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Among the themes most challenging for managers across industries, performance related conversations with team members is always somewhere on top. Now why is that 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 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 evaluate their manager’s level of interest on their own development so it contributed to the perceptions people have about the department and 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 on 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 managers individual choice (besides any organizational procedures to evaluate employees) it is advisable to be held more than once per performance cycle. So, according the characteristics of your project, at least once every 3 months could be a safe bet.

  1. Talk about the impact

A quality conversation is also about more of why instead of what.

Not all people have the visibility or experience to look actively or 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 proved motivational factor so don’t let it pass by. It proves to be a good exercise for yourself as a manager too: what is your impact on the organization?

  1. 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 on the performance level. This exercise will also offer you the chance to actively listen to what is being said and customize your speech and arguments on the other persons needs instead of a non-personal, formal approach

  1. 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. It may be not as easy as we have a natural tendency to point out what’s not working and take good things for granted.

Of course, this doesn’t mean to 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 improvement oriented.

  1. Leave with a plan

Performance conversations are more than 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 a plan to implement new tasks are all examples of action driven conversations. Having an agreement on those moves the focus from the past to the future allowing people not only to talk about but also act for their development.

by Dan Bruma

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