• Dirk Baerts

The power of the 1/1

Updated: Mar 12, 2021

One-on-one meetings are probably one of the most powerful tools in one’s communication toolkit. Especially in these uncertain times they are vital for the company to ensure there is clear and constant communication: team members need advice, coaching, answers, feedback, comforting, reassurance, …, in short, all the relevant information & support management can provide. Having managers dedicate time to one-on-one meetings with their team members individually on a regular basis is one of the most effective ways of achieving this.



By setting up specific time slots on a recurring basis with their team members, managers can achieve various goals to build stronger employee engagement:

  • Have an open and direct conversation providing additional information, answering questions, exchange ideas and provide & receive feedback

  • Dedicate time to coaching and mentoring, but also take the time to learn about, and possibly learn from, the employee. It is important that a manager gets to know the team members better, understands how they function optimally and is open to learning from them: as one of my mentors once told me: “Always make sure that the people who work for you have more knowledge about, and perform better in, their specific roles than you do, and then learn from them, so you can grow together”. It builds mutual respect and creates stronger organizations

  • Review plans, goals, targets, KPIs, SLAs, … to evaluate progress. It is important (not to neglect) to celebrate the successes, without forgetting to openly discuss the misses. Successes should be replicated, whereas the organization must be able to learn from its errors and continuously develop corrective action plans

  • Get employee input on change programs, innovation and process improvement ideas. In their roles the employees regularly experience 1st hand the inefficiencies of the corporate system, and probably can bring very effective solutions to the table, but many do not dare to present their ideas in a larger forum. By creating a safe one-on-one environment, ideas will come to the open easier and innovation will flourish. Just to be clear, in the I2ACT philosophy, as explained on the website www.i2act.ca, innovation doesn’t necessarily mean developing a home solution for cold fusion (although that would be wonderful), it just means developing solutions in a way they have not been done before, making the result more effective and/or improved

Ultimately, the manager will help build the employee’s confidence and take away the “fear of failure”. Through the back-and-forth during the meeting, a manager can provide the necessary guidance and support for the employee to successfully meet the goals set. If done consistently by the entire management team, this will create strong employee engagement and drive growth for the organization.


There are various ways to structure one-on-one meetings, from complete “free floating” to having a very detailed agenda every time. My personal routine is to have the team members define the agenda topics every week (I prefer holding weekly one-on-one calls and meetings with my team members) and add my own when needed. If there are no topics, they are free to cancel the call, this is their time, dedicated to them, so if they do not need it, that is fine too. I do apply a few principles for every meeting though:

  • “Don’t bring me the problem, bring me your solutions or ideas to resolve the problem”: they are the experts in their domains, so encourage them to look for solutions. Push back on the solution from as many angles as possible (play devil’s advocate, so to say), and when every challenge gets answered, the solution will likely hold the road. And if there are questions left unanswered, then at least you will have uncovered other areas of improvement that will contribute to further improvement and innovation

  • “Ask plenty of why & what questions”: why would you do that, why are you going that path, what do you expect the outcome to be, what is your goal and are you trying to achieve? Always make sure the final solution aligns with the original question or issue, and that the thinking process to the solution is solid and structured. And most important of all, always go back to what the original reason behind developing the solution is. By asking the “why” and “what’ questions, you will create purpose in the search for the solution

  • “To err is human”: allow room for failure, mistakes will happen, there will be holes plugged into the solution, but all of that can only improve the eventual solution. Accepting that creates room for learning & builds confidence. Just ensure the same error does not repeat itself time and again …

  • “It is their meeting”: the team member sets the tone and the topics of the meeting. If you have topics to deliver, mention that the beginning of the meeting so there is ample time to cover it, but remember that this is their dedicated time to talk with you. Prioritize their topics first, not yours

I always found one-on-one meetings very powerful. They take an investment in time, effort and commitment, but the return in employee engagement, productivity and innovation by far exceed the effort. You need to dedicate & commit yourself to doing them regularly (I consider having one-on-one meetings with my team members one of my top weekly priorities), but once you have the rhythm, it is actually very easy and rewarding.


Contact us to learn more on how your organization can benefit from creating a 1/1 environment.

73 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All