Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How to Make Difficult Performance Conversations Easy

Most managers (me included) dread difficult performance conversations with their direct reports.

There are countless communication tools and techniques available to help make performance management discussions better. They range from better listening to being more empathetic to being more direct. Effective performance management communication tools help managers avoid the following common mistakes of 

  • oversimplifying the issue
  • not showing enough respect
  • getting too personal
  • not gathering enough data
  • making bad assumptions about their direct reports.

Avoiding these common mistakes will certainly help. But, we find that they do not address the root cause of most difficult performance conversations – a lack of clear performance expectations.

Employees tell us, and research on high performance teams backs up their request, that they need performance expectations that have the following five key attributes:

  1. Clear and understood by all team members

  2. Credible and relevant

  3. Consistent and timely

  4. Perceived as fair

  5. Trusted
Before you invest in performance management training or systems, make sure that your performance management process meets the above five criteria. You will be happily surprised that, with these criteria in place, most difficult performance conversations will become magically unnecessary.

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