This blog is a continuation of the last couple of blogs that discuss performance and conversations about performance. I do realize one of the primary reasons that managers and leaders are hesitant to discuss performance is because these conversations can be uncomfortable. Today I will share not only why it is important to get comfortable with the discomfort of these conversations, but also how to facilitate these conversations.
This makes space for open, honest and clear communication that set the stage for results!
Here are 3 reasons why it is important to have conversations about performance:
- By not discussing performance issues the growth potential of the individual (or team) with a performance issue is stifled or even cut off. Often times the employee does not even realize that they have a performance issue. If you are not having performance discussions with regular follow up discussions, you are doing your employees, teams and business a disservice because they do not know what they don’t know, and can’t correct what they are not aware is wrong.
- The entire team is impacted when an individual’s performance is not up to the standard. I once had a member of my team who spent the majority of his day playing video games. This became a performance issue and also became a point of strife with his peers. They grew more and more impatient with his work avoidance because they had to pull his weight. If this had not been addressed in a timely fashion, the morale on the team would have begun to suffer. This could have led to attrition, poor performance, poor attendance, and a whole bag of other issues.
- Organizations that allow poor or mediocre performance become stagnant and do not grow. Complacency can be dangerous to the sustainability of organizations. Just think about those organizations that were forced to downsize and even close because of their inability to pivot, coach and be flexible (i.e. Blockbuster, Kodak, GE).
Before having a conversation about performance, it is important to write down what you want to discuss. I recommend using a list and writing down the following:
- What is my intention for this conversation (what outcome is needed)?
- What are the three keys the employee should take away?
- How will I say it?
- List 3 possible reactions, and how I can respond to each of the responses effectively.
- Plans moving forward – what are their plans, and did I communicate my expectations clearly?
- How can I reassure them of my support for their success?
Also, there is no shame in taking this list into the meeting with you. I have coached some managers who feel that they have to have these conversations memorized, and that is not so. You don’t have to use this as a strict checklist either. It serves as a guide and will help you get unstuck if you come to a place of uncertainty or discomfort. It’s also a good place to take notes. I also find it helpful to use the checklist to reflect on the conversation. If a follow up email is needed, I use the checklist where I took notes to help me write that email. Additionally, I include when I plan to have a follow up discussion and schedule it right after the meeting.
Now, let’s talk about the discomfort behind having these conversations. These conversations can become uncomfortable. I love how Brene’ Brown talks about discomfort only lasting 10 seconds, and how we can all do anything for 10 seconds. It’s true, I have tested it for myself. Once you engage with the individual, and they sense that you are coming from a sincere place, without a hidden agenda the discomfort dissipates. This makes space for open, honest and clear communication that set the stage for results!
I can almost guarantee that there will be discomfort initially. However, staying open, honest, true and committed to conversations about performance will get easier and easier. Your employees will benefit on an individual level, team level and your company will begin to reap the benefits!