5 Ways to Structure a One-on-One and Why It’s Important

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I have always been a big proponent of spending time with your employees. In my last post, Gift Your Time, I went into reasons for considering your time as “not your own” when it comes to leading employees. In this post, I plan to define the One on One, talk about why it’s useful, and give some tips on how it should be structured.

What and Why

So what is a One on One? A One on One (or O3) is exactly what it sounds like. It’s time set aside for a one on one meeting between supervisor and employee.  Subject matter can vary from employee growth to home life. It’s an opportunity to strengthen relationships and provide career coaching.

If you are a leader, it could be the most important tool in your toolbox. Here’s why: in a 2014 study conducted by LeadershipIQ, over 32,000 employees were surveyed with regards to the time they got to spend with their leader. In this study, it was found, time with their direct supervisor had a direct correlation with the employee’s engagement. More specifically, the study showed that employees who got more exposure with their direct supervisor felt 29% more inspired, 30% more engaged, 16% more innovative, and 15% more intrinsically motivated. In other words, this study is proof of ROI should you decide to invest your time in your employees.


1)      Frequency – The frequency of these meetings are up to you, but there should be a frequency. Make sure to schedule a reoccurring meeting, and make it a priority. I can tell you from experience, if you miss these meetings, your employees will notice and remind you. I schedule with my employees every two weeks, and on the rare occasion I need to reschedule, I always make up a missed session.

2)      Duration – This is also up to you, but make sure this time does not feel rushed. Meeting with your people should feel like quality time, not a task. I started off with 30 mins but quickly learned that my group wanted to talk longer. I now hold 1 hour O3s, and we seem to cover mostly everything.

3)      Structure – Build a structure around the meeting. I usually open up by asking if they have anything specific to talk about. After that, I ask them about their home, work, and their home/work life balance. I like to end with something that promotes their career growth and development by coaching them on a particular behavior. Yours may vary, but this is a good starting point.

4)      Preparation – I always come prepared with talking points for each of my programmers. As the leader of the team, I am also the coach, so I like to make sure I can use this time for professional coaching if needed.

5)      Engagement – I ask all of my developers to be engaged during this time. I request that they bring items to me as this is a mutually beneficial meeting. Rarely do I have instances where they don’t have something to discuss.

I truly believe that this practice is a fantastic way to promote growth for both you and your employees. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read my last post. What are some of your success stories? Please leave them below. Now, go put someone in a position to be successful!

Link to referenced study: Optimal Hours With the Boss

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