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    April 24, 2023

    Conversations Beyond Performance

    In the past, sometimes the only time an employee got focused time with a supervisor or team leader was during an annual performance review. That left 364 days between conversations that could potentially make an employee more productive and feel more part of the team.

    What would happen if we only checked in on a child learning to read once a year? Clearly a responsible person wouldn’t do that. Whether it’s a conversation with a seasoned professional or someone new to the job, more frequent check-ins and conversations are becoming the norm.

    For employees who are performing well for the most part, there are ways to connect to help them. This is important because we don’t just want to be communicating when something is wrong. Everyone likes to be “caught” doing something right. It is a clear signal that their work is being noticed and valued.  That goes a long way to keeping people engaged.

    The Weekly Check-in. This may seem like a big commitment from a team leadership perspective. However, this is a critical investment of time. These don’t have to be long. If you have a specific agenda with just one or two items, these can be 10 minutes. If possible, always try to recognize something specific that person is doing. Hopefully one of those is positive. If you know that something big has happened in their life, take the time to mention it (i.e., an engagement, buying a new home, returning from a vacation, etc.) If something has just started to go off course, it’s easier to mention in a short meeting and see if there is a way to get back on track before it becomes a larger issue.

    1:1 Conversations. These are more formal and more in-depth. Use one-on-one meetings to discuss things like career path, potential additional training, and/or upcoming projects that this individual should consider. The reason for the meeting should always be communicated beforehand. This allows for the employee to be prepared and understand it is not a performance review, though performance may be discussed in the context of the conversation.

    Goal-setting Sessions. These tend to be more of a group activity. It allows everyone on the team to understand where everyone is on a project and stay accountable. Individual employees are expected to share their progress and provide a clear picture of their next steps. Well-run goal-setting sessions give everyone on the team the opportunity to clearly communicate and create more connection to understand how everyone is working together.

    The Underperformance Meeting. When someone is not doing well, the sooner we can understand the problem, the faster it gets solved. These can feel uncomfortable to someone just learning how to lead an underperformance meeting, but it is important to recognize it is for the employee’s benefit and for the company’s benefit. In these meetings, listening is key to fully understanding a problem. It is easy to assume someone is not trying or lazy, but there could be more complex challenges:

    • A change in health and wellbeing for them or a loved one
    • Outside-of-work obligations or stressors
    • A workplace conflict
    • Burnout

    Before you reach for disciplinary action, try to figure out what support they might need. Anyone can be off for a few days or weeks. Having a conversation will help you figure out if an employee's poor performance is a habit or recent development. The goal should be to share an understanding and establish the next steps.

    Regular, scheduled communications throughout the year can mean better engagement from everyone on the team. It allows both the employee and the team leader to share information on a more regular basis while learning each person’s communication style and helping them feel more included in the process. It can also mean catching problems before they become a crisis. All of us want to be heard and to share our unique voice. By practicing better communications and taking the time to connect on a more regular basis, everyone benefits. 


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