Specific feedback is an act of kindness. – Michael Cannon

One-on-One Basics

A great, constructive one-on-one (1-1) session is where we demonstrate that we genuinely care about the other person, which means taking the time to know what's important to them and what drives them. As such, during the conversation, do more listening than talking. And when speaking, ask good questions to elicit underlying information to help you better understand the situation and how to move forward.

Learn about Harvard Business Review's Good Feedback Conversation suggestions.

Benefits of One-on-Ones


For Leaders


For Leaders

  • A regular and consistent time to talk about things that are important to you regarding your work life

  • Share ideas about how your department and the company as a whole can better support you and your goals

  • A chance to privately ask for feedback and constructive criticism or solicit advice about a problem

  • Clarify areas where you're unsure of expectations around your job duties or performance

  • Spend more time getting to know your manager and take a break from your day-to-day work

  • A chance to listen to your ideas for improving your department and the company as a whole

  • To learn where your team member's experience isn't aligned with our intentions or values.

  • To discuss bigger-picture improvements to your areas of ownership.

  • To learn more about your professional goals and career progression.

  • A chance to listen to feedback about their performance as a manager

  • Share wins and gives props.

  • Get a stronger sense of what satisfies you at work to do more to add value to your experience.

One-on-One Starters

  • 20 Alternatives to how are you?

  • What concerns about work, time management, team members, etc., do you have?

  • How are you asking for feedback via Leapsome from your team members once every month?

  • When was the last time you filled in the Leapsome Survey? When more than two weeks, please complete the latest.

  • What's the progress of your OKRs? Where are you stuck? How can I support you with your OKR?

  • How are you doing on your KPIs? Do you need any support?

  • What community contributions are you planning to make?

  • Other Open-Ended Questions (1).pdf by Paul Barnes

Giving Constructive Feedback

Constructive feedback aims to understand a scenario and work towards mutual resolution than place blame or criticize people. Therefore, when a situation requires a more complicated conversation than usual, prepare for it through the following steps.

The core structure of effective constructive feedback is naming a specific situation or behavior, explaining the impact or aftermath of that particular situation, and then looking ahead and discussing actions to avoid or reinforce the behaviors or conditions. That's why it is crucial to give precise, easily understandable, and implementable feedback to anyone who receives it.

Coachability Concerns?

Refer to Types of Justified Termination of Exceptional Situations.

Write Things Down

  1. State Facts

    • Facts are rarely controversial and often a great way to start conversations.

    • Describe a concrete situation.

    • E.g., "In the meeting last Thursday, you emphasized a couple of times that the existing codebase was a mess and that it is a pain to work with."

  2. Own Your Feelings and Thoughts

    • Express your feelings and your story.

    • Describe felt consequences.

    • Critique only behavior(s) and not people.

    • E.g., "I noticed a distressed look on Jeff's face, who wrote most of that code. So I don't think I am the only one who sees it that way. From what I can see, you are not reaching people."

  3. Propose Options

    • State what you value or the kind of impact you'd like to see.

    • Collect suggestions, but it's their scenario to resolve.

    • E.g., "What do you suggest to avoid this in the future?" Hear the suggestion, "Can you be more specific?"

  4. Request

    • Collaborate or explain concrete actions that they should take.

    • Agree on how to move on, timeliness, and follow-ups.

    • E.g., "Thanks for listening and for considering my points. Let's talk again in two weeks to discuss how things are going and if you notice any changes in your interactions with colleagues."

Prevent Poor One-on-One

1-1s are not status updates. They're opportunities for people to connect as humans over relevant topics to their working relationships, especially career development considerations. Next, each person should document and follow up on action items. And, when things don't seem to move forward, reconnect about priorities and importance to clarify expectations.

Further, don't expect amazing conversations to happen. It typically takes four to six quality conversations to build up trust and rapport with each other. Lastly, benefit from the doubt and trust each other's intentions to help the organization and others be better together.

Be aware of the unintended consequences of informal feedback.

Tips for Successful One-on-One

  • Always share an agenda before the 1-1 meeting time

  • 1-1s are about conversations, feedback, and recognition that matter, not status updates

  • Trust begins with active listening and a calm presence

  • Create a safe space to speak openly, and bring polite candor

  • Clear the network load so the video works, and we can see each other

  • Wrap up the 1-1 by writing down notes while conversations are still fresh in your mind

  • Document specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART) expectations for agreed actions