goals. Conversations should delve into the team member's vision for their career development and the roadmap and structure to achieve them within their specific team. This is essential and unlocks less frequent meetings; ensuring the structure to achieve OKRs is present allows team members to progress asynchronously following a 1 on 1.

6. Stirring the Conversation with Open-Ended Questions: The richness of a conversation often lies in the questions posed. Beyond the routine status update, the emphasis should pivot towards queries that incite introspection and deeper contemplation. Questions such as "What impediments are affecting your workflow?" or "How can I further bolster your productivity?" can be instrumental and begin to engage the team member further, often allowing for more developed insight.

7. The Employee Engagement Element: Employee engagement, often discussed in team meetings, finds a resonant echo in 1 on 1s as well. The meeting agenda template can incorporate segments dedicated to understanding their team experience. By fostering psychological safety within this space, you ensure that team members feel secure in sharing challenges or concerns. Mental comfort and belief is critical to achieving success within a team. The impact on professional goal achievement caused by a converse reality of psychological safety is explained here

8. A Coaching Chronicle: Every one on one meeting should transcend being just a dialogue. Managers and meeting leaders, armed with experience and insights, should transform into coaches, guiding their team members towards actionable steps. If discussions veer towards workload impediments, it's an opportune moment to coach them on strategies for better time management or task prioritization. These concepts are crucial to the efficiency of a team, and represent critical focus points of Bubbles. When collaborating asynchronously, it is essential to clarify respond by times and the importance of insight.

9. Maintaining Momentum with Consistency and Adaptability: While adopting a regular rhythm, be it bi-weekly or weekly, is essential for 1 on 1s, there exists a need for adaptability. An efficient meeting agenda template offers structure, but the overarching structure should remain flexible. Tools like Bubbles can streamline this, ensuring a harmonious balance between consistency and adaptability, and offering a platform for collaboration on shared agendas, note taking, sharing feedback, and assigning next steps. This notion of crucial flexibility is developed below.

10. Concluding with Purpose: As the meeting draws to a close, it's imperative to summarise the discussed talking points, highlighting the actionable takeaways. Both the manager and the team member should depart with a comprehensible understanding of the expectations and subsequent steps. By incorporating Bubbles' notetaker into 1 on 1 meetings, this can be guaranteed, further reinforcing the productivity of the interaction, ensuring alignment.

Conclusion: 1 on 1s, when orchestrated effectively, can be a valuable asset within a manager's repertoire for employee engagement and performance management. With the prescribed steps and a robust meeting agenda template, one can master the formation and enactment of these meetings. The mantra remains unchanged: cultivate open communication, offer incisive coaching and career development, and incessantly build relationships of trust between team members. The result? A harmonious, high-performing team established in a collaborative workspace.

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