Advice and Sample Agenda for your First 1-1 with Direct Report
Congratulations! You just landed your new role, where you’ll be managing 1+ direct reports (!). As you know, the first 1-1 is your first impression that sets the tone for the collaboration.
As an interim manager that recently held 5+ first 1-1s in the last week, here’s what’s helped me start to get to know someone and build rapport.
Step 1: Set Meeting Goals
Determine and share the purpose of the 1-1s, before meetings are scheduled. In my case, the focus for 1-1s is personal and professional development and mentoring, not a project check-in.
Step 2: Determine Meeting Duration and Frequency
Set the first 1-1 to be 55-60 minutes. Time will fly by (!) -- and you won’t be rushed to get to know someone. (The following 1-1s can be 25-20 minutes.)
Depending on how many direct report you have and the purpose of the meeting, will you be meeting with people weekly? Bi-weekly?
Step 3: Create and Share the Agenda before Meeting
Decide what you’ll talk about -- and add it to the agenda for the meeting. Here's the advice that's helped me:
Book: "The First 90 Days"
Gabriel Pop's recommendations:
Kommon's article on "How to Nail Your First One-on-One Meeting as a New Manager",
Lead Honestly's advice on "How to Have Your First One On One Meeting with an Employee", and
Lara Hogan's "Questions for our first 1:1"
Last, but not least, Alexis Johnson-Gresham's advice to ask "What brings you joy?" to get to know someone on a personal level
When I sent out the calendar invite, I included an agenda with suggested questions to cover.
Sample Agenda for First 1-1
Here’s an actual agenda I shared in the calendar invite, ahead of each of my first 1-1s of a remote-first company with international team members:
I mentioned that I wanted to have a chat with everyone on the Data team to learn more about you and understand how things are going. The meeting agenda is the same for everyone -- please feel free to modify/add:
Do you prefer Google doc, Notion, or something else for our 1-1 meeting notes?
What brings you joy?
What are you most proud of, since joining?
Are there any goals you’re working towards at the moment?
Is there anything you’d like my help with in the short term? long term?
What makes 1:1s most valuable for you?
Any surprises since you’ve joined (good or bad) that I should know about?
If you were me, what would you focus on?
What are your core hours?
Preferred times to have our recurring 1-1s?
Anything else you want to talk about?
Step 4: Share Common Themes/Questions with Whole Team
With 5+ 1-1s, same/similar questions/concerns/topics are likely to come up. To normalize asking tough questions, for transparency, to help my team continue learning, and for them to feel more connected (in an async, remote company), at the end of the week, I shared any questions/concern/topics that 2+ people have asked me -- along with my advice.
With the positive feedback I've received on this, I'll continue to share themes weekly. :)
You got this! Good luck!
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