Few managers are taught how to have performance conversations, so they enter into the conversation without skill and worse still, the wrong mindset.
Ask any manager what is the most difficult part of their job and nine out of 10 will say “Giving feedback or having a performance conversation”.
Having studied mindsets and management for the last 20 years, research clearly shows the success mindset for these conversations has two clear components:
- Having absolute clarity about what needs to be achieved;
- Knowing how you are going to conduct the conversation.
Those who perform these tasks well, do the following:
1. Establish mutual purpose and mutual respect
The mindset required to enter into the conversation must always be one of mutual purpose and mutual respect.
This signifies to the other person that “We are in this together. We are both trying to help each other understand the issues and we are both committed to doing this in a respectful manner.”
Lack of preparation leads to conversations which go off track, take longer than needed or become emotionally fuelled.
Typically, the 80 - 20 rule applies. That is, 80 percent of time is spent on preparation and 20% on the conversation itself.
When preparing for a conversation, have a clear focus on the purpose of the conversation, ensure you understand what is the core issue and predict the other person’s response so you can prepare yourself for this ahead of time.
3. Ask questions
Questions help you to define and isolate an issue and find a resolution to it.
A common mistake is for a manager to enter into a conversation assuming they know why something happened and have an answer to the problem already laid out in their mind.
Your goal in asking questions is to test any assumptions and validate perceptions before you start to state your case!
4. Listen, look and learn
As the other person is talking, listen carefully to what they are saying but also make note of what they are not saying.
Look for cues in their body language, their tone of voice and any other inferences that may differ from the message they are delivering.
The objective here is to determine “What is really going on?” Is it straight forward or is there more to it?
Also remember that you need to be seen to be listening. If people perceive you to have your mind or attention elsewhere and are not listening, this is closely linked to their perception of your respect for them.
If they perceive you don’t respect them, communication and connection will always fail.
5. Share what you know, NOT what you think
Once you have asked questions, tested assumptions and concluded that the situation is what you thought, only now is it time to share your knowledge.
To do this successfully, it is important to share facts, not what you think is the case as this may cause the relationship to break down.
Facts are unemotional, whereas what you think has the potential to upset someone.
Anna-Lucia Mackay is an educator, speaker and writer in the fields of management and education and is the author of The Four Mindsets – How to Influence, Motivate and Lead a High Performance Team.
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