A template for more deliberate 1:1 meetings (v2)

I mentioned on Twitter recently my intention to do better 1:1 meetings with my direct reports and stakeholders in 2021 and promised to share how I was approaching it.

This is not the first time I’ve made this resolution and it often tails off into adhoc-ery all too quickly but I’m hoping that being intentional about why I am doing this will help it stick more.

To that end there are a few things that I’m changing in how I do my 1:1s this year, including:

  1. Diarising time each week on Monday to prepare for my 1:1s. Here I need to admit that usually I’ve been collecting topics on post it notes throughout the week and then winging it through the 1:1 meeting, basically triaging on the fly the most important topics that I or my team member are bringing in that day. This means that we tend to deal with urgent things but not always important things.
  2. Creating a template for each of us to complete in preparation for the meeting, and to help ensure that we regularly touch on important topics that might otherwise be overlooked by urgent things. More on this below.
  3. Taking proper notes and actions in the meeting, and making sure the actions get acted on. Basic stuff really, the former wasn’t really happening and the latter could be a little hit and miss. Using the template as a way to build accountability for the actions.

With that in mind, here is my current iteration of the template I’m planning to use. I’ve used it only twice so far and already iterated it a little (hence the v2 in the heading) and I expect I will continue to iterate it more and more over time. So far its been pretty positively received, but it is still far, far from perfect. Feedback welcome.

The idea is that each week in preparation for the 1:1 my direct reports, who are mostly Research Managers, fill out this template and take the time to reflect on each of these items. I also have a section I need to fill in. We both contribute topics in addition to the standard items.

Template for my 1:1 Meetings

Date of the 1:1 Meeting

Actions from our last 1:1 Captured from the previous 1:1
– action 1
– action 2 etc.
Emoji of the week: meaning discussed in the meeting
Win what wins did you have last week?My managers fill out these sections of the template BEFORE the 1:1 meeting
Frustration –what was your biggest frustration last week?
Focuswhat is your focus this week? Pick one thing
Growth plan focus – what aspect of your growth plan are you currently working on?
Project Status – what are your top three (or fewer) projects right now and how are they tracking?1.
Team Healthanything remarkable to report re: people doing really well or poorly?
Stakeholder Healthanything remarkable to report re: relationships going well or poorly?
Reflections and/or feedback from Leisa This section is for ME to fill out each week. Needs to be personal feedback, not just feedback / opinions on work, ideas, questions.
Items for this week:
– topic 1
– topic 2
– topic 3
Take tonnes of notes.

(My actual template is in Confluence and look lots better as it has lots of colourful emojis all over it. Annoyingly WordPress won’t play nicely for me with emojis here so I’ve prioritised making this accessible over giving a screenshot of the pretty one instead)

During the meeting I will then capture a tonne of notes as the meeting progresses (my background as a qual researcher has prepared me well for this!). These notes are shared on a Confluence page so that both of us can add more, annotate etc.

As soon as the 1:1 meeting is completed, I update the template with next weeks items, and the agreed actions captured.

I am a little bit concerned that the extensive ‘structured’ section might not leave enough time to focus on the more ‘urgent’ topics – especially given these currently tend to take up the entire time allowed right now. But, that is also somewhat deliberate, so perhaps that’s not a bad thing.

The 4Ls – an alternative approach I might use on a monthly basis.

When I was talking about this approach with my colleague Dom Price, he shared another 1:1 format that he likes to use. I’m not sure it would work quite so well for me on a weekly basis but I might experiment with using this every 4-6 weeks as I think it does provide a really different perspective on how people are doing in their work and how you might be able to help them be more successful.

Dom’s approach asks people to reflect on these four categories:

  • Loved – what I loved doing this month
  • Longed for – what I longed to be doing but was unable to find the time/etc
  • Loathed – what I really did not enjoy doing this month
  • Learned – what I learned this month

The idea is to try to support the person you are managing to increase the loved and learned, enable the longed for and remove the loathed.

I’m sure there are many more great frameworks from people who have given this a good deal more thought than I have. I’d love to hear what’s worked well for you and what you’d recommend.

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