How do you feel after a 1 on 1 meeting with either your boss or your team member?

  • Relieved:  the 1 on 1 meeting can now be checked off the list…and you survived
  • Frustrated:  you want to develop professionally yet you still do not know how
  • Enthused:  you were listened to, you learned about your performance, and you know next steps

One-on-one meetings have the potential of being a vital motivator for both the manager and the team member.  How are they working for you?

Ineffective one on one meeting
What have you learned from this 1 on 1 meeting?! How motivated are you?

Purpose of a 1 on 1 Meeting

Let’s get back to the role of a great manager.

“Your job as a manager is to get better outcomes from a group of people working together.”

– Julie Zhuo, previously VP of Design at Facebook

In this context, a great 1:1 meeting would address these issues

  • What is a “better outcome”?
  • How are you feeling part of the group?
  • How efficient and effective is our teamwork?

In this post, I’ll focus on the better outcomes.  In a next article I’ll address creating a group and then follow up with effective teamwork.

Improve Outcome through 1 on 1 Meetings

It’s your job to care about the team’s output and on the quality of the work accomplished. Hopefully, your team member also have an opinion about their performanc and that of the team.  Your team memberwill grow as a professional and as a person as she increasingly masters the skill of self-assessment.


Instead of sharing your view on her performance, invite her to express her own evaluation.

  • “What did you do well?”
  • “What made that possible?”
  • “How does it feel?”

A one-on-one meeting is an invitation for change.  One step in growth.

Change is not comfortable and occurs under two circumstances: either it is imposed from an outside source or the stimulus to change comes from within.  The former requires constant pressure.  When the boss is not looking, actions revert to “the way it was before.”   Lasting growth occurs when a person realizes, in the mind and in the gut, the need to act differently to secure desired results.

Self-evaluation sparks the realization that change is necessary.

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

Albert Einstein

Tap into emotions

Among the self-evaluation questions, I listed, “How do you feel?” This taps into emotions.

A collegue practically bounces out of her chair when answering, “How do you feel about closeing the deal?” 

She avoids your gaze when you ask, “How do you feel when we meet again and we are still facing the same issues?”

She is stewing with resentment over the public critique during her presentation and wants an opportunity to express her viewpoint.  “How do you feel after that meeting?”

Emotions generate the action power of a decision. 

Do you prioritize tasks you don’t care about?  They tend to stay on the list from week to week.  In contrast, work that is motivating and purpose-filled gets accomplished without reminders.

What attitude do you prefer in your team member?

  • “YES! I will commit.”
  • “That sounds like the right thing to do.”


I love savoring success and even engage multiple senses in the process.  Can you discuss the excellent analysis over delicious coffee?  That’s connecting with sight (seeing the other person), sound (listening to each other), taste and smell (the mocha)!

With remote work we might not be able to shake hands (sense of touch).  Could you each give yourself a high five to simulate one “en vrai” (in real life)?

Consider affirming her with words that point out HER effort and actions:

“YOU must be proud of YOURself.”

“YOU put in a lot of effort on that project.”

It’s a slight twist of the more common “I am proud of you,” which sounds nice…and yet is about you, the boss, and not about the person who rolled up her sleeves and sweat it out.


What if your team member cannot express how she succeeded?  Many of us come from an education system where we focus on mistakes. She can list ten faults, but her mind goes blank when searching for strengths.

It might feel like boasting when we identify our own strengths. It feels like teamwork when we notice the contributions of others.

What did the team do well? How did another team member contribute positively?

“You have many great qualities. You will really be successful when you realize that other people have great qualities too.”

– A wise and seasoned turnaround manager to his self-concerned grandson (my son!)


What if your team member asserts, “Everything is fine!” while you harbor the burden of telling her that performance is below par.

“Yikes!” you wonder…

Take heart. This is good news.  This discrepancy presents you with the invitation to explore.

  • Hum. That is not exactly how I perceive the situation. What exactly is going fine? Give me an example. Let us keep doing what we do well.”
  • L.I.S.T.E.N.
  • “At the same time, it is RARE that 100% of work is going 100% on track.”
  • Pause.  L.I.S.T.E.N.

The two of you advance in mutual trust if the team member can express challenges. If she declines to do so, then pick up the baton and run with it.  “Are you ready to hear my perspective now?”


Yes, do consider giving a choice…and a choice where you can accept either answer.

If she is not ready to listen now, then when? In 30 minutes or tomorrow morning?

Offering a limited choice allows the other person an element of control in an uncomfortable situation.

Police officers were able to make arrests less violent when they asked:  “Would you like your handcuffs in front or in back? Do you want your mug shot taken from the left or the right?”

The fact of asking the questions changed the attitudes of BOTH the officers and the arrested folk. Everyone gained a degree of humanity while still using handcuffs and getting mug shots.

If your 1:1 meeting agenda includes exploring performance gaps, it is worth preparing some limited choice questions BEFOREHAND.

What is non-negotiable? The need to create an action plan to address unsatisfactory results.  Where are you flexible?

  • The location of the discussion
    “Shall we go out for coffee or meet in my office?”
  • The time of the discussion
    “Let us reserve 30 minutes. When can you make it either today or tomorrow?”
  • The person who launches the discussion
    “Would you like to start? What is happening? I would like to hear your perspective.”

Become the manager you want to have

Would you like to implement these strategies in your 1 on 1 meetings and become the manager you would like to have?

That is what we are doing in Boost Team Trust. It is a 6-month online training and growth sprint program to equip managers to

  • cast a clear and inviting vision
  • communicate it effectively
  • organize to make it happen

Contact me to find out more and to see if this program is the one for you to gain in capabilities, courage, and confidence as a manager.

What do you think?

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