Among the most challenging subjects for managers across industries, performance related conversations with team members is always somewhere on top. Now why is this so complicated? Isn’t it something like “Hey Jack, you’ve done a good job but I know you can make it even better…”?
Well, reality shows us that conversations about performance have an important impact on employee engagement which leads to….you guessed it…business performance. It also has an impact on how people asses their manager’s level of interest regarding their own development, so it contributes to the perceptions people have about the department and the company as a whole.
So, what would be the top 5 things to watch for during a performance conversation?
1. Set up the environment
Having a conversation is more than exchanging opinions. Being open and fair about the purpose of a performance dialogue sets up the right tone and allows your team members to think about their role and how they support the team in the long run. It means people are more prepared and willing to participate in a quality conversation with their manager than just hearing what is being said about their performance.
Another important fact about the environment also relates to the “quantity”: the recurrence of this activity. While this is a manager’s individual choice (not taking into consideration any organizational procedures to asses employees) it is advisable to hold more than one meeting per performance cycle. So, according to the characteristics of your project, at least once every 3 months could be a safe bet.
2. Talk about the impact
A quality conversation is also more about the “Why” instead of the “What”. Not all people have the visibility or experience to understand they have an impact on the organization, so don’t assume they know. Explain how their work impacts the project and organization as a whole. Make it easy to understand, focus on high impact tasks and check for understanding.
Having an impact on something bigger than ourselves is a proven motivational factor so don’t let this opportunity pass by. It is also a good exercise for yourself as a manager as well: what is your impact on the organization?
3. Get the other person’s feedback
Yes, before yours. Why? Because you may find unexpected approaches or brilliant ideas and you can check if you have the same understanding regarding the performance level. This exercise will also offer you the opportunity to actively listen to what is being said and customize your speech and arguments based on the other person’s needs instead of a non-personal, formal approach.
4. Allow space for strong points and concerns.
Behaviors that are valuable for the business and team should be addressed first. And that is because in real life people are motivated by the things they are appreciated on. It may be not as easy at first, because we have a natural tendency to point out what’s not working and take good things for granted.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should hide your concerns about behaviors or performance. On the contrary, being balanced in considering strong and weak points usually opens the way to a more productive conversation, as people will be less defensive and more oriented towards improvement.
5. Leave with a plan
Performance conversations are more than just a nice chat, they focus on developing the people and the business as a whole.
A plan to address future behaviors, to offer a different kind of support or setting up a plan to implement new tasks are all examples of action driven conversations. Having an agreement on those moves your focus on the future and not the past, allowing people not only to talk about but also act for their development.
Specialist in Project Management, Soft Skills