The one-on-one meeting template for your end of the year review

What should you do for your end-of-the-year review with an employee? Use this one-on-one meeting template.

With December upon us (already!), many managers have been asking me if I have a one-on-one meeting template for their end-of-the-year review with a direct report.

Yes, I do have one 🙂

The end of the year is an opportune time – an ideal time, truly – to reflect together with your direct report, on what went well, what didn’t, in what they were most encouraged, and in what ways they weren’t.

In fact, your year-end one-on-one meeting can establish a cohesive narrative for you and your direct report that “we’re good”. (Or, conversely, it may reveal the even-more-important insight that “Hmm, maybe this isn’t likely a good fit for the both of us.”)

This is a meaningful narrative to have as you dive into another fresh year. It’s hard to know how far you’ve come if you never take a moment to pause, reflect, and acknowledge that “Oh wow, we have come far.” This one-on-one meeting sets that tone – and you should treat the conversation as such.

As a result, the year-end one-on-one meeting isn’t a formal year-end performance review where you’re asking someone to evaluate themselves or rate their performance on a scale of 1 to 10. No, no, no.

If this one-on-one meeting is as much about setting the tone for your working relationship as it is identifying areas of improvement and growth for next year, then your questions need to be different than the cookie-cutter performance review questions that we typically cycle through the mill.

Here’s how. To have your year-end one-on-one meeting be reflective, constructive, and dare I say rejuvenating, use this one-on-one meeting template:

Catching up (10 – 15 minutes):

  • What are you most looking forward to this holiday season?
  • How has the workflow with the end of the year crunch been feeling?

Reflections on the past year (30 – 45 minutes):

  • When you consider this past year in full, how do you feel about the progress you personally made? How about the progress your team made?
  • How did the pace of work, and the pace of progress feel across the year?
  • When did you feel most proud to be a part of the company this past year?
  • When did you feel most discouraged last year?
  • Who’s help or support on the team have you been most appreciative of?
  • What do you think has been the biggest area of growth for you? A time where you thought, “Woah, I really got better at this” or “I really learned something?”
  • Are there any ways that you’ve seen me grow as a leader?
  • In what ways has our work relationship changed over time? In what ways have we made positive progress? What are the areas we both need to work on how we work together?

Looking ahead (30 minutes):

  • What can I do better in the upcoming year to be the best manager to you, as possible?
  • In what ways do you want to stretch and grow in the upcoming year?
  • What about work, culture, or how the team is run do I need to pay closer attention to as a leader?
  • How can we better challenge and support each other in the upcoming year?

Takeaways and next steps (10 minutes):

  • What are we both taking away from this conversation?
  • Are there any next steps each of us needs to take for the upcoming year?

If you use this one-on-one meeting template, it’s likely that you won’t get through all of these questions in a single 1 – 1.5 hour period – and that’s fine! The goal here is to have the tone of the conversation be less about “Here’s how I’m judging and evaluating you” and more about “Here’s the progress we made, and the progress we’re going to make moving forward together.”

Remember, you can set the tone for your working relationship and your upcoming weekend with the right conversation. Use this one-on-one meeting template to steer you in that desired direction.

 Psst! Did you know we have a One-on-Ones Tool in Know Your Team? It gives you hundreds of questions and one-on-one meeting templates, just like this – so you no longer have to copy ‘n paste these one-on-one questions from our blog posts 😉. Check out Know Your Team out for holding your one-on-one meetings here.


Claire is the CEO of Know Your Team – software that helps you avoid becoming a bad boss. Her company was spun-out of Basecamp back in 2014. If you were interested, you can read more of Claire’s writing on leadership on the Know Your Team blog.

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