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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Aug 14, 2020


Monthly one-on-one meetings - we all know we should have them, but we might be less clear about what to discuss. This week we revisit a structure for monthly one-on-one meetings that will take your leadership to the next level. 



Hello and welcome to episode 90 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we revisit a structure for monthly one-on-one meetings that will take your leadership to the next level. 

For those playing the long game with the Leadership Today podcast, you might recall that we discussed monthly one-on-one meetings way back in August 2018 with episode 4 in the context of performance reviews. I think it’s a topic worth revisiting all on its own, because so few leaders have structured one-on-one meetings with their people.

Over the past month I’ve been running quite a few of our online workshop, The Six Daily Practices of Remote Leadership. Towards the end of the one hour workshop I typically mention that I have examples of one-on-one and team meeting structures, and participants are always keen to take a look. I think as leaders we often want to do the right thing, but we’re not sure what the right thing is. The theory is great, but it’s even better to look at what all that research ends up looking like in practice. So this week’s podcast is extremely practical, and you will want to review the show notes at the Leadership Today website where you can highlight and copy the one-on-one meeting structure. Next week I’ll share my monthly team meeting structure.

Now I’m not saying that these structures are perfect for everyone in every situation, but I have road tested them with hundreds of leaders, and also applied them with the people and teams that I lead. They have really helped me to lead effectively, and I’m sure they will do the same for you as well. You are welcome to adapt them to your needs.

I suggest you have a more structured one-on-one meeting each month. You may already be meeting with individuals more often than that, but this structure will help you to make that a little more formal and interactive. Here’s an overview of the structure and topics.



What are you currently doing well?

What do you need to work on?



What are your current priorities?

What goals need to be added, removed or updated?


Manager Support

What's getting in the way at work?

How might we address this?


Training and Development

How is your development plan progressing?

What training and development experiences might be beneficial?



Anything else to discuss?


Action Items

Review action items from previous month

Add any new action items


I share this agenda with people, then ask them to come prepared to our meeting with bullet points under each topic. I also come prepared with my own bullet point thoughts. I’m clear about my intent for the meeting - this is as much about helping them as it is about helping me. It’s not a performance review - it’s a structured update to help us to work together more effectively.

Let’s start with performance. We don’t talk about performance enough and, as a result, people are often uncomfortable with performance discussions. Discussing performance each month helps to normalise it. People are expected to come to the meeting prepared with a list of what they think they are currently doing well, and also what they need to work on. When we as their leader do the same, it’s an opportunity to build a more comprehensive picture of their performance. Some people are overly hard on themselves and just focus on their development needs. As a leader you can build them up by pointing out what they’re doing well. Others might overestimate their performance or understate their need for development. Including discussion about what they need to work on helps highlight that we all have things to work on. The moment we think we’re perfect is the same moment we confirm that we’re not perfect.

Next up is priorities. There may be priorities for your people that you’re not aware of. Discussing priorities helps you to establish and clarify what the priorities are from your perspective. This additional clarity is like oxygen for your people. If you’ve ever worked in a role that lacked clarity around priorities, you know just how debilitating that can be. Here we also talk about goals. This isn’t just to track how the person is going against their goals, but also an opportunity to add new goals, remove goals that are completed or no longer relevant, and to update other goals. In that way we’re not treating goals as “set and forget” - it’s helping to recognise that circumstances change, and a monthly revisit of goals is extremely useful.

Next is manager support. People face frustrations that they may not otherwise share with you unless you ask. They may not think a frustration or obstacle is worth raising with you. So we need to ask the question directly - what’s getting in the way at work? Now, just because we ask the question doesn’t mean that, as a leader, we take sole responsibility for fixing the issue. It’s far better to work with the person to help them to remove the obstacle wherever that is possible. But there will be occasions where something needs to be addressed at your level, to either remove the frustration or reduce the impact on your people.

It’s easy to let training and development plans slip, so it’s great to explore progress on a monthly basis. With staff who are at earlier points in their career I spend time in this section building their resume. We discuss what they can now do that they couldn’t do a month ago. This is a great way of highlighting the progress they are making, as it’s very easy to not reflect on what development has been achieved. You can also use this section of the meeting to explore other development opportunities. Keep in mind that this isn’t just training courses - it could be shadowing someone from another team, working on a new project, or presenting at a team meeting. Help expand the possibilities for development even further.

The section called other is a chance to discuss anything else that doesn’t fit into the headings we’ve covered so far. We want to give our people every opportunity to share with us whatever is on their mind. 

At the end of the meeting there is time to cover any action items that were committed to the previous month, and also an opportunity for the leader and their direct report to add any actions for the coming month. This helps both you and those you lead to be accountable for actions to which you have agreed. 

I find these meetings take around 45 minutes to an hour with new staff, gradually settling in to around 30 to 45 minutes over time. It’s not a great deal of time and effort to invest in your people. 

I encourage you to give this one-on-one meeting structure a go. You might even share this episode with your team to introduce the approach. The feedback I’ve had from people who have implemented it has been very positive, and I would love to hear how it goes for you as well.

Have a great week and I look forward to sharing a team meeting structure with you next week.