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How to make a monthly 1:1 happen with every staff member in your school

Karen Borchert
March 14, 2024

A lot of the research around employee engagement in modern work extols the value of 1:1s between managers and their teams. 1:1 meetings are proven to go far in improving employee engagement, reducing staff turnover, and building great relationships at work. So what is it and how on earth can a school leader make them happen every month!? 

Let’s break it down.


At its core, a 1:1 is a brief, regular meeting to build relationships with your staff and offer opportunities for feedback and ideas.


There are a lot of ways to accomplish 1:1s. If a 15 minute meeting every month with every staff member feels impossible, you can try out different models! Try splitting the team in 2 groups and doing a Principal to Staff 1:1 every other month, and have your staff pair up for a PEER 1:1 the next month! 


As with  many components of employee engagement, making 1:1s work well is all about listening personally and acting thoughtfully. Here are 7 tips that will help your 1:1s go smoothly!

  1. Know the goal. Why are you doing 1:1s? Is it to build stronger relationships? Improve communications? Build a stronger culture? Give staff more of a voice? It’s probably a lot of these things! But try to identify what you most want to change, so you can look back on and say “did 1:1s help our school accomplish _______?”

  2. Celebrate the idea! Let your staff know that you’ll be trying out 1:1s as a POSITIVE opportunity to connect regularly. Tell them why you’re doing it, (See #1!) let them know what the format will be (See #3!), and let them know that the meeting on their calendar is nothing to be stressed about.

  3. Build a system. Decide how often you want to do 1:1s, who is going to do them, and the agenda you’ll use. A great agenda for a 15 minute 1:1 can be as simple as: some text
    1. How are you? (Caring personally is key!)
    2. What words would you use to describe your work right now?  (Practice active listening by saying “tell me more about ________”)
    3. What’s one thing you think we should start, stop, and continue in our building?
    4. What’s one thing you would like to do before the next time we meet?
    5. Thank you for _________ (notice 1 thing and recognize it personally!)
  4. Take a field trip! If you sense that your team member needs a private conversation, don’t do their 1:1 in the teachers lounge. If you sense a need to keep the mood lighter, maybe go for a walk around the building. You know your teams best - pick a location and time that will make each person feel at ease.
  1. Take Notes. Many managers have an online doc or a notebook that they use JUST for 1:1 meetings. Jot down a few key words or ideas each month, and you’ll have an easier time checking back on things that were important in last month’s meeting.

  2. Don’t miss it. If it sounds simple, it is. But we all know how easily 1:1s fall off the calendar - because it’s an internal, feedback-focused meeting! But a cadence of 1:1s that you keep is the key to making your relationship better. If you do miss one, reschedule it immediately, and make sure to not miss two in a row.

  3. Show that you’re listening. At your next staff meeting, try this: “in our last month of 1:1s, I noticed that several people suggested we START doing a monthly optional social outing. I loved hearing this, so I thought we’d try it next week. Anna volunteered to choose the location!” When staff feel like their ideas are heard, they’ll be more excited for next month’s 1:1.

If you’re still unconvinced that 15 minutes a month with each staff member can make a difference, consider this: when teachers have great relationships with their leaders, they’re more likely to: 

  • Communicate EARLY about potential absences or challenges they’re having
  • Tell you about a little problem BEFORE it becomes a big one
  • Let their peers know how SUPPORTED they feel by their leader

And each one of those things SAVES you time of finding subs, solving big problems, or managing staff gossip or back channeling. Consider it a small investment for future little wins… and see how it works for you! Check out our free template on our guide!

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