One-on-One Meeting: Template and Guidelines

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Do you know how to hold effective meetings? What is important for one-on-one meetings?

Each meeting should be designed for its own purpose and be effective. Use this one-on-one meeting template to help make individual meetings more productive.

Keep reading for tips for effective meetings, including a one-on-one meeting template and guidelines.

Hold More Effective Meetings

The principle: A manager needs to know what information to discuss and in what forum to discuss it. To disseminate information and get input on company decisions, Campbell believed the staff meeting and the one-on-one meeting were the most important tools a leader had. 

Each type of meeting has its own strict purpose. Staff meetings are big-picture forums for important company-wide problems, opportunities, and decision-making, while a one-on-one meeting template shows that it is an intimate opportunity to help an employee be more effective in their job.

Example: GO’s founder Jerry Kaplan wanted to discuss GO’s competition with Microsoft in a one-on-one meeting with Campbell, who was GO’s CEO at the time. But Campbell refused. He insisted that Microsoft’s competition was a big-picture issue. Because it crossed over many company departments and functions, it should be discussed in a team staff meeting, not a one-on-one. 

Staff Meetings: Focus on the Big Picture

In a staff meeting, teams learn about what other teams are doing, and leaders try to get everyone on the same page. The focus should be on the company’s operations and tactics; i.e. how is the current crisis being managed? What are we working toward?  

The leader’s responsibility is to make sure the staff meeting is run well. That means the meeting’s content is relevant, and the agenda is on-task and efficient. Every member should be encouraged to speak openly about the issues at stake. 

Supporting research: A 2013 study shows that staff and team meetings make employees feel engaged, especially if everyone has a voice in the meeting and the meeting time is managed well. Additionally, some companies are choosing to hold “tech-free” staff meetings. Recent studies have shown that when people aren’t distracted by texts or emails, participation and interaction increase.

One-on-One Meeting Template

A one-on-one meeting between a manager and an employee is much like an executive coaching session. The focus should be on the growth and development of the employee or the “coachee.” The one-on-one meeting template allows managers to follow a highly structured framework, focusing on the employee’s projects, performance, peer relationships, and innovation. 

Campbell used a one-on-one meeting template with Google CEO Eric Schmidt under a framework that Schmidt calls “Five Words on a White Board.” Campbell would write a top-five list of items he wanted to discuss (one word for each item). Schmidt also wrote a top-five list of items he wanted to discuss. Both men would then simultaneously write their lists on a whiteboard, and if there were overlapping items, those topics would take priority during the one-on-one meeting. 

Campbell had a standard one-on-one meeting template:

1. Friendly chatter about non-business topics like family news or updates on favorite sports teams (as in staff meetings).

2. Job performance questions, such as: 

  • What are you working on?
  • How’s progress on the XYZ project? 
  • Topics such as sales figures, budget numbers, and product milestones. 

3. Discussion about peer relationships. 

  • Campbell believed that our peer interactions are more important than interactions with higher-ups because they have a bigger impact on company cohesiveness. 

4. Discussion about hiring and leadership. 

  • Are good people being hired? 
  • Are you coaching your employees so they can be their best? 
  • Are you getting rid of employees who aren’t improving or progressing? 

5. Discussion about progress toward innovation. 

  • Was the company moving forward with creating new products and technologies? 
  • Was there evidence that the company was staying ahead of the competition?

Build Rapport With Friendly Chit-Chat 

The principle: In addition to the one-on-one meeting template, individual meetings can benefit from rapport-building talk. Good leaders don’t just focus on business; they also work at establishing camaraderie in the workplace. Campbell developed a strategy at Google to help team members get to know each other and make everyone feel comfortable speaking up. Instead of jumping right into a meeting agenda, he insisted that meetings start with “trip reports.” Any team member who had been on vacation or traveling for business would share some interesting details about their trip. People who hadn’t been traveling might talk about their weekend activities or their families.  

This low-stakes chit-chat at each meeting’s start served as an ice-breaker for later in the meeting when decisions needed to be made. Google’s CEO Schmidt wanted to hear input from everyone, and since team members were already comfortable chatting with each other, they were more likely to offer feedback. 

In lieu of trip reports, you could also start the meeting with other personal, non-business topics like asking every employee to give an update on their children or pets. 

Example: Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, started her meetings with each team member thanking another member for their contributions during the previous week. Her staff called it “the family prayer.” The only rule was that you couldn’t repeat what someone else had said.

One-on-One Meeting: Template and Guidelines

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  • How Bill Campbell went from football coach to tech coach
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Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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