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6 Months of 1-on-1s: What We’ve Learned, What We’ve Got Right and What We Can Do Better

By Emily Smith on Tue, Sep 6, 2016

I joined Cobloom as the first ‘proper’ employee: not a co-founder, not a friend or acquaintance of one of the founders. As the team grew, it became clear that we would all benefit from a formalised way to share ideas, discuss achievements and goals, and identify any problems we were encountering.

In February we took the decision to start running 1-on-1 meetings, where everyone in the team would meet with Will every other week. So today I’m sharing some of the things we’ve got right from running our 1-on-1 meetings, things we need to improve on, and what we’ve learned from them so far.

What We’ve Got Right


When we started running our 1-on-1s, no-one had any real idea of how frequently or infrequently would be most beneficial to the team. Weekly seemed too frequent, while monthly didn’t seem often enough, so we settled on once every two weeks to test the process.

We’ve found this works well: there’s long enough between meetings to act upon things we’ve discussed and to reflect on any changes that have been made as a result of these meetings, but not so long that the meetings come across as being low-priority.

Meeting Style

One of the most useful things about our 1-on-1 meetings is that we base them around a selection of questions. Will sends them over to us a day in advance, and these few questions aim to get us thinking about our achievements, challenges, concerns or questions. This gives our conversations a focus, which helps them be much more valuable and actionable than if we didn’t have questions to guide our conversations.

What We Want to Improve On

Personalising Meetings to Help Focus on Long-Term Development

We’ve recently moved towards everyone having personalised questions, rather than us all having the same questions that repeated meeting after meeting. This came about as we realised that this would be a good way for us to focus on our own personal goals, strengths and concerns, and will give Will a better understanding of how we’re all feeling about our own workloads and place in the company.

Knowledge/Action Sharing

Recently we realised that, while our 1-on-1 meetings were great, we weren’t doing a very good job at communicating actions from them to the whole team. A lot of what gets discussed doesn’t get shared with the team, but particularly if there are concerns that a couple of us share, or there are ideas that the whole team needs to know about, we didn’t have a process in place for sharing that across the team.

After our last 1-on-1s, Will put a summary of actions into Slack, which eliminates the lack of communication, and makes it easy for any of us to refer back to it at any point.

What We’ve Learned

Value of Time for Discussion and Reflection

When we started doing our 1-on-1s, there was some doubt as to whether it would be as beneficial to all members of the team as it would be for me: Martin and Will (used to) spend a lot time discussing the business at home in the evenings, and Ryan and Will would hang out a lot outside of work.

But after 6 months of fortnightly 1-on-1 meetings, we’re all convinced. It helps to identify areas of concern before they become problems, and gives us an opportunity to reflect on our recent work.

Desire for more in-depth development time

Our fortnightly 1-on-1 meetings have made us aware of the value of dedicating time to discussing and reflecting on our work. However, due to their frequency and the way they’re run, our focus is normally on the past, or the very immediate future.

As a result, we’ve identified a need for the whole team to prioritise self-development to continue our growth. This has led to us scheduling monthly longer, in-depth 1-on-1s that focus on the skills we each want to develop, and identify three areas to work on over the next month. This will create a formalised learning process and help us make the most of our team’s capabilities and expertise.

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