Performance development discussions or just ticking the box

So it’s that time of year again when managers need to complete the performance development discussions for their direct reports and the big theme that came through the groups that I coached this week, was rather than the discussions being an opportunity for (1) discussion about performance and (2) discussions about development, it was more of tick the box exercise.

It really disappoints me to hear this because these formal discussions are such a great coaching opportunity, as are all the other discussions throughout the year.It was also really clear to me that the managers were doing way to much work – they were gathering examples and evidence, pulling out last years documents, writing up the forms and even typing the action items and sending it back to the employee for signing.  All I asked the group was ‘what responsibility is your direct report taking for their own development?’ and the room was quite.

Whilst the managers clearly thought it was their role, at the same time they were complaining about the enormous amount of work on top of all their other work. I’m not surprised!  They are taking on the responsibility when the better alternative is to coach the direct report to take responsibility.

Because managers feel that they don’t have the time, the employee has no incentive to prepare or engage and the whole exercise does become tick the box.

So the alternative is really clear and I know that in organisations that have adopted a culture of coaching during performance discussions time, the conversations and results are very different.  We recommend that three basic steps:

  1. The person who is the subject of the report takes time to reflect on the year that has passed and comes prepared to the meeting to discuss questions like:What has gone really well this year?
    1. What am I particularly proud of?
    2. What have been my achievements?
    3. Where did I experience challenges?
    4. How did I respond to those challenges?
    5. What areas would I like to improve?
    6. Where are the opportunities for continuous improvement?
    7. What are the things I can change?
    8. How can I play more to my strengths in my role?
  2. That the manager does the same above and comes to the meeting ready to listen (first) and add to the discussion.
  3. That the person preparing the report actually completes the documents and writes up the action items, in their own words.

This kind of coaching conversation approach really assists in creating engagement and accountability within the direct report and provides the space for a quality conversation.  Enjoy your coaching!