How to hold effective 1-on-1 meetings (with email and agenda templates)

Jessica Malnik
Jessica Malnik
· 9 min read

What if there was one activity you could do each week that is proven to increase company and employee performance and have a positive impact on company culture?

There is—it is having regular 1 on 1 meetings with your team.

However, with the average busy manager spending 32.9 hours each week in meetings, according to a Reclaim.ai 2021 study, and Zoom fatigue being a real phenomenon, too often the manager’s direct reports pay the price.  

In fact, this same study found that managers cancel 42.4% of 1 on 1 meetings or 127.3 1 on 1 meetings each year.

These calls are where managers can help their team reach their goals and provide valuable coaching and feedback.

The reality is even if you can’t get out of any other meetings in your calendar. There are ways to show up, be present, and provide helpful guidance with minimal prep time.

In this post, we’re sharing how to structure effective 1 on 1 meetings even if you are strapped for time, including a bunch of email and agenda templates you can use.

Why are 1 on 1 meetings important?

When you are drowning in in-person or Zoom meetings and/or have 5, 7, or 10+ people reporting to you, it can be tempting to stop doing 1 on 1 meetings altogether, especially if you equate these meetings to just recurring status updates.

News flash: If you are just going through a to-do list or using these calls as a status update, then you are missing out on a lot of the value from conducting regular 1 on 1 meetings.

When executed well, there are enormous benefits to having recurring calls with each of your direct reports, including:

  • Build trust with your direct reports: Simple things like committing to regular calls and actively listening during them can go a long way.
  • Improve employee engagement: Engaged employees are typically happier in their jobs, perform better, and are less likely to leave for another job.
  • Provide growth and professional development opportunities: This time is the perfect opportunity to provide training to help your direct reports level up in their roles and earn promotions and raises.
  • Stay on track of goals, OKRs, and KPIs: It doesn’t matter what goal-setting framework you use, but your 1:1s are a place where both of you can gauge progress and bring up any potential roadblocks and obstacles.
  • Provide valuable coaching feedback: This goes along with the point above. You can use this time to coach and share opportunities for growth when it comes to things like honing leadership and soft skills.  
  • Get feedback from your team on how you can improve as a leader: This time should be mutually beneficial. Giving your direct reports the opportunity to provide transparent feedback for how you are doing is just as important.

Plus, there are a lot of ways to make your 1:1s easier and less stressful. For instance, you can tap into these tools:

  • HyperContext or Fellow.app - Collaborating and keeping track of all of your 1 on 1 meeting agendas and notes
  • SavvyCal - Making it easier to schedule your 1 on 1 meetings
  • Loom or ZipMessage - If you have a lot of direct reports, you can leverage asynchronous communication to decrease the frequency of your 1 on 1 meetings from weekly to biweekly or even monthly. The weeks you don’t meet, you can send a quick voice or video update.  

However, the bigger time-saving is to rely on structured agenda and email invite templates, which cuts down on prep time and makes all of your 1 on 1s more productive.

How to write a one-on-one meeting invite (with templates)

Writing a 1:1 meeting invite can be awkward, especially if you are new to managing a team. Whether you are conducting your first one-on-one with a new direct report, scheduling recurring calls, or it is performance review time, here are some email templates you can use.

An email template for scheduling your first 1:1 with a new direct report

Your first one-on-one with a direct report is a time to get to know each other and understand working and communication styles.

Subject line: Scheduling our first 1:1 meeting

Hi <<first name>>,

I’m looking forward to working with you!

I’d like to schedule our first 1:1 call. Here’s a link to my calendar <<insert SavvyCal link>> to find a time that works for you.

This is a chance to get to know each other as well as an opportunity for you to ask any questions you have about your new role.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Looking forward to our first meeting!

Thanks,
<<name>>

Pro Tip: If you use time-blocking or just want to take back more control of your calendar, you can create a calendar link in SavvyCal just for your direct reports with dedicated time slots for these calls.

You can also use the ranked availability feature as well as suggest three proposed times from within SavvyCal to further steer these calls to specific days and times.

An email template for scheduling regular 1:1s with a direct report

Here is a template you can use for scheduling recurring weekly or biweekly 1:1s.

Subject: 1:1 meeting with <<Direct Report’s Name>>

Hi <<first name>>,

I’d like to set up regular 1:1s with you each <<insert week, or every other week>>. Our 1:1 meetings are a chance to discuss anything on your mind.

This will give you the opportunity to talk freely, share any concerns, and discuss your career development. We’ll also be able to give each other feedback in the 1:1s.

Because of this, I’d like you to take ownership of the agenda. Can you update this <<Google Doc or HyperContext Link>> 24 hours before our calls?

In addition, here’s a link to my calendar <<insert SavvyCal link>> to find a time that works for you for these calls.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Thanks,
<<name>>

An email template for a monthly 1:1

While it is best to hold these calls on a weekly or biweekly basis, sometimes that’s just not practical. Here is a template you can use for monthly 1:1s.  

Subject: 1:1 meeting with <<Direct Report’s Name>>

Hi <<first name>>,

I’m looking forward to meeting with you for our monthly 1:1. These meetings are a chance to discuss anything on your mind.

This will give you the opportunity to talk freely, share any concerns, and discuss your career development. We’ll also be able to give each other feedback in the 1:1s.

Because of this, I’d like you to take ownership of the agenda. Can you update this <<Google Doc or HyperContext Link>> 24 hours before our calls?

In addition, here’s a link to my calendar <<insert SavvyCal link>> to find a time that works for you for these calls.

Thanks!
<<name>>

An email template for a performance review

Some companies do performance reviews quarterly. Others do them annually. Some are very goal and KPI-oriented, while others focus more on career development.

Regardless of the structure and cadence you use, here is a template you can use for sending performance review call invite emails.

Subject line: Performance Review with <<Direct Report Name>>

Hi <<first name>>,

I’m looking forward to talking with you in your upcoming annual performance review. This is part of our ongoing effort to support your career growth and promote transparency.

Here’s what to expect before the review:

  • The date and time for your review will be confirmed.
  • You’ll receive a self-evaluation form to fill out in advance.
  • Deadline to submit your evaluation form: <date>

Here’s what to expect during the review:

  • We’ll discuss your evaluation form in your review.
  • I’ll provide feedback and we can discuss the shared points.
  • We’ll use the time to reflect on the year, share feedback, and look ahead with future goals.

I’d like to set a time for your review now. Can you find a time on my calendar <<insert SavvyCal link>> that works for you?  

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Thank you!
<<name>>

An email template for arranging peer reviews

Some companies lean heavily on peer feedback (Sometimes referred to as employee 360s) as part of the performance review process. Here is a template you can use to gather this feedback.  

Subject line: Peer Review request for <<Employee’s Name>>

Hi <<first name>>!

We’re currently going through the <<peer review or 360 review>> process. I’d love to get your input and feedback about how I can improve as your supervisor.

Please complete this survey <<link>> by <<date>>

Feel free to be open and honest with your feedback.

After collecting everyone’s feedback, I’ll meet with you to share this feedback and any opportunities for growth moving forward.

Thank you!
<<name>>

How to structure your one-on-one meetings (with agenda templates)

Between empowering your direct reports to take ownership over their 1 on 1 meetings and using these agenda templates, this can eliminate most of the prep work and make these calls more effective.

However, you still need to be present, actively listen, and follow basic Zoom etiquette on these calls.

A 1:1 meeting agenda for a new direct report

The goal of your first one-on-one with a new team member is to get to know them.

Personal connection and check-in:

  • How was your first week? Did anything surprise you?
  • Was anything confusing or unclear? Let me know if you have questions.

Challenges:

  • How can I help you with your onboarding process?
  • What does an ideal work environment look like for you?
  • How do you feel about 1:1 meetings? What frequency would you prefer?
  • What’s the best method for providing feedback for you?
  • Do you prefer public or private recognition?

Career direction:

  • What are you looking forward to with your new role here?
  • What position is next for you and how do you see this role helping you get there?

Pro Tip: Make sure it feels like a conversation, instead of a job interview or an interrogation.

A 1:1 meeting agenda for regular 1:1s

Some managers like to leave the agenda structure more open or entirely in the hands of their direct reports. However, having a structured agenda, like the one below, can make these calls more productive if you have a tendency to go off on lengthy tangents or not great at thinking on your feet.

This template would work well for a weekly, biweekly, or monthly 1:1s.

Personal check-in:

  • How are you feeling these days?
  • What’s your top priority for the upcoming week?
  • How can I help support you?
  • Since our last 1:1, what are you the most proud of and why?

Challenges:

  • What is the one thing you feel is holding you back from accomplishing your goals?
  • Is there anything outside of the company that’s making it difficult for you to focus on your work?

Career Direction:

  • How happy are you with your current role and responsibilities?
  • Do you feel like you’re able to make a positive impact and contribution with your work?
  • How do you feel about your current work-life balance?

Action items:

  • Key takeaways and goals

A performance review meeting agenda template

A performance review is the one time where you as the manager should set the agenda, and never wing it. Here is a template you can use for annual revenues. However, this could be easily adapted for a quarterly review process.

Note: You’ll want to gather and review their self-evaluation and any employee 360s / peer reviews at least a few days before your scheduled meeting.

Personal check-in:

  • What are your plans for the holidays (if annual review is at year end)?
  • What expectations do you have for this meeting?
  • Do you want to cover anything that’s not in the agenda?

Year-end reflection:

  • What was the biggest challenge you faced this year?
  • What was your biggest accomplishment?
  • Which project was your favorite to work on? Why?
  • What new skill did you acquire this year?
  • Did you feel burned out at any point this year?
  • How do you feel about your team dynamic?
  • Are there any problems that we’re repeating as a team?
  • What makes you feel proud about being on your team?

Looking ahead:

  • What is the North star in your career?
  • What does your next position look like for you?
  • Do you feel clear about your goals moving forward?
  • What additional responsibilities do you want to take on this year?
  • Do you feel you’re on the right path in your career?
  • What do you need from me to set you up for success this year?

Action items:

  • Key takeaways and goals

Ready to level up your 1-on-1s?

Holding regular 1-on-1 meetings with your team is one of the most valuable things you can do as a leader. You can help your team level up and provide valuable coaching and feedback. Plus, these email and agenda templates can save you a bunch of time in the process.

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