Ahh, the dreaded performance discussion. Most organizations have them and whether they arrive in the form of annual feedback, a semi-annual review or simply a chat about some event that just happened, most of us don’t like them. The truth is, people hate conflict and it’s simply no fun receiving or delivering bad news. For many of my clients, one of the biggest challenges is learning to have these types of conversations in a meaningful, value adding way. Luckily, it is possible to get through performance discussions efficiently and in one piece. Here are four steps to deliver effective discussions that are sure to leave you feeling confident and under control:
It’s All in the Delivery
No matter how much you kick and scream, more than likely, you will have to have these difficult conversations. Make it easier on yourself by controlling your delivery by keeping it appropriate and you’ll have more success. In other words, speak with all of the information in front of you and deal only in facts. That means if you need to confirm what Bob from accounting said, do so before approaching Jim from IT with a negative feedback that can seem like an accusation. Anything less and you lose credibility.
The right delivery is all about being equitable, professional and authentic, but also knowing when it’s necessary to be empathetic. Encourage real conversations- both positive and negative- and avoid wishy-washy, ambiguous talk. Own the discussion and your people can only respect the process. Finally, relay to them that you do understand that sometimes mistakes or performance issues happen and let them know you’re looking forward positively and not interested in calling “three strikes, you’re out”.
Differentiate Performance From Personality
Personalities come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are agreeable, engaging and a joy to be around. Others, well, not so much. Be that as it may, personality has nothing to do with performance and it’s absolutely critical you learn to differentiate between the two. Never make a performance discussion personal. Often, some of the most endearing people make some of the most atrocious errors that must be addressed. In another case, you may have a stick-in-the mud, arrogant, difficult employee who consistently over delivers nothing short of stellar work. Keep it professional and leave the personalities on the doorstep where they belong.
Regularity and Planning
The traditional mindset is to have an annual review. People know it’s coming, they dread its arrival and then they rush through it, wasting time and energy for all involved. You can avoid this simply by planning to hold regular meetings more frequently. After all, who wants to sit in a discussion where folks are trying to recall what happened six months ago? Or a year ago? Checking in with your employees more frequently makes it easier to have genuine opportunities for real conversations.
Praise in Isolation
Performance management discussions can be challenging as many of us simply don’t enjoy conflict and would rather be anywhere else. Keep it professional, factual and authentic, avoid confusing performance with personality and hold discussions more frequently to engage your team. Finally, remember to give praise it’s own time and deal with the issues that are on the table.