Management Essentials: Giving Effective 1:1s to Coach Your Team

July 16, 2021

“Make sure that you are seeing each person on your team with fresh eyes every day. People evolve, and so your relationships must evolve with them. Care personally; don’t put people in boxes and leave them there.” — Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor

You’re probably familiar with the benefits of one-to-one (1:1) meetings for your employees: building strong relationships with them, helping them overcome challenges and mapping out their career paths. But as we adapt to remote work, maybe you’re unsure how to best run them now.

A good 1:1 needs to be planned, have structure, a regular cadence and consistent follow-up on goals set between the manager and report. Let’s look at three ways to supercharge your next 1:1 to make it rewarding and effective.

Consistency counts toward long-term success

As a manager, you may feel there isn’t time for 1:1s with your direct reports. But employees who have regular 1:1s with their managers are nearly 3 times more engaged compared to those who don’t.

In the long run, having these frequent conversations will build trust between you and your report that in turn would allow you to better support your report with their tasks and challenges.

Your catch-ups don’t need to be long—a 20-minute meeting every week is a good starting point. Over time, the return on investment of your 1:1s would have saved you and your report an immeasurable amount of time and resources. 

Catch problems early as a coach

Coaching isn’t just for executives anymore. Employees today thrive on purpose-driven challenges, and they want their managers to be like mentors and coaches. This means that in your 1:1s, your report will usually be the one talking while you listen. When it’s your turn to speak, that’s when you offer guidance and a little bit of nudging that will inspire and empower them through their work.

If you’re unsure with what to focus on and chat about with your report during the 1:1, here are a few prompts to use:

  • What’s been on your mind lately?
  • What challenges have you faced recently? What can I do to make you more successful?
  • What went well for you recently? Did you learn anything surprising?

Helping them navigate questions like these (along with 24 other great questions you can use) can help your reports see where their blind spots and gaps in thinking are. During your 1:1s, your role as a coach is to help your reports realise their potential.

“One of the biggest values of 1:1s is discovering where employees are struggling or stuck, and helping them find a path forward. Not by telling them how you’d do it, but by guiding them to come up with their own solution.” — Jon Plax, Senior Director at Salesforce

The heart of the meeting

Instead of scheduling a meeting at the office, consider heading out for a coffee with your report at a cosy cafe. The most important element in a successful 1:1 is creating a space where your report feels comfortable sharing their concerns, challenges and passions that can sometimes be very personal.

If your report doesn’t feel safe to share their troubles, they may not be able to be completely straightforward with you. Apart from switching up where you catch up, you can make your meeting more heart-felt and personable by opening with some light banter or sharing how your own week went.

The best managers make their reports feel that they can talk about anything. Showing your vulnerable side at times creates a culture of productive failure, which helps your report to build up their confidence and competencies.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel, goes the popular saying.” — Julie Zhuo, author of The Making of a Manager

Why 1:1s are important

Your 1:1s with your employees are here to help them clear roadblocks, steer their career development and provide a safe space for them to share their thoughts and feelings. As a consequence of good 1:1s, they’ll also benefit you as a manager. Over time, your 1:1s help you gauge your team’s performance and build a cohesive, high-performing team.

Ultimately, your reports will look up to you, not just as their manager, but as their champion. Even highly motivated and competent employees can have their bad days and down times and it’s important that you can intervene and provide support for your reports using 1:1s as a diagnostic tool.


Want to learn more about how you can better lead your team? Check out the NewCampus Management Essentials Sprint, a 5-week online sprint aimed at helping you develop essential modern-day management skills alongside a group of diverse peers.