One of the most important and yet frequently avoided or dreaded conversations a manager has with an employee is an annual performance review, or growth conference as we refer to them here at LionSpeak. This reticence typically stems from a lack of training and sometimes a lack of supportive structure that causes these conversations to end poorly with the employee feeling confused, discouraged, and sometimes even angry. The whole purpose of these meetings is to create just the opposite for the employee: Clarity, inspiration, growth, and confidence.
Here’s a simple structure that I use that may help organize and support your desire to lift, grow, and empower your team:
Listen: Before rattling off the list of things that must improve or change, start by asking and really listening to your employees point of view about how things are going for them. Listen in two ways: First, just simply ask how they think things are going and how their performance has been over the time period you’re discussing. This will allow you to understand them better and gauge their level of self-awareness as well as tailor your feedback later in the conversation. Secondly, if they offer areas they feel they would like to improve or with which they are dissatisfied, ask how they wish they would have handled it, what piece of knowledge or experience they believe is missing, what they would do differently to get a different outcome, or how they think the situation should / could be remedied? This allows the person to self-evaluate and coach themselves… which is a skill that all managers want to develop and deepen within their employees.
Lift: Again, before you start down your list of improvements, sincerely share with the team member the things that you appreciate about them and their work. Recognize what they have been doing well and allow them to expand on their strengths and accomplishments. Avoid the word “but” if you can and replace it with “and” as you move into the next section. Remember, “but” is the big eraser of what came before it so let these comments stand on their own with a simple period at the end of each sentence.
Grow: If the employee has some blind spots about their performance, deliver these points directly, respectfully, and framed as opportunities for growth. Think of this section as “feedback for growth” vs. “criticism of the person.” Speak more to the behaviors, results, and team agreements rather than to the individual as a person. This is an excellent time to model the communication behaviors and skills that you wish to see in all your people. For example, take responsibility for any lack of clarity about expectations, goals, or standards. Don’t be apologetic for the feedback but rather acknowledge your part in any breakdown about the communication in relation to the urgency or importance of the things for which you’re asking. Model active listening, positive expectation, and separating behaviors from the person. Ask for and document the next 2-4 action steps or commitments based on your conversation.
Reverse: Use this opportunity to grow your own leadership and communication skills. Ask your employee what you could do better as a leader and as their boss to enhance their performance and results. Receive this non-defensively and create a safe space for them to share their thoughts. Whether you agree or disagree with their assessment, this is incredibly valuable feedback for you as a leader.
Encourage: Beyond asking if the employee has any more questions, make a point to end on a note of gratitude and positive expectation. Say “thank you” and express your admiration and respect for their willingness to grow and improve. Remind them of your vision and the important role that they play in it as well as the fact that you have an open-door policy for anything that might arise in the future that is hindering their ability to perform at a high level. Express your belief in their potential to grow, develop, and excel.
The cost of avoiding these rich and essential conversations is high: Stagnate growth; frustrated people; and low levels of energy, commitment, and team spirit… not to mention unmet goals and potential. We can’t read each other’s minds, and being a brave, respectful, clear, and inspiring communicator is the hallmark of a great leader and of highly-functioning team members. If you don’t have these on your schedule, do it now. With the right structure, intention, and skills, you’ll quickly realize your company can’t live or grow without them.
Using creative, non-traditional methods, Katherine Eitel Belt helps professionals break through barriers and achieve phenomenal results. Her presentations help professionals communicate with more authenticity and effectiveness.