Free One on One Meeting Template & Top Tips for Great Managers
Grab the template for free here.
Tired of running one-on-one (1-1) meetings where you don’t know what to ask, what to cover, or how to get your direct report to open up?
A well-structured 1-1 meeting template can help you overcome those struggles.
And we have one that you can grab for free. This one on one meeting template lives on Notion, but there’s also a Google Doc version available.
It comes with:
- a question bank to guide your discussions
- a shared agenda that both you and your direct report can contribute to
- a space for tracking action items
- and note-taking areas.
We've also included helpful prompts to guide you through the meeting process, so you're never left wondering what to say or do next.
Grab the template for free here.
Keep reading to learn more about why using a 1-1 template is important.
Why you shouldn’t ‘wing’ your one on one meeting
‘Well if there’s nothing else you want to discuss, I’ll give you some time back’. That phrase, or some version of it, happens way too often in 1-1s.
It's the telltale sign of a meeting without a plan, an encounter you decided to 'wing'.
That lack of preparation leads to unproductive, unfocused meetings.
One’s where you don’t uncover that your direct report is struggling with their workload and has been pulling late nights, or that they want to spend more time learning a new skill, or that they need your support having a difficult conversation with a colleague.
It might seem harmless to cut the meeting short or not have a topic of conversation prepared because you expect your direct report to come to you if they need something, whether a 1-1 is scheduled or not. And you’re both just so busy that the extra time back is useful…right?
'Winging it' gives the impression you're not invested
When you walk into a one on one without any preparation, you’re sending a subtle message to your team member that the meeting, and by extension, their issues and experiences, aren’t that important to you.
While your direct report should have the most say in what gets covered and you should listen more than you talk, you still need to have something prepared as far as questions to get conversation going, feedback you want to give, and action items you want to follow up on.
Lack of preparation can lead to unproductive meetings
Without a clear agenda, one on ones can easily go off track or end up being surface-level chats that don’t get to the heart of the matter.
Worse yet, you can end up running through your team member’s to-do list and micromanaging their work.
You might miss critical points
Without a guide to structure the conversation, you might forget to cover essential topics, like career development, performance feedback, or strategic alignment.
Luckily, you can use 1-1 templates to help you prepare for and structure your meeting so that it’s productive, useful, and engaging for your direct report everytime.
Our free template gives you the space to sit down and really think about how this time will best be spent.
You can gather your thoughts about what feedback you want to give, what problems you want to revisit from past weeks, and how you can best support this specific team member.
Grab your free one on one meeting template here.
When it’s okay to go off-script in 1-1s
Just as you shouldn’t entirely ‘wing’ your 1-1 meetings, you shouldn’t rigidly stick to a script either.
Yes, your one on one meeting template is there to guide you, but remember, that’s all it is: a guide. There will be times when you need to deviate from your planned agenda and that’s okay.
After all, 1-1s are, first and foremost, about your direct report. These meetings are meant to provide them with your undivided attention and support. They should feel comfortable bringing up topics and sharing their needs as they come up.
You might have something planned for that meeting but if you ask, ‘How are you feeling this week?’, and it leads down a path you weren’t planning for, embrace it!
Your direct report might not have planned it either but natural conversation can surface problems and feelings we didn’t even know were there.
Those moments offer insights into what your team member is genuinely thinking and feeling.
As MJ Contreras, a manager at a post Series A company, puts it:
So, be ready to go off-script when the conversation calls for it. Show your team members that you’re genuinely there for them by actively listening, responding empathetically, and providing the guidance they need, even if it wasn’t in your original plan.
How to use your one on one template for more effective and productive meetings
Using a one on one meeting template goes beyond filling in the blanks before each meeting.
Here's how to make the most of your template for more productive and effective 1-1 meetings.
(Psst…you can also check out our full guide to running effective one to one meetings as a manager.)
Be prepared and present
A pre-filled agenda gives you a snapshot of the key discussion points for your 1-1. It allows you to come prepared to each meeting, with insights and solutions at your fingertips.
It also helps you stay present during the conversation, guiding the discussion while also giving your direct report space to share their thoughts.
Seasoned manager and Head of People Experience Design, Marie Krebs shares her tips on leading an effective 1-1:
Follow-up on action items
A good one on one meeting template can act as your personal assistant, reminding you of the commitments made during previous meetings. By documenting action items in your template, you can ensure consistent follow-through, creating a culture of accountability.
However, this can be made easier still by a tool like Waggle.
With Waggle you get told what action items you need to fulfill following meetings with your team. It prompts you to complete them so that even when they slip from your memory, you are able to complete your managerial duties.
Call back to past conversations
Your one on one template serves as a record of your past conversations with your direct report. It helps you build on the relationship you're forming with them by providing context to their professional journey, achievements, challenges, and aspirations.
Engage your team members
Regular, structured, and thoughtful 1-1 meetings using your template can create an engaging environment for your direct reports. It establishes a team culture of support, transparency, and psychological safety, which are crucial for productivity and high performance.
Don’t forget to grab your one to one meeting template here.
How to use your one on one template to keep your direct reports more engaged and prepared
A one on one meeting template is a tool for managers and employees alike. And its effectiveness relies on both of you using it.
But it can be a struggle to get your direct reports to fill it out ahead of every 1-1. So the question is: how do you encourage your direct reports to make the most of this resource?
Explain the why
Start by explaining why the template exists. Let them know it's designed to provide a clear structure for the 1-1s and to ensure their voices are heard. It's a tool that empowers them to lead discussions on their development, performance, and contribution to the company culture.
Set clear expectations
Make filling out the template a part of the one on one meeting process. Outline when they should have their portion of the template filled out (e.g., 1 hour before the meeting). Providing a time frame creates accountability and helps your team members plan their preparations.
Reinforce its importance
Remind your team regularly about the importance of preparing for 1-1s using the template. Highlight the benefits of coming prepared—increased productivity, better conversations, and more fruitful outcomes.
Be ready to offer guidance on how to fill out the template, especially for new team members. Walk them through each section, providing examples where necessary to help them understand what kind of input is needed.
Acknowledge team members who consistently fill out their template and come well-prepared to 1-1s. This can motivate others to follow suit and instill a culture of preparation and active participation.
Just be careful your praise of one team member doesn’t look like favoritism or come across as criticism of them.
Simply talk about how preparation has made your 1-1s more impactful and provided you the context to better support them. Because who doesn’t want to be better supported by their manager?
Ready to see the difference a well-prepared 1-1 meeting can make? Grab your free one on one meeting agenda template here.
The types of 1-1s you can have
There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to one on one meetings even when using a template. The conversation can take various forms, depending on the needs of your team members and the objectives at hand.
Here are some different types of 1-1s you can conduct:
These meetings are dedicated to discussing the skills, knowledge, and experiences your direct report is interested in acquiring or improving.
You might discuss training opportunities, taking on new assignments, and strategies for development.
The key is to ensure that these conversations align with their individual goals as well as the company’s objectives.
Performance-based 1-1s focus on discussing your direct report's work quality and productivity. These meetings allow you to exchange feedback, talk about their strengths, areas of improvement, and ways to overcome challenges.
It's a chance to acknowledge achievements and set expectations moving forward—for both of you.
Career progression conversations
These 1-1s are centered on your team member's career path within the organization. During these meetings, you discuss your direct report’s career goals, potential promotions, or lateral moves, and how their current role is preparing them for the future they envision.
Well-being checks are integral to maintaining a healthy work environment.
These meetings are an opportunity to discuss how your team members are doing personally, understand any challenges they may be facing, and discuss strategies that allow them to be the best versions of themselves in and outside of work.
All of the above and more
The best 1-1 meetings usually cover multiple areas, tailored to the needs and priorities of the direct report.
Sometimes, these meetings might involve problem-solving, brainstorming, or simply checking in and chatting to foster a deeper connection.
What matters most is creating a space for open and honest communication that supports and empowers your team members.
By understanding the various types of 1-1 meetings, you can better tailor your conversations to meet the needs of your direct reports, leading to more productive, engaging, and meaningful discussions.
21 questions you can use in your one on one meetings
Successful 1-1 meetings rely on your ability to ask the right questions.
They can help you dive into the depths of your direct report's thoughts, aspirations, challenges, and more. Below you can find some example questions (broken down by topic) you can use in your 1-1 meetings.
But remember, these questions are just a starting point. They're meant to kickstart the conversation, not constrain it.
Feel free to adapt, skip, or delve deeper into any question as the conversation unfolds.
You can also find all of these questions inside your free one on one template. Download it to have them on hand whenever you need them.
- How are you doing? What’s on your mind this week?
- Are there any particular challenges you would like to discuss?
- How are you progressing with your work this week?
- How are you feeling about your workload and current projects?
- What areas of your role would you like to develop or improve upon?
- What’s preventing you from taking the next step in your career?
- What do you want to be spending more time on? Less time on?
- How do you feel about your career growth so far?
- Can you share any recent feedback you’ve had from your colleagues or clients?
- Is there anything that might be hindering your productivity or motivation?
- How do you feel about your recent projects? Are there any areas you feel you could improve?
- What’s something you feel you’ve done really well on lately?
- What’s currently challenging for you? What can I do to help?
- What has been your biggest accomplishment since our last meeting?
- Are there any resources or support you need to achieve [insert relevant goal]?
Giving and receiving feedback:
- What's one thing you believe is working well for you in your role? What's one thing that's challenging?
- How can I, as your manager, better support your growth and success?
- Is there anything I do that helps and you wish I did more often?
- How do you feel about that piece of feedback? Is there anything you’re unclear on?
Praise and recognition:
- What achievement are you most proud of this week/month?
- In which project do you feel you gave your best recently, and why?
- What else would you like to discuss?
- Is there anything missing from the action items?
Why you need more than a template to lead effective 1-1s
This free template is a great place to start but what if 1-1 management was made even easier? What if you could hone the skills of a great manager as if on auto-pilot?
With Waggle in your virtual pocket, you can.
Waggle helps you:
- Prepare for 1-1s (and other meetings)
- Follow through on agreed action items
- Assign action items from calls to your direct report
- Learn to adjust your management style in real-time
- Implement best-practice time and again
Prepare for 1-1s and follow through on action items
With Waggle you can set up and prepare for 1-1s, populate a templated agenda in the platform, get assigned action items, and be reminded of talking points you’ll want to cover (based on 1-1 conversations and action items from past weeks).
Waggle finds tasks you give verbally in meetings and assigns them to relevant team members, placing it on their to-do list so that it doesn't fall through the cracks.
It even catches if crucial details are missing (like a deadline!) and nudges you to add them.
Waggle works where you do by integrating into your calendar and video call tools. And there are other meeting templates available to help you prepare and run every meeting type from a performance review to a daily stand-up.
🚧 please note some of these features are in development 🚧
Learn how to lead each member of your team, in every situation, as it arises
You’ll also get real-time coaching that helps you learn how to lead your team more effectively
Your Waggle AI will listen in on your calls and provide real-time feedback, coaching you to be a better manager and cater to the needs of your team.
From sending you specific questions to ask your report to telling you to talk less and listen more—Waggle adapts to your leadership skills gaps and helps you fill them.
🚧 please note some of these features are in development 🚧
Frequently asked questions
As you begin implementing regular one on one meetings with your team, you may have some questions about the best practices and how to avoid common pitfalls.
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:
What is the format for a 1-1 meeting?
The format is flexible but 1-1s should always start with you checking in on how your report is feeling and if there’s anything they want to cover immediately.
You’ll want to make sure you touch base on any action items from the previous 1-1.
Then you need to follow the structure of your templated agenda, while allowing for the conversation and topics to flow naturally.
What should be included in a one-to-one meeting?
No one to one will look the same but they’ll all likely cover at least one of the following: a general check in on how they are, development conversations, performance reviews, career goals, feedback, wellbeing checks, exploration of any issues or obstacles, and an update on action items from previous 1-1s. But that’s just a starting point, many other topics can be covered.
How long should 1 on 1 meetings be?
The ideal length of a one to one meeting can vary, but most tend to range from 30 minutes to an hour. As long as you have enough time to cover everything you need to so that your report can feel heard and supported in whatever way they need that week, whether it's a performance review, a wellbeing check-in, a development conversation or something else entirely.
What should you not do in a one on one meeting?
Avoid treating one to one meetings as a status update or a quick check-in. These meetings are an opportunity to engage with your team members on a deeper level. Avoid doing all the talking; instead, encourage dialogue and active participation from your team members. Steer clear of negative criticism and instead focus on constructive feedback and support.
Download your free 1-1 template
Don’t forget the reason you’ve landed on this page!
To download a free 1-1 template you can start using today.