Every one-on-one is a personal development opportunity.
It is a manager's responsibility to be regularly available for (and not to miss) a one-on-one and a team member's responsibility to show up and own the agenda. The meeting is owned by the employee because it is her professional development we are focused on. We're not here for a status update – email can handle that fine – but rather to open the pathways that lead to repeat success, removing blockers, and providing a safe environment to nurture not-fully-baked ideas.
My expected agenda is straightforward. First, focus on success. Discuss your wins since we last met. How have you moved the business forward? Be sure to have shared any necessary KPIs or project updates one day prior to meeting face-to-face. Second, air your blockers and frustrations. The most valuable data I can capture is how the org and, more importantly, I am preventing you from being successful. Third, and this is the fun part, what do you want to spitball? Use me as a sounding board to think through ideas, no matter how zany, before you are ready to present them to the team. Lastly, discuss the needs of the team and how you can contribute to addressing them.
Frequency should not be dictated by a recurring event on the calendar, though bi-weekly is a good pace and you should never go four weeks without a one-on-one. Sometimes you need to meet weekly, other times monthly. If I reserve the proper amount of office hours each week, my team members can pull the one-on-one as needed. I recommend booking an hour. It's better to use ten minutes and leave time over than to only book 30 and find yourself not getting all the face time you deserve.
I like to keep a shared Google Doc for each team member. It's easy to add a new agenda to the top of the doc, and to take notes during the meeting for reference. Obviously, it's also convenient for noting items that need to be covered at the next meeting. Notes and follow-through are critical in all meetings, big and small.
I'll discuss my role in providing you feedback at these meetings in a later post. You should never have to ask for it.