Last week I shared how avoiding conversations about performance can be detrimental to individual performers, teams and your business. I also shared that no one should find out they have a performance issues during a performance appraisal. This can be devastating and creates a lot of mistrust in the workplace. This week I share strategies to having meaningful performance conversations in the workplace.
- Make performance conversations a priority. Schedule one-on-one meetings so that you don’t run out of time or make excuses for not talking about performance. I get it, managers are busy people and schedules can have conflicts. For me this used to show up as unexpected meetings, urgent requests, or a client emergency that would arise. I would be left with no choice but to reschedule (notice I did not say cancel) one-on-ones at the last minute. I found that employees were understanding and appreciated my openness and honesty. They also appreciated my follow through.
- Be consistent. Discussions about performance need to be conducted on a regular basis if you want them to be effective. Performance discussions are in order even if there is no performance gap; good performers need to hear that they are doing well and are appreciated. On the other hand, if an employee is working to improve in a particular area, consistent feedback helps a performer see how they have progressed and where they can continue to improve. Consistency with the feedback also sends the message that performance is important and not something only discussed on a performance review. Another benefit that comes from consistency is that it also builds foundation for trust.
- Be genuine, honest and personable. Conversations about performance also need to be genuine and honest. Employees can tell when feedback is not authentic or when it comes with a hidden agenda. This is why it is important to be clear about your intentions and desired outcome. It is also beneficial to plan your conversations out in advance, especially difficult conversations (which I will discuss next week). Additionally, being personable during these conversations helps build rapport that is longstanding.
- Give them the talking stick. Conversations regarding performance need to be a two-way street. Open the floor for questions, ideas, comments or anything else that might be on their mind. Ask them what resources they need from you and sit back and listen…really listen. When this is done in sincerity, you will find that they really appreciate the time you give them. I also often found gems of helpful information that helped me become a better leader just through listening.
Difficult conversations regarding performance can often be a reason that leaders avoid these discussions. However, this is no excuse for not having them. Next week I will address how to prepare for difficult conversations and how to navigate them.