Thoughts From Our Heads

Thoughts From Our Heads


Performance Management: 5 Conversations you should be having with your team

Wednesday 3rd April 2019

Performance Management is changing. Organisations and HR teams are starting to recognise that some of the traditional ways of measuring and reviewing performance don’t stack up in the current economic and cultural climate.

Conversations about performance with clear, objectives measures are important to be having regularly – not just annually. But performance management is a lot more than that, here are five conversations you should be regularly having with your team members.


  1. A Well Being Conversation

Employee performance is about more than the work. Organisations are starting to realise that if they want people to perform well at work, they need to consider their well-being as a whole person. When employees are giving their all at work, but the rest of their life is suffering it never ends well. The individual gets burnt out and either takes a step back to stay sane or is forced to because of health reasons. It pays to not let it reach this point. This needs to happen at the company policy level and also at the manager-employee level. Employees that know their manager cares about them are happier, more engaged and less likely to leave.


Some things to consider for this conversation:

  • Does the employee spend long hours in the office? Help them attain a more reasonable work-life balance.
  • How is their overall health and fitness? This could be a sensitive conversation so tread carefully and always respect their right to privacy.
  • How are they managing stress? Discuss strategies for better coping with stress.
  • What is their family situation? Are challenges at home negatively impacting them? Test the boundaries as some people will be more open to sharing than others.
  • Are they new to the UAE and if so how are they settling in? Moving to a new country is about so much more than the job. It’s about your friends, family, living arrangements and lifestyle. If you have recruited someone from overseas it makes sense to support them in their integration into the new country, if they settle in quickly and enjoy where they live they will do better at work and be more likely to stay. In this region many companies fail to help employees with other aspects of their move, but those that do will be rewarded with loyal staff that achieve maximum productivity faster.


Start to raise some of these topics with your team and get to know more about things outside of the office that are affecting them. Sharing your own experiences will help people to open up so it isn’t just one way. It is also really important with these well-being conversations that you are able to role model the way. It is difficult to have a conversation about work-life balance for example, if you are always in the office till 9pm!


  1. A Coaching Conversation

Coaching is a management style that focusses on challenging and questioning employees to come up with answers and ideas for themselves. It is critical for managers to learn these skills if they want others to take initiative and responsibility and reduce some of the pressure on themselves to have all the answers. Coaching conversations do not have to be formal and planned, they can happen at any moment and last only a few minutes.


Follow these tips for a successful coaching conversation:

  • Resist the urge to jump in with your ideas and solution - you may solve the problem but the next time something happens that person will be straight back to you for what to do.
  • Ask open, challenging questions - ask questions that get the other person thinking and push them to be more creative and innovative.
  • Ask questions that help them think through the process - Ask questions like, what have you already done? What more could you do? Who could help you? Your questions will help the other person to consider their plans and widen their options.
  • Allow ideas that you might not agree with to be explored – this can be a tricky one. You might think with all your experience and knowledge you should stop ‘bad’ ideas in their tracks early, and if it will have major cost, quality or safety consequences you definitely should. However there are many more situations when the consequences of failure are not critical and it plays to let someone experiment. A failure can be a valuable learning experience and will encourage the person to continue to be innovative and test new ideas. There is also always the chance that the idea you didn’t think would work, turns out to be a success!


  1. A Reverse Feedback Conversation

Feedback is an important part of performance management but why should it just be the manager giving feedback? Feedback is much more valuable when it comes from many people and in many different directions. Encourage your employees to give you feedback on your performance. Many managers complain that it is difficult to get honest feedback and employees can feel uncomfortable giving it! Usually we find that most managers are actually open to feedback and appreciate the honesty of employees who are willing to give it.


How to encourage others to give you feedback:

  • Tell the team you are open to feedback – let everyone know that you are open to hearing what they think about your performance, and that you want the good and the bad!
  • Admit your mistakes – we know that no one is perfect and it can help to admit this to make others feel more comfortable with giving you feedback. Talk openly about things that haven’t gone quite as you planned and show that you are fallible.
  • Train employees in giving effective feedback – often people are lacking the skills to give feedback in a balanced way. Ensure they know how to give balanced, objective feedback and encourage lots of feedback within the team.
  • Watch your emotional responses – your team is unlikely to be open to giving you feedback if every time you hear something negative you start shouting and get defensive. Be aware of your emotional responses, not just to feedback but to other events too, if you act out in a negative emotional manner you are unlikely to make your team feel comfortable giving you feedback. 


  1. A Strengths Conversation 

Did you know that the ratio of positive to negative comments for a high performing team is 5:1? That means giving five positive comments for every one negative comment. How often do you think managers follow that ratio? The research indicates, not very often. Try having a conversation with your team members focussing only on their strengths. Watch them for the things that they do with ease and excellence and talk to them about that. Ask them how they do it and if they know they are good at it. Often our strengths are so innate to us it is hard for us to see them as strengths. You can use a tool such as Clifton Strengths to aid the discussion, but it is not necessary.


How to have a strengths conversation:

  • Ask – What do you love to do in your job? What have you always been good at? What things to do you tend to pick up quickly? These answers will give you clues to that person’s sources of natural talent.
  • Ask – How can you use your strengths more in your role? What would you like to do more of? What new things would you like to try? See where the person’s interest lies and encourage them to think of new ways to apply their strengths.
  • Ask – How can your strengths help others? Strengths are best when they are shared and used for the greater good of the team. Encourage your team to think about complimentary partnerships and how they can support each other through their strengths.


  1. A Future Conversation

So much of performance management focuses in the past – what has happened in the past year, the good the bad, the successes and failures. In the real world most people think much more about the future than they do the past. Sometimes managers can be uneasy talking about the future when some things might not be certain – Do we have the opportunities this person is looking for? Can I meet their salary expectations? Will I even be here myself this time next year? These uncertainties shouldn’t prevent you from having open conversations about the future with your team. By doing this you can get a clear idea of their expectations and desires and any potential problems can be understood by both sides sooner rather than later. Having visibility on both sides of what lies ahead helps the employee plan their career and helps the employee with succession planning and talent management.

What to discuss:

  • Future career goals – where does this person want to be in 1, 5, 10 year time? Get a solid understanding of their career goals and it helps you to plan their development and spot growth opportunities for them within the business.
  • What are their learning goals? Most of us like to keep learning new things and for some people this will be a critical part of their life. Ask your staff members what they want to learn – formally or informally in the future and see how the company can support them and benefit from what they have learnt.
  • Do they have management aspirations? Does the individual want to move into a management role themselves? If they do you can guide them with helping them to understand what is required and areas, they need to develop to prepare them for the role.

Having these conversations can be challenging, especially if they are a departure from the normal performance conversations you have with your team. Start with an area you feel more comfortable with and gradually progress to the conversations you find harder. Manager’s play a critical role in their employees’ happiness, well-being, performance and tenure with the organisation, so I encourage you to be bold and take a step to build meaningful and productive relationships.


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