How to run one-on-ones

This article goes over how to run 1:1’s (one-on-ones) with your direct report as a manager.


Don’t treat 1:1’s as another meeting in your calendar. Use 1:1’s as a forum to engage with your direct—whether it’s to work on goals, get a status report, or provide coaching.

To succeed with your direct, you need to build a relationship. 1:1’s are a way to do that.


  • 15 minutes for you
  • 15 minutes for me

15 minutes for you

The direct always goes first. If the manager goes first, it insinuates that he or she is more important. That sends the wrong message and you’ll only lose respect.

For the first 15 minutes, the direct can talk about anything—whether it’s work-related or not. Status updates, weekend activities, etc. This is the direct’s time so let him or her have it.

Use this time to learn about the direct and develop rapport. It’s hard to lead a person if you don’t know the person at a fundamental level. Be open and curious. Note the direct’s likes and dislikes. Jot down the direct’s feelings and motivations.

If the direct goes over time, that’s okay. If there’s something you want to bring up, let your direct know before the meeting ends.

15 minutes for me

This is your time as the manager. You can go over OKRs, discuss work, give feedback, etc. Make sure to follow up on the items from the last 1:1, and write down the items for the next 1:1.

Given expectations are clear, ask your direct:

  • how things are going
  • for feedback
  • if there are blockers or bottlenecks
  • for ideas and questions
  • if there’s anything you can do to help

There will be lighthearted as well as serious conversations. There will be moments where you have to be brutally honest. But when 1:1’s are done correctly, they will help the direct and you grow. It’s a two-way street where by making your direct report better, the direct will make you better.

How does this compare to how you run 1:1’s? Let me know in the comments below.

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