When you hear the word “performance conversation”, it may cause you to cringe, imagining an incompetent manager with a tie in a poorly decorated conference room, discussing unmet performance indicators. However, performance conversations are still essential to enabling talent in highly performing teams – they simply have to be done in a way that they actually lead the team to improve. There are several important strategies to implement now to ensure performance conversations in your organization are effective.
Quarterly Goal Conversations
First, eliminate your annual review – it isn’t motivating your employees, your managers aren’t delivering valuable feedback, and there are no results being generated. Chances are, your employees waste valuable time stressing about their review – both worrying about the result, and preparing their self-review – only to be disappointed by lackluster feedback that isn’t actionable.
Instead, implement quarterly conversations to discuss forward-looking goals and performance planning, without spending too much time harking back on the things that have already occurred. Then, ensure that you’re meeting regularly to check in on progress to ensure forward momentum.
Since issues and problems do need to be addressed, do it on the spot. This will be much more effective than trying to wait for a planned review time or 1:1 meeting – first, because the occurrence will still be fresh, and second, because it takes the pressure off of the planned meeting, reserving that time for productive planning conversations.
While this on-the-spot coaching can feel awkward or uncomfortable at first, it will feel more natural as it becomes a regular part of your team’s culture. Remember to keep your feedback task-based (rather than personal or relationship-based), and action-oriented. Offer constructive feedback for how to move forward, or better yet – game plan the solution together. Having open and honest conversations with your team will help develop a stronger relationship in the long run, improving your likelihood of retaining your top talent. Similarly, help your team to feel comfortable reciprocating the same type of feedback to you – truly ask for it on a regular basis, and eventually, they will realize it is a genuine request.
Career Development Conversations
A key component of a talent enablement program is ensuring that talent has a place to go; that it is not hoarded in one role or one team simply because it performs well there. Instead, the best talent should be encouraged to grow throughout the organization naturally.
Again, the best approach here is transparency and honesty. Forward-looking organizations involve their employees in this planning process. While detailed succession planning can still occur with leadership behind the scenes, bring the end result back to your direct reports in an open conversation. Where does the organization see their future? What is the timeline imagined? What skills do they need to start building now to accelerate the timeline, and ensure they’re ready when the time comes? Ensuring they agree with your assessment will help solidify your succession plan – and help engage them in a long-term vision with your company.
When done right, performance conversations can be engaging, constructive and informative for both parties involved in the conversation. While some planning and preparation is required, the return is much greater than the investment. If the end result is a better performing and more engaged team, any leader is sure to agree that these conversations will be well-worth the time spent and then some.