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Guide to Great 1:1s

Framework for better 1:1 meetings & tracking progress to goals
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1:1s are a vital component of any successful employee-manager relationship. But too often they aren't well thought out, or sufficiently customized to the individual employee's needs. In addition, it's really easyーparticularly when there's no meeting agendaーfor both employee and manager to lose sight of longer-term goals, and instead over-prioritize short-term issues.
There isn’t a hard and fast rule for how to run 1:1s because [I think] the most important thing is that the 1:1 be useful to the individual employee. That said, I think most successful employee-manager relationships are built on 1) expectation setting, 2) focused agendas , and 3) an ability to connect short-term and long-term goals.

Setting expectations

Great 1:1s are built on a foundation of clear expectations—even though they're something both new and seasoned managers often overlook. Use your first meeting with a new employee to gauge what they are expecting from each meeting and to explain what you expect of them.
You may think your expectations are obvious and universal, but think again. For example, the micro-manager has dramatically different needs from a hands-off, big-picture manager.
Ask yourself what you most like to hear and discuss during 1:1s and maybe even allow your direct report to weigh in. Consider...
Are there specific things you want updates on each week (eg: progress on weekly sales numbers?)
Are there times to avoid disruption?
Do you prefer to have information ahead of meetings (whenever possible)?

Find ways to touch base with the employee and meet them where they are - in some instances, it may be great to meet post-performance review and leading into the next review to have touch-points regarding an area they are needing to improve.

Every 1:1 needs an agenda

There can be exceptions, but almost all meetings should have an agenda. This allows for there to be a purpose for the meeting.
Since the 1:1 is to help your direct report, they should fill out the agenda—and send you a copy—before the meeting takes place. By setting aside time to create the agenda, they place themselves in a space to reflect on what they want to accomplish and discuss that week. And since you receive a copy ahead of the meeting, you can review the agenda and prepare any discussion points you may have.
There are a few specific agenda sections that I think belong in an agenda:
Updates to Goals - To log weekly updates on goals. Like creating the agenda itself, providing goal updates forces them to reflect on how much progress has been made (or not). These updates also highlight appropriateness of current timelines and allow you both to alter those times if needed.
Sentiment - Are they excited to share an accomplishment? Or do they need a moment to vent about a challenge? Although not everyone will want to discuss how they're feeling at that moment or on that day, offering the opportunity for your employee to communicate their sentiment can serve as an opening to a deeper conversation, if needed.
Topics for Discussion - Outside of goal updates, discussion items should be the anchor of each 1:1. Give your direct reports the floor and see what topics are at the front of their mind. For example, what are the next steps on the project they're working on? And what roadblocks are they currently facing?
Notes - Agendas are living documents—you never know when you'll need to go back to a specific agenda. The notes section can fill in the blanks of the above sections. Like, are there any action items that need to be addressed before next week? Are there are reminders that need to make their way into emails or calendars or Slack?

Some sections may not make it into every 1:1, and that is okay. Maybe you run out of time digging into a particular problem, or you use that week's 1:1 as a way to sync on OKRs. The point is to have some kind of agenda and make sure both parties see it before the meeting.

1:1s your way, with this Coda doc.

Use the rest of this Coda doc as a path to great 1:1s with your direct reports. Between the examples and third-party Packs, generating an agenda that the employee can send to their manager should be a snap. Take what you like, reject what you don’t! Edit the template to make it work for you.
Before you get started, here are a few tips for using the doc:

Clarify manager and employee expectations

I dedicated one section () for you and your direct report to dictate the "rules of the road." This way, both of you can go back to this section in the future to see the 1:1 expectations without opening a separate doc. You're also going to see a small table that looks like this in the section:
Have your direct report fill in their email address and yours to automatically email out the 1:1 agenda before the meeting starts.

Focus the 1:1 with your agenda

You can also use the section to have the direct report email updates via email or Slack. This way both of you will have a record of what topics to discuss and any pre-reading required ahead of the 1:1.
Pro tip 💡 : When each 1:1 is completed, copy/paste the agenda into . This way you can keep an ongoing record of all meetings.

Map work to goals

The final section in this doc is the section. This section contains the longer-term goals your direct report is working toward, but can be referenced (even if just as a quick reminder) at every 1:1 meeting.
In this doc, the will always show the goals your direct report is working towards using a formula in the canvas. You'll see something like this in the section:
@Complete my certification
@Lead a key project or initiative
@Close a $1,000,000+ deal
The above list will change dynamically based on what you and your direct report enter in the table. As you change the data in the table and you'll see the bullet points above (and in the ) update/change.

Trying out a new 1:1 format and want to get scrappy?
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This doc is meant to be used as a guide and hopefully a foundation framework.

👉 Begin with to get started!

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