Articles


Let’s talk about your performance…

These words typically strike fear into the heart of employees, who immediately think ‘What have I done wrong?’. Employers often dread these conversations too.

Unfortunately, performance conversations have a bad reputation, which means they are often avoided, especially when a team member’s performance falls short of expectations.

But conversations about performance are critical to success – for the individual, the team and the organisation. Central to leadership excellence, these conversations should be a normal part of day-to-day business.

Research shows that regular, informal, in-the-moment conversations about performance – both positive and negative – contribute significantly to team delivery and output (Barry, Garr & Liakopoulos, 2014).

In fact, the best leaders establish weekly check-in conversations across the organisation and use these check-in sessions to clarify expectations, what great work looks like, and how individuals can be successful.

This is not additional work for leaders – this is the heart of leadership.

With a weekly check-in schedule, the leader and team members are focused on speed, agility and continual learning.

But managers often hold back from engaging with their staff in conversations about performance, including corrective feedback. They claim:

  • There is no time;
  • They don’t want to damage workplace relationships;
  • They fear the response they will receive;
  • They are unsure how to start, proceed and finish; and
  • They are not clear about the issue.

Unfortunately, 44% of managers say they find giving negative feedback stressful and difficult, and 21% admit to avoiding it altogether. Even more surprising, 37% concede they don’t give positive feedback at all (Zenger & Folkman, 2017).

My own findings when working with leaders about performance conversations is that many:

  • Lack confidence in holding these conversations;
  • Lack the skills and techniques to provide effective feedback; and
  • Approach the conversations with a flawed mindset.

Given that regular, informal, in-the-moment conversations about performance contribute significantly to improved performance, developing these skills for managers is essential. The good news is that confidence and skill in this area can be developed.

Individual managers can make significant improvements by:

  1. Clarifying performance expectations. By investing time in ensuring that team members fully understand their performance expectations, there can be up to a 36% improvement in their performance. (Corporate Leadership Council, 2005)
  2. Providing daily, informal feedback. Informal feedback is the most powerful driver managers wield to improve employee performance. Not only does regular, informal feedback directly enable improved performance, it also substantially impacts the employee’s attitudes that indirectly contribute to performance. Fair and accurate feedback can boost employee engagement by up to 40%, and discretionary effort by up to 23.3%. (Corporate Leadership Council, 2005)
  3. Coaching. The days of the command and control leader are over. In today’s high-performing teams, employees take ownership of their own performance. Managers therefore become coaches, rather than dictators.

Organisations can make a difference

Organisations that focus on continual and collaborative performance development will increase engagement and foster discretionary effort. This can be supported by:

  • Building a culture of continuous feedback, coaching, and development;
  • Focusing on daily informal performance conversations rather than rigid annual performance reviews;
  • Developing communication skills in managers to provide superior feedback;
  • Nurturing coaching across the organisation;
  • Holding everyone accountable; and
  • Providing coaching and training for all members of the team to improve.

Set your leadership team up for success through building skills in:

  • Performance conversations;
  • Challenging and uncomfortable conversations;
  • Coaching for performance development.

Let’s normalise conversations about performance.

References:
Barry, L., Garr, S., & Liakopoulos, A. (2014). Performance Management is Broken. DUPress
Zenger, J & Folkman, J. (2017). Why do so many managers avoid giving praise? Harvard Business Review, May 2017
Corporate Leadership Council Research (2005). Managing for High Performance and Retention

Sarre ODL is holding a Performance Coaching Two-Day Short Course on 1 and 15 November 2017. Click here for details