How to Have an Effective One-on-One Meeting

The first time it happens it can feel like being called into the principal’s office.

Your one-on-one meeting with the boss.

Having a productive and purposeful person-to-person meeting is a key to success in business, so you may as well master it now.

These “to-do” guidelines are things I’ve learned the hard way – through my own personal screw-ups.

My hope is that you and many others will read this and put these things to work so you don’t have to come about the knowledge the hard way as I did.   

Understand the importance of these meetings.

The habit of go-go-going and not looking around at who I was running over is something I used to do as a general mode of operation.

The one-on-ones I had with my boss really got in my way.

They were not productive at all… and I didn’t really see the point.

There are two reasons for this.

One is that my manager was horrible and didn’t know how to conduct good meetings, but the bigger reason is I had an ego the size of Texas.

I needed to get over myself.

The main purpose of one-on-one meetings is to establish a relationship, rapport, and trust… regardless of what each individual meeting is about.

This is highly important – and unless you realize that, you’re not going to be able to conduct meaningful meetings of this nature.

Don’t meet just to have a meeting because you’re “supposed to” have meetings.

Regular meetings are a good idea.

Back in those “Texas-sized ego” days, regular weekly meetings got on my nerves.

The not-awesome boss seemed to hold them because at some point in his crappy managerial education someone told him he had to have weekly meetings with his direct reports.

That’s not necessarily the case.

Your meetings need to be purposeful (we’ll talk about that in a minute…) and sometimes a weekly frequency is too much.

If you think you need bi-weekly meetings, make sure you’re establishing guidelines of what will happen in these meetings beforehand.

If you don’t know what that means, stay tuned – I have a tool for you coming up in just a bit…

Calendar defaults suck.

Open your digital calendar, and click whatever button you click to open a new meeting file.

Look at the longevity of its default settings.

One hour, right?


Even 30 minutes is usually too long for one-on-one meetings.

Want a real game-changer in your company, and want to up-level your performance?

Get your friendly IT professional to change that default setting to 15 minutes.

With the right meeting structure, you’ll rarely need longer than that.

Let the people you’re meeting with know that if they need longer, you’re happy to schedule additional time.

Usually; however, people will thank you for having the guts to use the non-traditional 15-minute meeting because you didn’t waste 15.5 additional minutes of their time.

Structure equals stability.

Ask any parent you know if their kids operate better with or without established rules.

If anyone says “without,” please know you are hanging out with weirdos.

Kids love stability and adults crave it, too.

Have the same structure for every meeting.

The basic structure that needs to be covered is “my items,” “your items,” “miscellaneous.”

That’s three sections to your 15-minute meeting.

Our daughter who just exited 2nd grade says that means each section of your meeting should be awarded 5 minutes. 

She did the math.

It’s simple, basic, and even an 8-year-old can understand it.

Any meeting worth having is worth prep work.

How can you prep yourself and make sure the people you’re meeting with are also up to speed on this 5-5-5 meeting that will be purposeful, brief, and a relationship-building experience?


How do you communicate?

Send this as an attachment to an email either requesting a meeting or responding to the meeting request.  

That’s a free download (you’re welcome) of GILD’s meeting prep form.

It’s simple and establishes what is going on ahead of time; it lets the other person know what s/he is responsible for doing ahead of time and lets him/her understand you mean business in the best way possible.

Ba-da-bing… everyone’s happy, you have a lot more time in your schedule, a great relationship with your reports, and your productivity has skyrocketed.

Questions? Comments? You can leave your thoughts below or email us.

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