Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for June, 2012

Top Ten Guidelines for Addressing Performance

For managers and leaders, addressing low or poor performance is seldom easy or comfortable. When preparing your next difficult performance conversation, these guidelines may help:

1. Genuinely seek to serve the employee. As you’re preparing—even in the midst of your possible frustrations—consider the value of the performance conversation to the employee. Ask yourself: What’s in it for him or her?

2. Provide specific examples that are related to an observable behavior and not a perceived attitude or personality. Offer a description of what you observed about his/her performance, behaviors, or outcomes, and talk about their impact on business.

3. Be conscious of your voice and body language to reflect a calm and non-intimidating approach.

4. Avoid labels, judgments, and assumptions that may damage self-esteem.

5. Be open to discussion (and let them know that you are) should he/she not agree with your assessment of their performance.

6. If the individual becomes emotional or seems to need some time, offer him/her time (24 hours) to “think it through” before further discussion, if they choose.

7. Anticipate the employee’s concerns and objections and be prepared to respond (versus react) by calmly reiterating the business impact of the performance you’re addressing.

8. Ask for his/her recommendation(s) for a plan of action (shared responsibility) — establish non-arguable outcomes (i.e., specific action steps and (interim) target dates for implementation.)

9. Offer your support. Ask how you can most effectively help.

10. Schedule a follow-up meeting (before leaving this meeting) to evaluate progress.

I hope you find these guidelines validating and/or helpful. In your own experience, when you’re preparing or facilitating difficult performance conversations, what’s worked well for you?

Assumptions not necessarily aligned with truth.

Thought I’d share an article I had published this morning in the Business Section of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

—Don’t Assume, Have a Conversation—

Assumptions are frequently made in lieu of communicating directly with another person and asking for accurate information. This is particularly true in the workplace, where—for so many interesting reasons—we’re conditioned to be careful about being too honest or open. Go figure.

I have a bird’s eye view of this dynamic in my work, as employees share candidly with me what they’ve yet to share with a manager, colleague or employee. I still find myself surprised, when I hear several sides of a situation, at how often people witness a behavior and then misunderstand its meaning, based on their own assumptions about where the behavior and/or the intent is coming from.

When experiencing frustrations, conflict or a lack of clear communication, it’s not uncommon for us to make assumptions and judge others based on how we believe we would feel in a similar situation simply based on how we uniquely see the world.

Here’s the good news. In my experience, most people are decent human beings, who may be communicating poorly, or even selfishly, in a tough situation. They’re not intentionally trying to make it difficult for others.

So how do we avoid making inaccurate assumptions that may negatively affect our relationships at work? We can be honest, respectful and have a conversation.

Reaching out to others for clarification and probing to understand someone else’s reality are powerful methods for breaking down barriers, building relationships and minimizing conflict at work. If we continue to remind ourselves that our world view may not be the same as our neighbor’s or coworker’s, perhaps we’ll continue to see the benefit of sharing our reality and learning more about theirs.