How to Prepare for Your 1:1 (For Team Leads)

Published On: February 23, 20224.9 min read

Being an effective team lead takes a lot of hard work and care. Not only are you responsible for your career and responsibilities, but you also have to support and encourage a team of direct reports. Even if you’re a natural-born leader, that’s a lot to handle.

But as all the great leaders know, one of the best tools you should have in your management arsenal is a regularly scheduled one-on-one (1:1). Not only are 1:1 meetings great for your direct reports, but they are equally important to your success as a manager.

How 1:1 Meetings Help Managers and Direct Reports Work Together

Running a team is like paddling a canoe upstream—it requires every individual’s strength, coordination, and effort. If one person is rowing in the wrong direction, it throws everyone off. As the team lead, it’s your job to make sure the canoe makes it upstream, and 1:1’s help you do that.

As founder and author Elizabeth Grace Saunders says, 1:1’s are a great way to “ask strategic questions” and “show employees that you value them and care about them.” Regular meetings are a great way to build rapport with your team members. This is particularly true in today’s age of remote-first work where everyone’s feeling more isolated than ever. That rapport is essential in helping you learn each team member’s unique needs and how best to support them.

1:1’s are also a great place to check in on projects, address performance issues, and get valuable feedback on your performance as the leader. Overall, 1:1’s are a way for you to connect with your team members and, if necessary, realign everyone so that everyone can paddle in the right direction.

So, how do you set yourself up for a successful 1:1?

Prepare for a 1:1 That’s Actually Helpful

If you want to run a successful 1:1, it comes down to preparation. With the proper preparation, you can run efficient weekly 1:1’s that will help you improve the team’s performance and outlook on the job.

So when it comes time for your next (or first) 1:1, set yourself up for success by following these helpful tips:

  • Have a shared agenda for you and your team,
  • Prepare to give and request feedback, and
  • Clearly outline action items and next steps.

Let’s dive into each of these tips.

Remember the Agenda 

One of the biggest mistakes team leaders make when running a 1:1 is to have no agenda. You might feel like it’s a gesture of good faith that opens up the meeting by letting your employee take the reigns. But that’s not usually how it’s interpreted.

While it is essential to ensure the meeting is driven and structured around the employee’s needs (after all, it’s their time, not yours), you should have a plan. It provides a much-needed structure for those less assertive employees you’re still building a relationship with. It also shows that you put time and effort into any thoughts, feedback, and critiques you share.

The agenda structure is up to you and may differ depending on the team member. What’s important is that you have a private digital space set aside where you and your team member can add topics, questions, and feedback for the upcoming meeting.

Request Feedback (Don’t Just Give It) 

Good team leaders know feedback is essential. It helps you become an effective leader who brings out the best in your team. It also enables you to grow and improve for further leadership opportunities. So while it is vital to address suggestions and requests for your team, you should also include time for feedback on your performance and their enjoyment of the job.

With that said, you have to remember that you’re in a position of power as a team lead. That means your team may not feel comfortable giving feedback in person right away—and that’s okay! (Note: eNPS surveys come in handy here).

The first step to getting authentic feedback from your team is to foster a relationship built on trust. That trust comes when you open up a space for dialogue built around empathy, understanding, and good faith. To do that, you need to do less talking and more listening.

Be Clear About Follow-Up Tasks 

Often, team leads will have an incredibly productive 1:1 meeting right before lunch, and then *poof* all the fantastic ideas and action items discussed are gone by the time they get back to the desk.

The easiest way to avoid this is to create a checklist of action items and next steps during the meeting. So while you’re having your 1:1, jot down any specific requests, action items, next steps, etc. Then, after the meeting, follow up and assign those tasks to you or your team member somewhere you can both find them later (a project management software or email—whatever works best).

Getting clear on your tasks and follow-ups will ensure no good ideas get overlooked or forgotten.

If you’d like to keep learning about all that a successful 1:1 entails, click below to download our Free Guide to Mastering Performance Management with 1:1 Meetings.


Align Makes It Easy to Connect With Your Team 

No matter how big or small your team is, preparing for a 1:1 is easy with Align’s team meeting software. Our continuous performance management tools help you keep track of team member goals, tasks, and outcomes with ease.

With transparent metrics for key performance indicators, you can stay up to date on the tasks that matter the most for your team members. Our software also makes it easy to get to the heart of the conversation with dedicated space for team members to flag issues, ask for help, and put topics to discuss in the parking lot. Finally, our eNPS surveys can help you gain valuable feedback to shape your processes, so they’re better for you and your team.

Learn more about how our growth management software can help you manage your team.

Subscribe to Align’s weekly Newsletter