I can’t count the number of times I’ve been hired to work with an individual who has a performance challenge, only to discover that the issue goes back years, and sometimes even decades. Performance Managers inherit these challenges when they hire team members, and often after reviewing a past performance evaluation without any indication that there was some pattern that might have the potential to derail or stall a career.
The inverse is also true. I’ve spoken to many individuals who have received a formal performance review and are shocked by a rating, or by a comment related to a behavioral issue that had never been discussed (by the way, I have heard this story so many times, that I use it as an example in an exercise on responses to conflict).
The two examples above happen more often than we would like to admit in our present day Performance Management Systems. Why do you suppose some managers struggle to have transparent conversations regarding performance?
This question is complex, and beyond the obvious short-sighted and one-dimensional view of a Performance Management System - that is nothing more than a task to be completed at various intervals - there are also internal leadership dilemmas that impact consistency and effectiveness. For some, it’s difficult to engage in what is perceived as conflict or drama. This difficulty might stem from some deep seated belief or fear of losing control of the emotional field or hurting someone’s self-esteem.
Another reason Managers don’t engage in the conversation, and that I see frequently in my work with Leader Coaches, is a fear of not trusting one’s own judgment or instincts. Still, other Managers have the best intentions of engaging in the dialogue, but procrastination gets the best of them. And all too often, some hope that if they wait it out maybe the problem (or the person) will just go away. Finally, many don’t feel confident that they have the skill necessary to manage through a difficult conversation.
How do we simplify the approach to these tough performance management conversations and close the G.A.P.? Here are some best practice performance management tips I’ve learned over the years.
- Geography: It can be challenging to find the time and/or the space for deep dialogue at work. To make any performance management process effective there has to be frequent and consistent contact and connection. Connection can put down its roots in spaciousness and safety. Where you choose to have performance conversations impacts the quality of the interaction.
- Altruism: Managers don’t always recognize that their own inner game impacts what they manifest externally. Make sure your heart is in the right place before having dialogue that might impact another’s view of themselves. Are you delivering the message from a place of “I gottcha,” or “I have your best interest at heart?” More and more research is pointing to our abilities to accurately read the energy and intention of each other. Remember words are only part of our communication.
- Possibilities: Finally, remember to frame the message in a way that tells the receiver how this will support what is important to them as well as the collective whole. Deliver the message with respect and dignity but without beating around the bush. If your heart is in the right, and you leverage the power of your rational mind, then your words will mirror your intentions. Go beyond telling and collaborate on the possibility of success. Once one sees the path clearly they will have a fighting chance to evoke it.
Effective Performance Management isn’t something that happens once a year, or even quarterly. Ideally, it should be an ongoing dialogue that happens consistently. These sacred conversations we have with each other shine a bright light on all the brilliant ways employees use unique talents, skills, and purpose. This is the conversation where we lean into each other, and with compassion talk about what’s working and what isn’t.
Performance Management discussions hold the possibility of illuminating our path so that we can see our way toward being the best possible version of ourselves.
What wildly creative and innovative future would grow out of the simple practice of having a different conversation with each other?
If you like this blog, I think you will like my book The Cycle of Transformation. Available now! Call me at 303-238-9733 to learn more about creating a coaching culture.
Deb Siverson is a seasoned executive coach, certified as a PCC through the International Coach Federation. If you want to schedule time to discuss how you or your organization can increase engagement by having a different conversation at work, contact us now.