3 Steps to Making Performance Conversations Less Horrible

by Jamie Resker | Posted | Performance Management

3 Steps to Making Performance Conversations Less Horrible

What do you think the key reason is that people avoid giving performance feedback? Is it because they don't understand the problem?

Guess again.

It’s because they don't know how to craft a message that can be clearly heard and said.

If you or someone you know struggles with crafting said message, a great approach is to put the focus on the positive, desired performance rather than highlighting the current negative performance. The result is a message you can deliver without:

  • The need for a bottle of Alka-Seltzer at your side
  • Your employee going off the rails when they hear it

If you’re not sure where to start with feedback conversations, I think you’ll find these three keys helpful.

1. Identify the performance issue

A great first step is to identify the off-target performance and then describe it in opposite positive terms.

For example, if an employee lacks finesse when dealing with clients and behaves like a bull in a china shop, ask for that individual to develop a more polished and professional approach.

When an employee makes frequent mistakes, approach it in terms of having them develop more accuracy.

For staff member who chronically complains that everything is a problem but never offers any solutions, suggest they develop a problem-solving approach.

2. Be specific about the desired change

It’s important to get specific about what you mean by a more polished and professional approach, more accuracy or a problem-solving approach.

For example, here’s how you could explain to your employee what you mean by developing a problem-solving approach:

“When you first notice a problem that’s preventing you from doing your job, think through a solution and then approach me if it's something you need my help with.”

Filling in the details of what you want the outcome to be, means your employee will have a clearer understanding of your expectations.

3. Detail the benefits of making the change

Lastly, it’s useful to explain to the employee the benefit of developing the performance area. Ask yourself, “Why do I want the employee to make this change?”

In the case of the chronic complainer who never offers solutions, his or her behavior most likely creates negativity, wastes time and garners complaints from co-workers who are sick and tired of listening to this person drone on about what's wrong.

So, the here's why I'm asking you to focus on this part of the message would sound something like this:

“The reason I want you to focus on solving problems is because people will notice and appreciate your ‘How do I make things better around here?’ approach. It will make more constructive use of the time we have and it will bring more positive energy to the team.

Notice how the message is still honest yet it talks in terms of what WILL happen when the employee develops a problem-solving approach?

These keys are the core of the Performance Continuum Feedback Method®, a step-by-step methodology designed to make anyone comfortable delivering even the most difficult feedback.

Focusing on desired performance versus undesired performance

Speaking in terms of the desired performance versus the current undesired performance serves two purposes:

  1. We are more likely to initiate the discussion because the wording makes it more comfortable to deliver the feedback.
  2. The employee learns what is expected (as opposed to focusing on what's wrong) with their dignity intact

Bypassing negative performance descriptions and the resulting negative employee reaction, allows the employee to respond more positively. This will facilitate the move towards the solution phase of the discussion, which is the ultimate goal of feedback.

A simple rule of thumb is to provide your employee with the opportunity to receive the feedback and make progress on the issue. However, if it’s clear that an individual is unwilling or unable to make progress, it’s possible you just might have to turn to more extreme measures such as disciplinary action or documented performance plans.

But not to worry, you probably won’t have to deal with these extreme measures because you’ve crafted your performance feedback message so well.

Employee Feedback and Coaching Templates

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Employee Feedback and Coaching Templates

Prepare to give truly helpful and effective feedback!


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