Your Secret Productivity Tool: The Best One-To-One Meeting Advice


There’s no limit to the benefits of one-to-one meetings of managers with employees. In that one hour or less that you spend with your employee, you should be focusing on listening to their issues. Also, during such a meeting, try to explain to them the “bigger picture”, show them a way to stay focused on their end goals and do everything to point out their connection to the whole organization.

It’s also important to put coaching tactics to work. The 2016 ICF Organizational Coaching Study reported the broad-ranging impacts of coaching, such as:

  • Leadership development and performance
  • Increased levels of employee engagement
  • Reduced attrition
  • Improved team working.

The question is, how you, as a frontline manager, can put effective coaching tactics to work in one-to-one meetings with employees in order to fully glean those benefits and improve them. Erickson coaches have put together six coaching tactics that can be used effectively in one-to-one meetings.


Asking open-ended questions moves the meeting away from a command-and-control type of relationship to one, where the employee feels empowered. If they don’t want to talk about problems and challenges and want to get out of your office as soon as possible, then it’s time for you to start using open-ended questions. That way you can hear their real opinion, let them think for themselves and they will feel that they are important!

Open-ended questions often start with “who,” “what,” “when,” “where”, “why” or “how”. If your question starts with “Did you...?”, their answer can only be yes/no, and the conversation will soon be over with no real effects. We will give you few examples of open-ended questions:

  • If I were to give you an extra hour a day, what would you do with it?
  • What would you do if you had unlimited resources?
  • What story is holding you back?
  • What will you do first?
  • What’s holding you back?

You can’t plan every open-ended question ahead of a meeting. However, there are many standard coaching questions that can be useful in a one-to-one meeting. Here are a few examples:

  • What excites you?
  • What does the ideal outcome for you or your team look like?
  • What obstacles are you facing and how can I help?
  • Who is going to be affected by the changes or the plan you are proposing?
  • When do you usually feel at your best?

Using open-ended questions provides the employee with a chance to talk through challenges and opportunities in their own terms, with their own thoughts, feelings and ideas. Quite often, this leads them to figuring out solutions to their problems, or thinking about a way of applying their strengths and capabilities in day-to-day challenges. The key point: you should make one-to-one meetings all about them and how they can achieve their performance goals. Using coaching tactics like open-ended questions, you will foster their engagement and participation.


Be clear on the purpose or objective of the meeting. While your clients (employees) might want to keep a one-to-one meeting informal, no one likes to be blindsided. If you prepare an agenda in advance and share this with your employee, it ensures everyone is showing up for the same meeting.

Better yet, encourage your clients (employees) to provide their own agenda. This tactic is a great way to boost engagement and initiative and make them take ownership in the performance management process. Encouraging employees to take this initiative also prepares them for the conversation and gets them thinking in advance about the topics that will be discussed, what they might say or how they might feel.


Employees need to feel that their manager really cares about them and their success. You should make it clear to your employees that you are giving your undivided attention by making eye contact, reinforcing what you are hearing from them, committing to taking action on the points discussed, and removing distractions like an email or phones.


As you’re well-aware, a good coach doesn’t seem preachy or judgmental. They accept that their employee is going to make good points and may be as knowledgeable, if not more knowledgeable in some areas than they are. Reminder for you: don’t try to impose your point of view or win a debate. You should be looking to engage them in the current situation, understand their point of view, provide feedback, and ultimately help the employee grow.


Using coaching tactics in a one-to-one meeting is very much like facilitating a conversation. Again, managers need relevant prompt questions to engage their employee and guide the conversation—not dominate it. If managers end up doing more of the talking, chances are their employee will feel “talked at,” and they may shut down. One tip we’ve found useful for managers to help them become better listeners is to recommend taking a few deep breaths to get physically centered if they feel the overwhelming urge to blurt something out or take charge of the conversation.


Success is a meeting where you help your employee to open up and then quietly comment on the things you’ve heard. The emphasis is on active listening. That means concentrating on what is being said rather than passively hearing what they are saying.

Active listening involves both verbal and nonverbal signs. Verbal signs include you summarizing or paraphrasing in your own words what you’ve heard, clarifying to ensure you heard correctly, and reflecting to demonstrate they really understand.

Nonverbal signs of active listening include making eye contact, mirroring of facial expressions to show relevant emotion (versus mimicking), and keeping a good posture as an active listener by typically leaning slightly forward or sideways while sitting.


If you and other managers are putting coaching tactics to work in one-to-one meetings throughout the year, you’ll find it easier to provide useful feedback that is really helpful while getting continuous, invaluable insights from your employees.

If you do all of this and follow our steps, each employee will eventually feel like an important member of the team and productivity will soar.

What coaching tactics have you found to be particularly effective at helping managers remove barriers to success and engage employees?

Find out more about coaching in companies in our previous blogs: 

How Can Your Employees Discover Their Inner Leader?

Ten Ways In Which Coaching Can Help Your Company

Six Coaching Skills Every Manager Should Have