Employee Performance Discussions

For Your Interest – November  2014

With year-end reviews coming up, I thought it might make sense to revisit how you, the boss, can make preparing for this annual ‘stress-fest’ easier on everyone – including yourself – not by diluting the messages you want to communicate, but by clarifying how to communicate them more crisply.

Are you Training Them to do the Wrong Thing?

The biggest problem that managers have with employee performance discussions, you see, is that they don’t have them soon enough. Am I right? You see some poor follow-up on the part of a direct report, but choose to remain silent because, you justify, it’s just a ‘one-time thing.’ (Even though you know it’s not.) Then, when it happens, again, maybe you decide to say something, but get busy and distracted, and, well, the moment’s passed. The next time you can feel your blood pressure rising, but are you any more likely to say something? No. Why? Because you need them to complete an important project for you and don’t want to mess that up. Meanwhile, you’re becoming increasingly frustrated by what they’re not doing right, while they’re becoming increasingly confident that they’re not doing anything wrong! 

And that’s when most managers are typically ready to begin the conversation. No wonder employee performance discussions go so poorly!

Or that’s when a manager will decide to just wait and bring it up at year-end review time! (Could you get more wrong about doing it that way?!)

Accentuate the Positive

For those of you who are reluctant to provide timely and meaningful feedback to your staff for fear of them not liking it and acting out because of it, here’s the antidote: start providing more timely and meaningful feedback to your staff about what they’re doing correctly.

Try saying this: "This is EXACTLY the type of thing I want to see more of from you."

That’s not so hard to do, is it? You catch a moment when that poor follow-upper actually IS  following-up and highlight it out as the way you’d like them to perform more often.

Connect the Dots.

Often, employees don’t intend to perform poorly; they often just don’t understand that (or why) their actions are so problematic. The ‘answer’ then is to put their actions (or inaction) into a broader context.

Try saying this: "Your performance affects more than just YOU."

Be respectful and even-tempered, but perfectly clear: There are important implications for the employee to consider. Maybe the person’s poor performance has significantly contributed to a drop in overall work group quality or productivity, thus increasing the cost of doing business. Maybe it's created the need to address co-worker morale problems that didn't exist before. Maybe it's resulted in additional – and otherwise completely avoidable – customer complaints. Explaining how their seemingly benign actions have a broader, more negative, impact on the organization is a very powerful way of getting them to see that HOW they do their work really does matter. 

Who’s Responsible for What?

Your job, as a leader, is to communicate crisply and cleanly – to insure that the messages you intend for people to receive are the ones they actually DO receive. But what about the times when you’re not as clear as you’d like? Does that give everyone permission to do whatever they please? Well it depends, actually, on how you set things up. That's why it's essential that employees know that it's THEIR responsibility to understand what you’re saying, just as much, if not more, than it's your responsibility to say it clearly – not to give yourself permission to communicate sloppily, but to insure that things don't fall through the cracks in the event that you do communicate something sloppily. 

Stating this up front makes it very clear that "I didn't understand what you meant" or "That's what you said" are no longer valid excuses for poor performance.   

Try saying this: "It's YOUR job to make sure you  understand what's needed…ESPECIALLY when you don’t."

Effective communication is a two-way street, between 'sayer' and 'hearer.' Making sure that employees know what their responsibilities are in the process will go a long way to avoiding misunderstandings, mixed messages, and conflicting priorities.

Want More Clarifying Phrases?

If you've found these steps helpful, I have several more available in a Special Report I've prepared called: “Employee Performance Discussions: 10 Important Things a Boss MUST Know How to Say,” on sale now at: www.employee-discussions.com, and available for immediate download.  

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving!

P.P.S. If you haven't already, be sure to read more about Coaching Case Studies in the LeadershipTraction website.

- bz
Barry Zweibel | 847-291-9735
LeadershipTraction® | www.ldrtr.com

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