I really like the topic of this blog! And not just because I wrote it! It’s because I really believe that done well, performance conversations can be a great experience for managers and their teams.  However, all too often in our workplaces performance conversations are seen as difficult, a necessary evil or something that HR has made us do – an obligation to tick the boxes.

There are a number of reasons why performance conversations aren’t looked upon favourably.  These may include:

  1. Conversations can be challenging when it comes to discussing under performance or the gap between the team member’s perceptions and the manager’s expectations
  2. The performance conversation is treated as an annual event and therefore becomes laborious or almost irrelevant if the job description, goals, organisational objectives or KPI’s have changed during the year for the team member.
  3. General lack of preparation and enthusiasm on the part of the team member and/or the manager.
  4. The manager and the team member often just can’t find the time to have the necessary sit down and formal conversation
  5. The manager doesn’t have a practical framework to conduct a good conversation

So in this blog we are not going to cover point 1 above – that’s the topic of a whole blog by itself! We are going to focus on addressing the other four points and provide a practical framework for great discussions that you can implement straight away.

Regular conversations

Rather than treating the performance conversation as an annual event, best practice suggests that the conversation should be accumulative throughout the year for example quarterly or bi-monthly, to enable a more flexible and relevant conversations.  And rather than a fixed performance/development plan, a number of our clients have introduced dynamic plans that can be updated as goals are achieved or changed.


Breaking down the performance discussions into more manageable chunks or time frames means that preparation is less time consuming.  A very important point to consider here is that the team member is the one that needs to take the most responsibility for preparing, initiating the discussions, driving the conversation and agreeing future actions or plans.

Too often team members complain that their managers haven’t initiated the conversation – but by contrast, our experience and the experience of our clients suggests that better outcomes are likely to be achieved overall when a team member takes responsibility for the performance discussions.

Building enthusiasm

Having more regular conversations means that the manager and team members are more likely to be enthusiastic about the discussions, because they are: typically shorter; take less preparation; are more relevant and an opportunity for continuous improvement; robust discussions; enable more direction and communication.  Conversations that are focused on strengths (not weaknesses) and continuous improvement also enable enthusiasm and trust building.

A practical coaching framework for performance conversations

Our practical coaching framework offers a series of coaching questions that can be used by both the manager and the team member to prepare for the conversation.  The model is an adaptation of the Happy Sad Happy model by our friends at the Stephenson Mansell Group (refer to page 79 in my book Bring Out Their Best –Inspiring a Coaching Culture in Your Workplace for more details of this model).

We thought we would call it the PCMPC – wow what an acronym – practical coaching model for performance conversations!!! But we decided to call it PCM for short!

Having a great performance conversation does take commitment on the part of both the manager and the team member and we know the great benefits that you can derive including increased innovation, engagement and satisfaction in the team.

We hope you enjoy using the coaching questions to prompt the conservations!

We’ve scheduled a free webinar looking at this topic. Click here for more information and to register.