The Keys to One-on-One Meetings

Nov. 24, 2020
A communications strategist and coach shares the secrets of conducting successful one-on-one meetings, through his six-step process.

While your shop’s daily morning meeting might be an effective way to communicate big-picture concepts and to detail where individual repair jobs stand, meeting one on one with employees can be an effective way to handle all the issues in between.

According to Patrick Donadio, a professional communications strategist and coach, one-on-one meetings require different strategies than meetings in larger groups—a different mindset.

Don’t follow The Golden Rule; follow The Platinum Rule, he says: “Treat others how they want to be treated.”

Donadio is the owner of Communicating with IMPACT, which he’s owned for some 30 years. A certified speaking professional and a master certified coach, he specializes in communication coaching for companies and individuals with the aim of helping them become better communicators. Here, he talks about one-on-one meetings, and his method for improved communications.

As told to Natalie Ryder

Getting Started with One-on-One Meetings

If your company does not currently use one-on-one meetings to open lines of communication and build trust, there is plenty of time to start. However, I think coming up with a real plan and long-term outline is key. To get the ball rolling, have a team meeting and ask your employees what they’d like to accomplish through the implementation of one-on-one meetings. Try to think of the meetings through the lens of improving the flow of communication between management and employees.

If your company already utilizes one-on-one meetings, consider taking time to reevaluate how successful they are at increasing communication and task completion.

The Mindset

I think it is important for both parties to go into the meeting with a non-judgemental mindset because it could ruin any opportunity for improvement. So, prior to going into a one-on-one meeting, a manager should make it clear to their employee that the meetings are meant to be a conversation. Managers should hope to gain feedback from their employees and build trust. Also, don’t think of one-on-one meetings as a one-time event—they are a long-term process.

IMPACT is my six-step method to better communication:


The big questions managers should ask themselves are, “Why am I conducting this meeting?” and, “What do I want to get out of this meeting?” There can be multiple reasons to have a meeting and multiple desired outcomes. However, it is helpful to lay out those reasons and outcomes before a one-on-one meeting, to ensure success during and after.

Message and Method

Think of the message you want to convey in the meeting and how you can achieve that. Think of how to open the conversation with engaging questions, or ask your employee what they want to get out of the meeting. Think of the tasks you want your employee to complete by the next one-on-one meeting. Continue to plan one-on-one meetings to check in with his or her task accomplishment. It’s also important to think of how to conduct the meeting: face-to-face, phone call, or via Zoom.


Personalities are an important factor during one-on-one meetings. It is important to follow The Platinum Rule to make employees feel comfortable. I use personality tests to better understand how my clients communicate and learn. From those tests, I know how to initiate conversations and coach them to be successful. A better understanding of how an employee works and thinks will only benefit the team as a whole.


It is important to keep the other person engaged throughout the meeting. I think you should be ready with a few questions to keep them interested and engaged throughout the conversation. I take notes during my training sessions to help remember what was discussed and anticipate his or her improvement for the next meeting. Note-taking during meetings and follow-up emails of what tasks were discussed will continue the advancement of communication.


At the end of a training session, I ask my clients to summarize what we discussed during the meeting. If they leave anything out of the summary, I remind them what else was said. It helps me know what they remembered the most and what needs improvement. Before the meeting is over, make sure your employees know what you expect from them going forward. As you wrap up the meeting, think to yourself, “How can I help this employee complete the tasks I have laid out?”


One-on-one meetings are not a one-time thing, they are a process that should be implemented to continue the advancement of your company. Meetings open communication if you lay out tasks to complete by the next meeting. Note-taking can help you remember to ask about certain tasks or personal updates in the next meeting to show involvement. The notes from the meeting can be included in the follow-up email to let an employee know what you took away and what you expect going forward.

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