Two employees seated on a couch having a meeting over a laptop.


1-on-1 Meetings

"Average players want to be left alone. Good players want to be coached. Great players want to be told the truth." — Doc Rivers

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Two employees seated at a table with closed laptops in front of them. They are conducting a 1-on-1 meeting.

We’re huge believers in feedback (though we actually prefer the word feedforward), especially one-on-one conversations that make sure a leader and their direct reports are in sync on the roles, accountabilities, and responsibilities (RARs)  associated with their respective Seats.

Any kind of 1-on-1 meeting should also include a conversation about how well the team member embodies the organization’s Core Values and how well they complete their Rocks, To-Dos,  and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Leaders also discuss what they owe their team members as leaders and coaches.

Ninety aims to help leaders build extraordinarily focused, aligned, and thriving organizations. The 1-on-1 tool is essential to achieve all three. 


Many companies rely only on annual performance reviews, but Ninety encourages people to provide feedback at least quarterly and even more often during onboarding or if there are performance issues.

Solely undertaking annual performance reviews has several inherent issues: 

  • 1. Waiting an entire year to let a team member know how things are going is less than optimal because of recency bias or the tendency to focus on recent events or activities rather than overall cultural fit and performance.
  • 2. Annual reviews tend to be one-way conversations rather than constructive dialogue.

  • 3. Leaders miss out on opportunities for coaching, course-correcting, and staying genuinely connected with their team members throughout the year.

Think of the 1-on-1 as a formal “I genuinely care about you” check-in.

The formal nature means leaders and coaches are committed to embracing their responsibility to help people grow. They’ve agreed to help people expand their experiences and competencies, making them more valuable in the marketplace. Great coaches care about the person in front of them and the person they can become.

Tool Overview

  • A great 1-on-1 starts with both parties getting prepared. This should include reviewing how each party is committing to the Focus Filters associated with their respective Seats, plus completing a standard set of questions that provide the foundation for a great conversation. (Ninety helps you get started with a recommended set.) 
  • The conversation begins with an overview of how the team member aligns with the company's Core Values. If the team member isn't living up to them, that’s a red flag. A misalignment here is a serious concern, so the leader must prepare specific examples and ideas for corrections.

  • Next, consider how the team member performs the roles and responsibilities outlined on the Org Chart.

  • 1. Are they competent?
    Do they understand the responsibilities and why they are essential to the company? Do they have the requisite experience and competencies to meet their responsibilities? 

  • 2. Are they committed?
    Are they passionate about fulfilling these responsibilities, mastering the required skills, and growing with the seat as the company grows?

  • 3. Do they have the capacity to get it done?
    Do they have the mental, physical, emotional, and time span capacities to meet the demands of their seat? Do they also have enough time in the week to meet those demands?

Next, we recommend moving to discussions around performance during the period (hopefully about 90 days). Did they have minimal setbacks meeting the KPIs and targets associated with their Seat? Did they complete the Rocks they took on? 

The 1-on-1 tool also provides a summary of how often a person completes their To-Dos on time. While To-Do stats may seem too granular, they are agreements, and others depend on us living up to these agreements so they can live up to theirs. These fact-based discussions make it easier to talk about Competency, Commitment, and Capacity (CCC). Consistently failing to live up to our agreements indicates a problem.

Finally, we recommend the focus shifts from how the team member is doing to how the leader is doing as both a leader and a coach. We maintain lists of key responsibilities for either discipline to assist this evaluation. 

Core Disciplines of Great 1‑on‑1s

  • 1. Think of 1-on-1s as conversations, not interviews or performance reviews. Both sides should share equally in the conversation. The 1-on-1 tool acts as a guide, similar to how meetings work.
  • 2. Put real effort into answering the questions beforehand. Completing the form in advance is a chance to gather your thoughts and prepare. That leads to a truthful, specific, and positive (TSP) conversation, no matter what side of the table you're on.

  • 3. Be ready to provide specific examples. Feedforward is powerful when it has context. Having specific examples can open the door to hearing different perspectives and gives the team member concrete ideas for how to take things to the next level.

Hopefully Helpful Hints

  • Do you have more than one direct report? Create their conversations all at once and save yourself some clicks. Multiple team members can be selected when you click New Quarterly Discussion in Ninety. Each can be assigned a different due date and role (for team members wearing multiple hats).

  • Remember, each discussion will ultimately be a 1-on-1, even if they’re all created simultaneously. If you're in person and want to get offsite for the conversation, Ninety lets you create PDFs of the completed forms that anyone can easily print out.

  • Any topic can be turned into an Issue, To-Do, or Rock during these conversations. These conversations frequently generate action items, so Ninety makes it easy to take action.


Frequent and healthy 1-on-1s are essential for everyone, and the best team members will crave the truth. Ninety gives leaders and their followers a proven framework to create great relationships as long as both the leader and the team member put the time and effort into having great, TSP-based conversations. 

What’s next? Visit the 90u Library or try Ninety today.

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