One-on-one meeting

How to run successful one-on-one meetings

How to run successful one-on-one meetings

When team members feel frustrated the reason is mostly because of a lack of leadership. No feedback is provided so they don’t know if they are setting the right goals and if they are heading in the right direction. Weekly one-on-one meetings are key to improve this situation. Running these meetings with the right structured agenda will make them successful.

The one-on-one meeting is one of the most effective management techniques for supervisors to give employees the best possible guidance to avoid doing all work on her own. Its purpose is to receive and give each other feedback to improve and set the right direction for your work. Studies show that employee satisfaction is higher when they receive guidance and confirmation (Jong, 2016). This weekly half an hour is potentially the best invested time if done the right way.
Not only the employee but also the supervisor benefits from the exchanged feedback. To know what is going well and not well from the perspective of your employee, helps you manage your business and your team better.
As startups are fast-paced and you are constantly lacking time, one-on-ones are easily postponed to the next week or to the next month, or not held at all. So employees work for too long on their own without any feedback. Therefore, make them taking place regularly. To make those meetings really beneficial you should keep track in a structured manner of what is being discussed. For that, I created the Tomatosheet ‘1-on-1 meeting’.

The 1-on-1 meeting Tomatosheet is an Excel spreadsheet which provides a pre-structured meeting agenda for one-on-one meetings. It can bring you maximum benefit if you go about the meetings the right way.

The 1-on-1 meeting
helps you to

Setting the stage

  1. One-on-ones are one of the most important management techniques. As your startup grows, one-on-one meetings will become increasingly important. In a team of up to 4 members, you anyway work all the time together and exchange ideas and feedback constantly. However, more than 4 members means that you cannot provide constantly individual feedback to each other anymore. Because with the number of team members also the number of projects and tasks increases, so some people are not working on the same anymore. Therefore, it is crucial to provide individual feedback and define concrete goals and actions for every team member to keep performance and satisfaction high (Saari and Judge, 2004: 402-403).
  2. The purpose of one-on-one meetings should be clear for both from the beginning. They should not be confused with career development advice or wage negotiations. In the first place these meetings give space to the employee to talk about their work and receive feedback. Through this exchange, the direction of the employee’s tasks and priorities are set. As research shows, setting specific goals reduces the variation of the employee performance and setting difficult goals enhances their performance (Bezuijen et al., 2010:688/9; Locke and Latham, 2002:706).
  3. The employee should prepare before the meeting by writing down for herself what she is working on and she needs feedback for. So no important point will be forgotten (unless the employee decides to ‘forget’ about it).
  4. Plan one-on-ones on a weekly basis. If you only plan them each 2 or 4 weeks, and one meeting is cancelled, you won’t meet for 4-8 weeks. Then the employee works for too long without any feedback. ALWAYS make them possible, even if it’s ‘only’ 15 minutes. If you do not make them possible weekly you will always find a reason not to make them happen.
  5. Set the duration of each meeting for 30 min, which is enough time if the meeting is held each week. The agenda of the meeting should be the following:- 10 min for feedback by employee, – 10 min for feedback by advisor, – 10 min to discuss next week’s plans.
  6. Change the setting of the meeting sometimes to avoid falling into a boring routine. Go to another meeting room, have lunch together or have the meeting online. These are just some ideas, there are many more.

more than 'just' a meeting


The meeting should be easy and not have the ‘boss-subordinate’ vibe, so both feel comfortable. Start the meeting with open questions like ‘How are you?’ or ‘How is work going?’. In this simple way you begin the meeting without making the other person feel like you are testing her or she is reporting to you as your employee. But rather, that you are interested in the dialogue and what she has to say.

Responsibility and accountability.

During the meeting you should talk about what you wanted last week to work on this week. So you let the employee feel that you are taking her seriously and want her to take responsibility for her tasks. At the same time, you are holding her accountable for the progress of her tasks and not letting her avoid tasks. This way you can also identify if there is a need for help.


As the content of this Tomatosheet becomes longer, you see the development of the employee over time. You can go back weeks to talk about issues in retroperspective and you can observe how the employee’s skills progress based on the tasks. It is a good way of reflecting on what you have reached in the daily business of a startup when you often have the feeling you haven’t really done anything.

How to use this tomatosheet

First of all, you are using the same template for every one-on-one meeting you are having with the same person.
To know whose one-on-ones are tracked in this spreadsheet the names of both participants are written down at the top of the sheet.

Then the 1-on-1 logbook is filled out:

  • Column B: Each time the meeting is held the date of the meeting is noted down.
  • Column C: Write down the points the employee is talking about during the meeting.
  • Column D: Record the reaction of the advisor. Also additional points the advisor is making are recorded in that row.
  • Column E: Serves as an outlook for next week’s tasks,

    Following the structure of the 1-on-1 meeting Tomatosheet is already a good basis but to make them successful, follow the 5 principles.

What's next?

To make your management more effective start to initiate these meetings by

Thinking about who in your team should partner up for one-on-ones.

Introducing the idea of the one-on-ones in the next team meeting and present who is having the meetings together.

Creating recurring calendar entries for each one-on-one couple.

Creating a folder with 1-on-1 meeting templates for each couple.

The Five 1-on-1 Meeting Principles

  • Let the meeting take place regularly.
  • Complete the Tomatosheet continuously.
  • Let both see the Tomatosheet.
  • Exchange feedback.
  • Set goals and priorities.

Checking each few weeks who is conducting the one-on-ones and who is not.

Encouraging the team members to stick to the plan of conducting the one-on-ones.

Once you implement these steps, nothing is holding you back from using the 1-on-1 meeting Tomatosheet anymore and to manage your team successfully.

As important as one-on-ones are team meetings to exchange information and coordinate your work within the team. Read more on how to run them successfully by using the Meeting Cockpit Tomatosheet.


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