The Importance of Weekly One-On-Ones

by Garrett Jackson

Mar 17, 2023

Posted in Culture

Garrett Jackson, Formada's COO and Co-Founder

I slip into autopilot often when I drive. For years, I had the same commute and sometimes if I connect with one of those roads — I’ll slip right back into my old routes. Once, my wife was in the passenger seat and noticed I was way off course. She waited to see how far we got until I noticed. I’m truly embarrassed to say I was 15 minutes in the wrong direction before it dawned on me.

Our brains love well-beaten paths. When you manage people, you can very easily take people along for a ride without checking in on your destination. It’s Monday, there is work to do, you open your inbox, and you go. 

Without checking in, you could arrive at the wrong destination or lose the confidence of your passengers along the way.

Which is why at Formada, we put a lot of emphasis on our weekly one-on-ones between managers and their team members. 

What should you cover in a one-on-one?

We are a remote company, so we probably meet more frequently than businesses that are in-office do. This is by design. While every conversation is different, we strive to create weekly opportunities to discuss:

  • Employee goals
  • Constructive criticism
  • Roadblocks
  • The employee’s workload
  • Innovation
  • Personal concerns

The employee drives the conversation. This is their time and it must be respected. And sometimes, they may want their time back. That’s fine with us. We believe in giving our team the opportunity to use this time however they’d like. 

And by letting the team member drive the conversation, it creates a level of accountability that a managerial-led conversation simply cannot create. Do our managers come to the table with items they want to discuss? Of course! But, unless things are completely off of the rails, their agenda topics come first.  

Employee and Department Goals

I was lucky enough to have previously worked in a company that was dedicated to the concept of “PPFs” — personal, professional, and financial goals. This kind of goal setting exists in many organizations, but I saw first-hand just how powerful these types of conversations can be as a leader, because the organization made PPFs a foundation piece of its business strategy.

At Formada, our team is responsible for reviewing, updating, and discussing their goals with their manager during our twice a year reviews. This makes sure that at least twice a year, we can have an open conversation about what our team members want out of their lives and careers, and how we can provide them support in achieving their goals. 

Personal Goals

We want to know what our team wants out of their relationship with the business. Personal goals always come first. We have some team members who start early or work later. We have some who like to spend a bit more time at the gym. Sometimes, they have a big vacation in mind and need some additional time off. We support these goals! 

I’ve also had team members share their hobbies or projects that they’ve been working on. I’ve been so lucky to take some time in the passenger seat and watch them develop new skills and create incredible things.

This time is about connection and often these personal goals are the employee’s top priorities. Giving them the attention they deserve doesn’t take a lot of time or effort, but it is often overlooked by a lot of managers.

Professional Goals

Professional goals typically take the form of training, education, projects, or advancement within the organization. Our team has asked to attend a specific training or to download an online learning course. 

We’ve had individuals share a specific project that they want to achieve at Formada. Team members tell us where they see their future in the organization and we help them see how they can get there. This helps us make sure we are giving them the time and opportunities they need to develop themselves.

Financial Goals

I love this one. There’s the obvious financial goal of increasing their salary. We are very transparent with our employees about salary and pay grades along with a schedule for raises.

But there are other opportunities to support our team’s financial goals. Maybe they are saving for a car or paying off a loan. If we hit certain revenue targets or bring a large client on board, our team gets quarterly bonuses. When we can align the business goals with these financial goals, we are all heading the same direction.

Constructive Criticism

Meghan and I have been very honest with each other since we started Formada. We believe firmly in advocating for our ideas until we are both convinced of the best direction.

We have made transparency a cornerstone of our culture. No matter what role you have within the organization, we want you to speak up if you think we are making a bad or uninformed decision for Formada or our clients.

This takes some team members time to get used to. I’ve been part of businesses where we were lectured that “the client is always right.” But the truth is, they sometimes aren’t. We believe our clients hire us for our expertise. Every Formada team member is empowered to look out for our clients’ best interests — especially when it conflicts with what the client is asking us to do.

This extends to our own leadership. If a team member is concerned about the direction we are going as a business, we want them to speak up! Our business has been so fortunate to have team members speak their minds. We owe them for better policies, processes, and services. 

We are always better for their constructive criticism.

This primarily reaches us through weekly one-on-ones where team members can feel more comfortable sharing this input. While we’d love them to speak up in a team setting, we understand that personalities vary—so one-on-ones create that space for everyone.


This is probably 50% of what I talk about in my one-on-ones. It’s a simple question, but it makes a big difference:

What obstacles are in your way?

This could be anything! Internal processes sometimes bury people in unnecessary tasks or tedious work. A client request can spiral out of control and they may need help reining in the project. The point is, we don’t want a team member stalled out somewhere and feeling alone. 

If there is an obstacle, their manager is responsible for helping them overcome it. One-on-one’s are not just a place for our team to identify roadblocks and have their manager fix them — it’s a great teaching opportunity as well. Helping your team develop the ability to identify roadblocks and tackle them is some of the most important work a manager can do. These meetings are a great time to model that.


Sometimes, it’s the amount of work itself that is getting in the way of success. We are a startup. We do our best to manage and balance our workloads. We are committed to a strong work/life balance for our team. However, workloads can get out of alignment with that vision.

Our managers use one-on-ones as a time to review what’s on the team members plate and to check in on how manageable it feels. That’s an important distinction. It’s easy for a manager to see their tasks in our project management system, but it could feel totally different from one team member to the next. 

We use this time to delegate and train on better delegation. If there isn’t someone to delegate the task to, we can reprioritize the workload and reset deadlines if needed. In particularly difficult situations, the manager can also help offload some of that work so their employee can get back on their feet.

These conversations are vital to help make sure that our startup never takes more than it should from the lives of our team.


The most exciting leadership moments in my career have often started as a seed in a one-on-one. I love when team members come to a call with a new idea, process, or plan. 

A perfect example I reflect on often is how one team member came to me years ago with a plan for a new social media advertising service. She had heard the requests we had for years from our clients to build this and she decided to scope it out. Over the course of months, she built out a scope, a plan, ran a beta, built marketing materials, and then eventually built out her own team. 

New revenue streams, new leadership opportunities, and better results for our clients — all from an innovative idea and that team members’ determination.

When you don’t give your team weekly opportunities to kick around ideas, the best ones never have a chance of making it to the surface.

Personal Concerns

One-on-ones are also our team’s opportunity to share their personal life and concerns with us. This is done as far as our team feels comfortable and, again, is completely in their control.

We have had team members share with us difficult things happening with their housing, relationships, and mental health that could be impacting their work. We keep this confidential and work hard to support them and make the adjustments necessary.

This is also an important time for team members to share their personal concerns. If a team member or leader has broken Formada’s communication, conduct, and etiquette policies, then they can talk to their manager. 

We also have ways for team members to report to us if their manager has broken these policies. We don’t want a team member to endure a difficult situation, we want to address it and move forward in our team’s best interest.

A vital part of this equation is trust. And that’s something you can’t feign. I will say that without regular one-on-one’s, it is extremely difficult to prove as a manager that you are invested in your team. Showing up and listening is sometimes all that’s needed. And when you are asked to act — you act.

Arriving Together

I love one-on-one’s because they are expected. When you know every week that you will have an opportunity to check-in with your manager, you can trust that your feelings, thoughts, goals, and concerns will have an outlet. It doesn’t have to stay in your head.

Getting on the same page makes sure that you are leading your team as individuals toward their goals and the business goals.

And then you can be confident that you won’t end up at the wrong destination.

So, why are weekly one-on-ones important?

Weekly one-on-ones are essential because they help us as individuals and as a collective in the business. 

They help leadership mitigate managerial surprises by keeping a pulse of what’s happening with each one of their team members, a process that in turn helps keep them acutely aware of projects, workload, client feedback, team culture, as well their personal, professional, and financial goals. 

These conversations help everyone understand how their individual contributions contribute to our business’s goals, and it helps us in leadership positions support everyone’s PPFs while identifying concerns before they become problems. 

It’s communication. Clear, open, and honest communication, designed to help us do our best work while feeling connected to our mission. They’re some of my favorite meetings, and I’m glad we’ve made one-on-ones a priority since our inception.  


Get in touch with the Formada Team