One on One meeting — valuable feedback


One-on-one (1 on 1) refers to a communication made by only two individuals whose the purpose is to give and/or receive feedback.

A one-on-one meeting, when well applied, is an excellent tool for personal development, because it’s a alternative channel compared to common annual performance evaluation meetings.

There is no defined agenda established for 1on1 meetings nor a best way to do them. Stay focused on the organization’s needs and context, so the best format will emerge. In any case, keep in mind that 1on1s should help you in the following domains:

To know people better

André Faria, manager and CEO of BlueSoft, wrote in his post (in portuguese) that one-on-ones are great tools to know people better. Faria quotes the book “Behind Closed Doors“, where the authors, Rothman and Derby, indicate one-on-one meetings as a tool for managers to uncover strengths and weaknesses of their team members, as well as the team members’ worries and desires, fears and afflictions, interests and ambitions.

Through this relationship and by the knowledge created from the one-on-ones, the manager might be able to explore all individual potential of his/her team, towards achieving the common goals.

For feedback exchange

The most valuable outcome of a one-on-one meeting is the sincere exchange of feedbacks. To achieve this desirable outcome, some values need to be well accepted and matured: courage, respect and humbleness. Courage to speak roundly what needs to be said, without fears. Respect to speak in a way that does not offend and Humbleness to accept criticism in a good fashion, being able to ackowledge, analyse and deal with that.

A common pitfall that you should be aware of and thus avoid is to make the meeting something heavy and uncomfortable for the parties. It’s important to create an environment that allow unjudged talk and avoid excessive demands. If you are a superior to the other party, don’t transform the one-on-one into an opportunity to ask explanations or retake on due discussions. Furthermore, if you’re hierarchically superior to the other party, in a meeting like these ones, it is most likely to you to have much more to listen than to speak.

One-on-ones as a coaching tool

Developing people and their competencies is one of the main accountabilities of a manager. A one-on-one meeting can be a handy tool to think about the future of that professional, including actions and activities that the participants are willing to develop whith the aid of their superiors.

Coaching is a daily basis activity, but the one-on-ones can be used as check-points to measure the performance against individual goals. Add to coaching the recurring feedback, said earleir, and you should have the cornerstones to build your people development process.

One-on-ones to monitor perceptions

Besides the goals of knowing the people and developing them, the one-on-one meeting can also serve as a thermometer about the project’ health from different perspectives. The objectives, in my view, would be two (1) Get to know how disparate are individual opinions about some perspective of a project (Planning for instance), and (2) monitor the equalization (or not) of people’s perceptions, as actions are taken during the lifecycle of the project. An example can better depict the situation:

Very recently I started to ask team members to give a grade from 1 to 5 (1 is poor, 5 is great) to seven different perspectives of the project: Planning, Execution, Product, Business Direction, Quality, Architecture and, finally, Management.

The grades are gathered during the one-on-ones and work as great starting points for rich conversations and to understand the opinions set down.

When I have first started collecting these grades, it was noticeable that grades were very different from person to person for all perspective asked, showing that there were different interpretations about the health of the project from that point of view. See the circle in the picture below. It shows the grades given to “Planning” from two distinct members of the team.

After a while, and after actions to bring the team members closer together and other standardizations put in place during the project, we can see that the grades tend to get more similar independently of the person evaluating.

At this point in time, when the grades fall, or climb, it happens similarly among all team members, showing that everybody starts to live experiences from the project in the same way (see in the picture the highlights on Execution and Management).

The numbers about productivity of the team also follow that pattern by having better defined processes being followed by everybody, fluent communication, fluid execution etc…

Finally, a one-on-one meeting, as shown, can be very rich if correcty used and with the rigth principles in place. There are very interesting samples happening in the community, as the Andre Faria’s case and also other feedback formats, as the one called Feedback Canvas (portuguese), shared by Mateus Haddad, Webgoal founder.

What about you? Have you had any experience with one-on-one meetings? What practices and formats do you use?

About the author: Rafael Buzon

Sou desses que quer mudar o mundo e estou procurando e experimentando muito de várias teorias e práticas. Acesse meu site em

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