Most employees in Germany get to know individual talks with their manager – if at all – only in the form of annual personnel talks. The interviews are often conducted along an evaluation sheet in which the employee’s performance is evaluated in various categories. At the end there is often a small list with improvement desires of the boss for the behavior and the abilities of its coworker. In the worst case team leaders use such appointments to settle accounts with their members and demotivate them permanently.

With my move to NIST, I became acquainted with a completely different form of one-on-one interview, which is based on the modern American management style. The meetings of this format take place regularly in short intervals of two to four weeks and usually last 30 minutes (for the two-week interval) or 60 minutes (for the four-week interval). These meetings between the team leader and one team member each serve as an opportunity for the team leader to learn more about what currently motivates, challenges and inspires the team member. In this context, the team leader also specifies his expectations for the coming weeks and checks together with the team member whether the goals of the last meeting were fulfilled. Team leaders also use this opportunity to commit themselves to the professional goals, success and further development of their employees. 1:1s can thus promote the commitment and productivity of a team and help to identify and remove obstacles at an early stage.

As a rough agenda for my 1:1s I use the following template. Ideally, the agenda should be created together with the team member. At the very least, the agenda should be shared with the team member in advance so that he or she can prepare for the appointment. This is especially true for topics that concern the professional development of the employee and require sufficient preparation time.

1:1 Agenda and goals

Agenda-Item Goal
Introduction building relationship
Situation of the employee inspiration
Check old action items / expectations harmonization
Communicate new action items / expectations harmonization
Obtaining feedback improvement