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Check Your Ego When Holding Performance Conversations

June 7th, 2017
mentorWith the annual performance review under attack as ineffective and even detrimental, managers are being encouraged to hold regular performance conversations with their direct reports.

The reasoning is sound: Regular one-on-ones encourage more mentoring and make it possible to take corrective action sooner, before productivity and quality suffer. Giving feedback, especially positive feedback, on a regular basis helps keep the team on track and improves morale.

But when the focus is on improving an employee's performance, it's important for managers to check their ego and emotion at the office door.

Writing for SmartBrief, author and career coach Marlene Chism says "hidden agendas" often stand in the way of effective performance conversations. She lists five of them:
  1. Intent to punish -- Being angry at an employee over their performance makes for recrimination, rather than remediation. You want to improve performance, not punish it.
  2. Intention to win a point -- "If you find yourself preparing an argument, your focus is in the wrong direction," Chism says. Be clear about the outcome and avoid verbal sparring.
  3. Showcasing your smarts -- It's not about how much experience you have or how you would have done something better, the point of the meeting is to coach. Don't talk about yourself. This is about them.
  4. Compliance -- If your intent is to document the conversation, the meeting will be less about how to improve. Focus on what the person  can do or should stop doing in order to improve performance.
  5. Intent to prove you're the boss -- Are you going into the meeting to show the employee who's boss? Have you singled out one employee when others were involved or are you throwing your weight around after ignoring performance problems?

Before going into any performance conversation -- friendly, routine or corrective -- think through what you'll say and why. If in doubt, discuss it with your boss or other managers. Your goal should always be to improve performance and enhance morale.

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