A lot goes into a great 1 on 1:

  • Covering the right topics
  • Asking good questions
  • Digging into key topics
  • Setting expectations
  • Closing the loop next time

Those last two reasons are what Action Items are for in Lighthouse; by setting clear expectations for next time, you solve many key issues that managers face:

  • Actions >>> words: All the talk in the world won't lead to change unless you also transition any feedback or coaching into clear next steps.
  • Clear expectations: You talked about it, but are you both clear on what needs to happen or change after? 
  • Momentum: When you set clear next steps, and you both take care of them, it means each meeting builds on the last one. Things get better and better. 

Writing things down has a big impact on results. That's why we want you to find a way to take notes that works best for you.

Great Managers Create Action Items

When you add to that explicitly calling out action items like we do in Lighthouse, you set yourself up to have better and better 1 on 1s every week.

One caveat: Only the manager in a meeting can set action items. Your team member cannot add action items. We're very intentional about that. Here's why:

  1. Clarity - If you write them, there's no chance of ambiguity on what was said or expected (especially important if you're trying to fix a performance issue).
  2. Engagement - Unfortunately, some managers are checked out, so if we let the team member set action items it would be easy for those managers to check out of the process of talking about making the meeting actionable.  
  3. Symbolism - As Andy Grove says, a manager writing it down demonstrates you're taking the discussion seriously and engaged on things important to your team member.

So how do I talk about action items in my 1 on 1s?

When you get to the end of your 1 on 1 with a team member (whether due to only having a few minutes left or the conversation is naturally wrapping up), take a moment to ask: 

  • What can you do to take action or make progress on what we talked about today?
  • What can I do to take action or make progress on what we talked about today?

From there, you are working together to make progress on these issues. Engage them in the discussion to see what ideas and suggestions they have. This ensures you have good buy in to what you ask them to do.

This is also when any performance issues should be very explicitly dealt with. If they need to start or stop doing something, make it very clearly an action item.

Yes, research supports this approach: The Power of Together

Researchers Priyanka Carr and Greg Walton found that when you gave people a series of challenges, if you framed that their work would be done “together” with others, they worked harder:

  • “Participants in the psychologically together category worked 48% longer, solved more problems correctly, and had better recall for what they had seen.” 

Next time you're in a 1 on 1, think about how you can help them, just as much as you ask them to do things. Even small actions by you can make a huge difference on their morale and motivation. 

Close the loop next time

Best of all, we bring those action items back for your next 1 on 1, so you both remember to do your part, and can close the loop next time. 

This helps you make sure progress is happening. Each 1 on 1 you'll then be either building momentum to the next thing and the next thing after that, OR you'll be able to coach them and remind them why something is important. 


Have questions about making the most of action items, let us know. Here's a few things that can help:

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