One on One Meetings

10 Ways to Motivate Employees with One on One Meetings

One on one meetings can be the most strategic tool to empower and motivate employees. As a manger, you can employ many ways in a one on one meeting to inspire your direct reports. Read this blog to find out more.

10 Ways to Use One On One Meetings to Motivate Employees


As a manager, one of your major responsibilities is to motivate employees and keep them engaged.

In fact, employee motivation is an important outcome that a manager seeks from a successful one on one meeting. 

However, what does it take for your direct reports to feel motivated? What triggers their enthusiasm and inspires them to give their best at work? What keeps their pace of productivity intact and induces creativity in their performance? 

In this article, we discuss what constitutes motivation for employees and how you can achieve it with a constructive one-on-one meeting.



What do employees need to feel motivated?

Imagine arriving every day at the office in the best of your spirits and ticking off your tasks successfully without any challenges.

Sounds great but quite unbelievable, right?

About 70% of the millennials cite lack of motivation at work as a common problem. Interestingly, millennials constitute the majority of the workforce at present and their presence is expected to increase to 75% by 2030

As a manager, you are in charge of handling millennials’ emotions and ensuring that they are motivated to contribute their best effort to the organization. 

Lack of motivation is not a welcome phenomenon yet many employees are likely to experience it on certain days.

Sometimes, the absence of motivation is intrinsic; you might have called it a day too late last night or your morning might not have started on a cheerful note. 

However, motivation at the workplace depends upon factors ranging from team dynamics, quality of work and relationship between a direct report and her manager.   


Motivation is a non-tangible asset with tangible results for you and the organization.


An employee’s motivation depends largely on how valued and appreciated they feel at their workplace.

When they join an organisation, they start with a hope to excel and make a mark with their professional capabilities.

If they find that their work environment values their contribution and dedication, they are likely to be more motivated.


“The way you treat people determines whether you will get their best effort, a perfunctory effort, or an effort to sabotage you”

Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor


Before you figure out ways to motivate your employees, you need to know what it is that gets them excited about work.

Our interactions with managers and their teams, from various companies across all sectors, have helped us delve deeper into their psyche.

Here’s what we have learnt so far. 

1Being productive enhances employee motivation

It is always a good feeling to know that your competencies are being utilized in the best manner. It has often been reported that employee motivation has a positive impact on productivity.

Interestingly, it works the other way round too. 

Employees associate their job and its responsibilities as a validation of their expertise.

Their good performance has a direct impact on their self-confidence.


A good day at work fuels the desire to be better the next day.


That is why great performances and improved productivity at work generally culminate with consistency.

A productive employee has the self-belief of taking up bigger responsibilities, claiming ownership and flourishing with autonomy. 

2Achieving personal goals boosts employee motivation

Let’s explain this with a story. Steffi is an accountant in a renowned firm. She has an immense workload when the tax season closes down.

She aims at completing five tax worksheets everyday to balance her weekly tasks.

She often misses her daily mark but when she meets the target, her next day looks sorted and well-planned on its own.


Being Productive Boosts Employee Motivation


Each employee works at her own pace and has her methods of getting her tasks done. She may also have set targets that help her in planning her day and balancing life.

These targets and goals make up an employee’s mindset and contribute to the bigger goal of performing well for the organization.

Small victories go a long way in building organisational wins in the long-term.

3Quick resolution of bottlenecks increases employee motivation

Each  employee is a part of a team and her tasks are interdependent on the team’s cooperation and support.

When people work together, there will be challenges.

However, their quick redressal reinforces an employee’s faith in the team and commitment to the work. 

Employee motivation is an umbrella phrase that encompasses engagement, support, reward and recognition within itself.

Yet, it holds a different meaning to every individual.

As a manager, you need to learn what it means to each of your direct reports.

And, the most effective way to find that out is through regular one on one meetings.

How One On One Meetings help in Motivating Employees?

One on one meetings are a manager’s opportunity to understand the working style and persona of her direct reports.

Through one on one meetings, you get to  know your direct reports as distinct individuals. 

They also pave a way for establishing a personal bond between a manager and her direct reports.

In a one on one meeting, a direct report is expected to open up about his  problems and discuss his plans without any hesitation. 

Moreover, he gets personalized advice from his manager, which is otherwise difficult to receive in team meetings.

An employee is more likely to be engaged when he  knows that his manager cares about his personal goals, performances and well-being. 


One on one meetings can become your most useful asset to drive your team’s motivation and engagement.


You can gauge every direct report’s performance drivers and stimulate them to perform better. 

A forced or an ill-planned conversation can defeat the whole purpose of one on one meetings.

As a manager, you need to be prepared and find innovative ways of getting the best out of your time with your direct reports.

At the end of the meeting, your direct report should be energetic and optimistic about the future. 

There are ways that can help you motivate your employees during a one on one meeting. Here’s a list of some tried and tested moves to boost employee motivation.

10 ways to use one on one meetings for motivating employees

1Ask them ‘how motivated are you’  before the meeting

As a manager, you don’t just ‘ manage’ or supervise people, you’re accountable for their well-being and happiness at the workplace. 

The biggest responsibility of a manager is to understand what intrinsically motivates people and then, create a culture that allows them to find that motivation within themselves.

You’re not required to dictate people; rather you should be guiding them.


A one on one meeting is a tool to help a manager strengthen their role of a guide.


Every one on one meeting aims at helping the team  reach their maximum potential and highest of their motivation level.

Thus, it is very important to know their state of mind before the meeting begins. 

While setting a meeting agenda, you can ask your employees to rate their motivation on a scale.

This simple exercise will set the tone of your conversation. Your direct reports’ rating will give you an insight into their past week and will help you frame the agenda better. 

A demotivated employee may be facing challenges at the workplace and you can discuss them in your one on one meeting.

A motivated employee must be getting the right support and favourable situations.

You can find out what those positive situations are and optimize them more for better results. 

Pro Tip:  Find out if your direct reports are “happy”.

An employee’s happiness quotient depends upon 4 factors – supervisor, recognition, job, company.

Knowing how happy (or unhappy) they are on these factors will help you in setting a roadmap for their satisfaction and success. 

2Start with a check-in about general well-being

Let’s imagine, Matt, an employee, has had a rough week at home and it has adversely affected his work.

He was apprehensive about his one on one meeting because of his performance and said a meek “hello” to his manager. 

His manager, on the other hand, gave him a big smile and asked if he was doing okay.

He immediately relaxed and opened about his problems and his mind set.

Had it been a formal greeting and a straight jump to work talk, he would have been intimidated and hesitant. 

A direct report’s motivation and mood depends heavily on the concern his manager has for his well-being. 


A one on one meeting is specifically meant for developing a genuine bond between a direct report and her manager.


Keeping the conversation formal and strictly work would be detrimental to this cause. 

At present, the majority of the workforce has been forced to shift to remote work due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Your direct reports are facing unprecedented challenges and unique issues.

In this situation, it becomes even more necessary to put aside some time in a remote one on one meeting for inquiring about the well-being and the health of your direct report and her family. 

A simple question about their health and personal life will help them find a connection with you.

A light-hearted banter would help them in understanding you better.

Revealing your true and more humane side to your direct report will get them to be more engaged and thereby motivated to work better. 

Remember, an employee may give his best to the company but will always go the extra mile for a good leader.  

3Provide personalized feedback

Feedback is the most simple and effective way of acknowledging good performance and structuring a clear pathway to success.

When you give honest feedback to your direct report, they realize that their contribution matters and has an impact on the team goal.

A quick email, a pat on the back are all different ways of motivating employees through feedback.

But, nothing compares to sharing feedback in a face-to-face conversation. They are more personalized, heartfelt and detailed. 

One on one meetings is meant for such discussions.

They are the most apt opportunity for providing face-to-face feedback to your direct report.

You can spend more time talking about their strengths and optimizing them for even better results. 

Explain to your direct reports how their actions have helped in the larger context. Stress on favorable behaviour and encourage it in the future. 

You can discuss every tiny aspect of their performance in a one on one meeting.

It is your safe haven where you can solely concentrate on your direct report and their betterment.

4Discuss the performance blockers and challenges

Let’s circle back to the happiness quotient here.

Like there are reasons for an employee to feel happy and motivated, there’re also underlying causes for dissatisfaction and dejection. 

As a manager, you are required to find out what is stopping your direct reports from performing to their best. 

Your team consists of direct reports who deal with different sets of problems every day.

One of them might be facing a personal issue while the other may not be responding well to your leadership style. 

As their leader, you need to help each one of them find a solution to remove their blockers.

Needless to say, there cannot be a better opportunity than a one on one meeting to get to the root cause of the problem of every direct report.


When you give personal attention to a direct report’s problem, they find their confidence and motivation soaring.


They realize that you’re looking out for them and are willing to solve their problems with them.

Sometimes, a helping hand is the only motivation one needs. 

Here’s how you can prompt this conversation with the right questions in a one on one meeting – 

  • Do you think you would do this (a task) any other way if given a chance?
  • Would you like to change something about this action for better results?
  • You know, I used to follow the same rule when I was at your place but one of my bosses showed me a better way. Can I share that with you? 
  • Let’s figure out different workarounds to navigate through this problem. Do you have any suggestions?  

5Follow up on previous action items


Follow up on action items from previous one on one meetings


Actions speak louder than words.

There has been no other saying more appropriate for a management lesson. As a manager, keeping your words is an important way to show that you mean business.

Every one on one meeting ends with certain conclusions and action items for improvement.

For example, you may promise an employee to get their laptop replaced if that’s proving to be a hindrance in their daily tasks.

Similarly, you may also ask a direct report to prepare a task list daily to improve her organizational skills. 

When you get the laptop replaced immediately or ask your direct report about her task list in the next one on one meeting, you inadvertently tell them that you’re committed towards their growth. 

Your commitment to and involvement in their progress are enough to motivate them for performing better.

Thus, it is important to keep a tab on your conversations and their outcomes for shaping up a happy team. 

Pro Tip: You  must use a one on one meeting software which allows you to document your conversation, keep a track of action items and even collaborate on the agenda


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6Discuss career growth

Research suggests that career path is among the top five factors for considering a job opportunity.

In fact, employees who are assured of a clear career progression are more likely to be engaged and motivated. 


A one on one meeting is a perfect opportunity to discuss career plans with your direct reports.


Instead of providing them with generic advice, you can carve out a specific roadmap for their growth keeping their strengths in mind.

Similarly, you can even point out their roadblocks and suggest ways to eliminate them.

As a manager, your opinion and suggestion about an employee’s career trajectory will matter the most.

You can help them hone their skills and overcome their weaknesses. 

Your interest in their career will motivate them to bring their best effort to the table. 

Pro Tip: Instead of asking cliched questions like “where do you see yourself in next 5 years”, dive deeper into your direct reports thinking.

One on one meetings can help decode the progression of your direct reports in your organization. 

You can center your conversation around topics like – 

  • What task do you enjoy the most?
  • Is there any job role where you think your capabilities will fit better?
  • What professional development would you like to see in yourself at the end of this quarter?

7Be their mentor

People follow those who direct them to the right path.

Your designation or qualification will not earn you the trust of your direct reports. Nor will your professional achievements help in motivating them. 

Your willingness to help them become the best version of themselves will encourage them to be motivated at work.

Managers who mentor develop a team that believes in their goals and are ready for hard work to achieve greater success. 

In your initial days, weren’t you inclined towards bosses who helped you groom yourself and get better professionally?

Now, it is your time to be that manager for your direct reports. 

During a one on one meeting, you can be your candid self with your direct reports.

You have more time at your disposal ( and attention, too); thus, you can share your own experiences and ask your direct reports to elaborate more on their problems. 

A one on one meeting can help you become a reliable mentor if used strategically.

Right mentoring can help your direct report to reach their full potential. It creates a positive ambience in your team and motivates employees to contribute better.

8Make them feel valued


Make employees feel valued at work to motivate them


Freedom to give an opinion is as liberating and motivating as an opportunity of getting honest feedback. 


When you ask for someone’s take on issues, you grant them the validation of being valuable, essential and instrumental in an organization.


A simple gesture of asking for your direct report’s view on a certain topic can boost their morale and productivity by heaps.

When a senior leader trusts an employee enough to listen to their viewpoint, their faith reinstates in their abilities.

As a result, they become motivated to take ownership of their work. 

A one on one meeting is the right time to ask your direct report about their take on the team, the work and their thoughts on doing things better.

It will help them feel significant and inspire them to contribute better to the organization.

9Accountability matters

 Your direct reports, too, are an important stakeholder in your organization.

Their growth and actions are your responsibility.

Thus, being accountable for them is not only necessary but will also signify your sincerity about your duties. 

When a direct report knows that they can hold you accountable, they are motivated to go beyond the call of duty to uphold your trust in them. 


An employee may disappoint a manager but she will always outperform for an accountable leader.


During a one on one meeting, you can open up with your direct reports and ensure them that you have their back.

Your genuineness during this meeting can help you develop a long-term relationship of mutual trust with your employee.

And, developing trust contributes significantly to motivating employees.

10Recognition is important


Recognizing employees is important for employee motivation


Nothing motivates an individual more than recognition for their hard work.

It is an acknowledgement of their efforts and is a testimony to the fact that their work is being noticed at the top level. 

More importantly, recognition helps in indicating that a direct report’s efforts are in the right direction.

This knowledge helps them in planning their future course of action for better productivity.

During a one on one meeting, you have the right opportunity and space to highlight the positive actions of your direct report and emphasize on these traits.

Your recognition of their work will motivate them to maintain their dedication and even innovate at their job role. 

Wrapping Up

A one on one meeting is a strategic tool to help increase the level of employee motivation and engagement in a team.

Main purpose of one on one meetings is to elevate the level of togetherness and confidence while inspiring each other to remain focused. 

If an employee doesn’t feel reenergized  after a one on one meeting, it is likely that you are making some mistakes you can easily avoid in your one on one meetings.

One on one meetings are meant to blur miscommunication and strengthen the culture of dialogue.

In the end, our suggestion would be to be your authentic self in a one on one meeting and allow your employees to follow suit.

After all, nothing motivates an employee more than a manager who stays true to her words.

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