Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Repurposing the Performance Conversation

Guest post by Great Leadership monthly contributor Beth Armknecht Miller:

When was the last time you had a performance conversation that went well? Or better yet, when was the last time you enjoyed having a performance conversation? Let’s face it; both parties of the conversation generally dread performance conversations, more commonly known as performance reviews.
So, why not have a different conversation? How about shifting the conversation to focus on the future and how a person can improve through personal and professional development? The conversation you should be having is the development conversation. These conversations are about supporting and empowering your team members, which will allow them to take ownership for their own personal development.

An Effective Development Conversation

To make the transition to a development conversation, you first need to think incrementally.  The conversation should be ongoing and not an event. As a leader, the conversation needs to be part of your monthly 1-1 meetings with your employees, as I discuss in Chapter 2 of “Are You Talent Obsessed?”.

For these frequent, planned discussions to be effective, leaders need to include four critical components to the conversation.

1.     The Formal Development Plan

2.     Plan progress

3.     Potential Roadblocks, Adjustments

4.     Recommitment

This monthly conversation is the formal conversation. But remember that informal conversations are just as important.  When leaders embrace the technique of coaching in the moment, they are building a culture of performance development.

1.            The Formal Development Plan
Before the conversation about an employee’s development begins there needs to be a plan. The plan is developed jointly between the leader and employee so that the employee has ownership for executing the plan and leader can provide the necessary resources to smooth the way for success.

The plan should include how an employee’s development goals are linked to the company goals, what type of development and resources will be needed, and the outcomes expected from the training. Creating a three year plan versus the traditional 12 month development plan will demonstrate to employees that the company is making a long-term commitment to their development, which can influence how employees view their relationship with their employer.

2.               Plan Progress
Once the plan has been developed then the conversation moves to the measurement of progress. The progress conversation should include questions similar to the following:

·       What was learned during the development/training activity by the employee since last month

·       What changes has the employee implemented,

·       What is working and what isn’t working for the employee

·       Who can the employee share her new knowledge with that can help to develop another employee

·       What have you as a leader learned from the process

3.            Potential Roadblocks
Identifying potential roadblocks requires both the employee and leader to look ahead towards the future and identify any changes to the employee’s workload, such as a recent project that has been identified and assigned to the employee.

Will the changes impact the progress of the development plan? Are there other options that can be used to provide the necessary development that will help the development process to continue uninterrupted? This could require a shift in how the development is delivered.  It may be that originally the employee was going to attend some classroom training but with a new project attendance may be impacted.  Are there other options that are more flexible, such as online webinars?

Both the leader and employee need to come to an agreement on how the development will be adjusted which then leads into the fourth step, recommitment of resources.

4.               Recommitment
As a leader, the critical role you play is developing the next level of leadership so your organization can be a sustainable and thriving company. And the one area that is solely the responsibility of you as a leader in the development process is the commitment to removing barriers and providing the necessary resources for employees to develop to their full potential.

This last step of recommitment is your responsibility, as well as the employee’s. It is you who needs to recommit the necessary resources for the employee to continue to develop. And it is the employee’s responsibility to take ownership for his progress once the resources are provided.

With a good development plan and frequent development conversations, you and your employees can focus on the future and not the problems of the past. The ongoing conversations will be anticipated and not dreaded. Committing today to repurposing your performance review into a series of development conversations, will lay the foundation for a less stressful and more productive future.

Beth Armknecht Miller is CEO of Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. Beth is a trusted executive advisor, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer. She is a graduate of Babson College and Harvard Business School’s OPM program. She is certified in Myers Briggs, Hogan, and Business DNA, and she is a Certified Managerial Coach. Her latest book, “Are You Talent Obsessed?: Unlocking the secrets to a workplace team of raving high-performers is available on Amazon. To learn more about Beth visit or

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