How to Prevent Redundant Performance Improvement Conversations

Post from Karin Hurt:

Performance improvement conversations aren’t enjoyable — for you or for them. To make sure you
don’t have to have the same uncomfortable conversation twice, take a hard look
at your approach.

The most effective performance improvement conversations are
built using four components: Clarity, Conflicts, Confidence, and Conviction.
Ask yourself, as you read each of the questions below, are you equipping your
employees to answer in the affirmative? Are you setting them up to actually do what you need them to do?

Clarity: “I know exactly what to do.”

You think you’ve
communicated what needs to change. But, have you really? Almost every time I work with managers to improve their
coaching, there’s a disconnect between what they think they’ve communicated and
what’s actually been understood. What they’ve often missed is isolating the
very specific behaviors that must change for the employee to be successful.
What exactly do you want your employee to do? How will they (and you) know your
expectations are being met? “A positive attitude,” “More
customer focus” and “Being more strategic” aren’t specific
enough. Isolate and breakdown the behaviors you need to see shifted before
success can be declared.

Conflicts: “I have your support to solve my underlying

Yes, your primary objective in this conversation is to inspire
behavioral change. Do you know the best way to do that? Discover why the undesirable behaviors are
occurring. Listen. Closely. It’s easy
to discount the “reasons” why they can’t improve: competing priorities;
overload; mixed messages; customer angst. Go after the insight you need about
what’s getting in the way of optimal performance. Chances are good that
underlying issue is also undermining your high-performers and frustrating your

Confidence: “I have no doubt that I do this.”

I’ll be straight with you. If your employees leave these
conversations with the feeling that you don’t think they can make positive
change, they won’t. Your doubt will undermine them. Ask yourself, are you
giving them the benefit of the doubt? Do you believe they’re able to do what
you’re asking them to do? If not, cross your t’s and dot your i’s on your
performance documentation. But, if you are
coming from a place of belief, show them why.
Talk about how they’ve been successful in the past. Teach them that you have
confidence in their ability to break down the goal into bite size behaviors
they can celebrate.

Conviction: “I’m committed to doing it.”

If engagement is the issue, begin your conversation by asking
questions. Why do they choose to work here? At the end of the day, what makes them
feel accomplished? Link what you’re asking them to do with what matters most to
them — not just professionally, but personally.

You may not roll out a successful performance improvement conversation
on your first try. Keep at it. It’s a skill you can refine, and it’s a skill
that will serve you well. No one wants to work for a boss who sets them up to
fail, even it’s unintentional.

About the

Karin Hurt is a keynote speaker, top leadership
consultant, and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders.
A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in
sales, customer service, and Human Resources. The author of WinningWell and Overcoming an ImperfectBoss
, Hurt has been named to Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers,
AMA’s 50 Leaders to Watch in 2015, and a Top Thought Leader in Trust by Trust
Across America.