Quick Strategies to Energize One-On-Ones

You don’t have time to waste AND your team members need time with you.

Successful one-on-ones:

#1. Give your full attention:

  1. Hide your cell phone.
  2. Put your computer to sleep.

Distraction is disrespect.

Distraction in you creates disengagement in them. If you must monitor text messages or email, explain the situation.

#2. Ask questions: (and listen)

  1. What’s working?
  2. What’s giving you energy?
  3. How are you using your strengths?
  4. Tell me about a recent success?
  5. What would make work more enjoyable?

Send a list of questions to your direct report with this note. “Please pick three or four questions you would like to discuss at our one-on-one.”

#3. Pop the cork on pressure for quick answers.

When problems emerge, lean in. Ask questions. Whenever possible, provide opportunities for people to solve their own problems.

The person who solves the problem has the power.

Enhance the power of others by making room for them to solve their own problems.

Running with the ball:

  1. That’s a great question.
  2. Let me look into this.
  3. I’ll get back to you this afternoon. (ALWAYS follow-through when you say you’ll follow-up.)

Passing the ball to others:

  1. What do you think?
  2. What would you like to do about that?
  3. What small actions might make this better?


#1. Location matters:

  1. Go to their office. Take every opportunity to elevate the comfort and power of others.
  2. Go for a walk. Walking side-by-side lowers stress and increases openness.
  3. Go to a coffee shop.

#2. Go beyond work:

  1. “How’s the family?”
  2. Share something about yourself. Invite connection. Open your heart.
  3. Leverage common interests.

#3. Talk about good more than bad. (3:1)

  1. Notice progress.
  2. Honor success.
  3. Talk about things you like.
  4. Show respect for effort.
  5. Appreciate character qualities. (Grit, attention to detail, social skill, optimism, etc.)

#4. Frequency matters.

Frequent and brief one-on-ones are better than long quarterly one-on-ones. Try 15 minutes twice a month.

What should leaders avoid during one-on-ones?

What tips for successful one-on-ones might you add?

Bonus material:

One-on-one worksheet (pdf)

Bill Campbell Teaches a Google VP how to lead one-on-ones: