Top 7 mistakes managers make during One-on-One meetings

Top 7 mistakes managers make during One-on-One meetings

When done right, one-on-one meetings make your team stronger and help you build better relationships with your team members.

However, managers often tend to make common mistakes, especially when new to the practice. Good news that most of the typical mistakes can be avoided by following the advice from great leaders on how to do a one-on-one with an employee.

Here's the list of top 7 mistakes to avoid during one-on-ones. We hope they will help you get started with one-on-one meetings the right way and bring all the benefits!

1. No agenda, no preparation

Hardly any meeting can be productive if none of the parties doesn't have topics to discuss. Don't rely upon that your team members would come with a list of 100 questions or issues. It's your job as a manager to prepare and be ready to lead the discussion by asking the right questions and leading your team members to open up.

Without the agenda, meetings tend to turn into the awkward silence or meaningless 20-min conversations about the weather. Even worse, you might start discussing the recent gossip in the office.

⭐️ Pro tip: collaborate on an agenda with the other person in the shared doc and. Invest 10 minutes before the meeting to review your previous notes and always be prepared.

2. No notes, no follow-ups

Without the meeting notes, it becomes hard to keep track of the employee's progress, harder to prepare for the meeting (see point 1), and you risk missing crucial information.

Having notes will give you a solid start before the next conversation, you won't forget to follow-up on essential points. It will allow you to review your previous conversation with that person and understand how the person progressed over time.

Notes also help you capture the action steps you agree on during the meeting, and keep track of them later.

Writing and sharing notes with your participants helps foster accountability for both sides. It also displays a public commitment and shows the importance of the meetings.

⭐️ Pro tip: When you write notes, you retain information much better, and you're able to make better decisions. It makes your one-on-one meetings more productive. Plai 1:1 meetings feature can help you write and track 1:1 meeting agenda and notes.

3. Talking too much

One of the critical goals of regular one-on-one employee meetings is to get to know your team members better and identify potential issues early on. However, you wouldn't be able to achieve that if you do most of the talking.

Your main goal is to ask a few right questions, shut up, and listen carefully. Otherwise, you'll miss a valuable opportunity to learn more about your colleagues. Always move your direct report's talking points to the top of the agenda, so that you allow them to lead the discussion.

⭐️ Pro tip: A good rule of thumb is that you should do less than 50% of the talking.

4. Not keeping the conversational tone

It's tempting for the managers that are new to one-on-ones to download a template agenda and walk through it step by step during the meeting.

It's good to have a template and a list of topics you want to discuss. But it's not a good idea to walk through all the questions as if it's an exam.

Best insights come when you're talking casually about what's going on in your team. If the employee wants to start with the last topic on your agenda - let her/him begin with it. Most likely, it's the most important for her/him, and worth solving first.

⭐️ Pro tip: try switching the locations (the office, the cafe, walking meeting), to help you keep the tone of the conversation natural.

5. Rushing through the meeting

Most likely, as a manager, you have several meetings every day, and it's easy to schedule them back-to-back. However, when you continuously look at the watch during the one-on-one meetings with direct reports, worrying you might be late for the next one, it doesn't help the employee feel safe to discuss tough questions (or any at all).

Dedicate enough time to connect, and allow for long, meaningful discussions. "The subordinate must feel that there is enough time to broach and get into thorny issues," as Andy Grove pointed out.

⭐️ Pro tip: reserve some time after each one-on-one meeting for taking notes, writing a follow-up, or in case you'd need to spend more time discussing important points.

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6. Turning One-on-Ones into the status update

One of the most popular 1-on-1 meeting questions is, "So, how's the progress on X?"

Even though it sounds like a logical question to ask, you should probably avoid it.

First of all, it's often easier to go to your project management or tracking tool and check out the latest status on your own.

Secondly, it shows that you, as a manager, didn't do it, and didn't invest even a tiny amount of time into it.

And lastly, you miss an opportunity to ask more profound questions about the highlights and lowlights, about personal life, about the team culture and atmosphere, about potential career growth.

It's better to dedicate another meeting for the status updates.

You'd better review the progress that interests you before the meeting and ask questions like, "I noticed that you recently did X. Do you need any help with it? What did you learn from it? Did you consider doing Y?"

⭐️ Pro tip: Don't turn your 1-on-1 meetings into status updates. Let your team members know that you want to talk about them, not only about the latest progress on the projects.

7. Not meeting regularly

Let's be honest; the worst mistake about one-on-ones is not scheduling it at all. Or scheduling too rarely.

Having two-three meetings per year won't help you much to get to know each other better and resolve issues on time. Too many things happen over a long period of time, and small issues can turn into big problems.

From the employee perspective, it's also hard to remember and recall what happened 30+ days before. Such meetings tend to have "talk and forget" outcomes, without generating meaningful progress for the team.

Another bad practice to avoid is to schedule regular meetings, but miss/cancel most of them because you're "too busy" or "overloaded." It degrades the value of your one-on-ones and sends a wrong message. Avoid canceling your 1-on-1s as much as possible.

⭐️ Pro tip: schedule in the calendar shorter but more frequent meetings, usually weekly or bi-weekly. And don't miss them.


One-on-one meetings are a powerful way to boost team productivity and engagement and help you build better and more trusting relationships with your employees.

Know and avoid the most common mistakes during one-on-one meetings, and your team would thank you!

Do you want to streamline your one-on-ones with regular reminders, shared meeting notes, and agendas, curated templates, and much more? Check out a free tool to manage your 1:1s — Plai.

Andrii Bas

Andrii Bas

Product Strategist, People & Performance

Founder of 3 products and product development agency @Uptech before 25. Use and consult about OKRs, performance management, and team leadership for 4+ years.

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