4 Secrets to a Successful Performance Improvement Conversation

You sit down for an earnest performance improvement conversation. Things improve for a minute. And the next day (or the day after), she’s back to her “hot mess” behavior.

Sound familiar?

Maybe it’s her. Some people are hard to reach.

But before you write her off as “unfixable,” take a hard look at your approach.

Center Your Performance Improvement Conversation Around These Four Components

Successful performance improvement conversations should include discussion around the following components:

Clarity: “I know what to do.”

Almost every time I work with supervisors on improving their coaching, they are sure they have communicated what to do. And, of course, they’ve been crystal clear on many levels. What is often missing 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 that’s happening. Isolate and breakdown the behaviors you most need for success. Note: “A positive attitude,” “More customer focus” and “Being more strategic” don’t count. Be specific.

Conflicts: “This is where I’m stuck”

Listen here. Closely. It’s easy to discount the “reasons” they can’t improve:  competing priorities; overload; mixed messages; customer angst. This is the part of the conversation that will give you insights to not only what’s getting in the way for her, but also what is driving your high-performers nuts and frustrating your customers.

Confidence: “I can do this.”

Okay, here comes the hard part. If you don’t think she can get there from here, she will see that a mile away. First do a gut check. Are you giving her the benefit of the doubt? Do you believe this is possible? (If not, cross your t’s and dot your i’s on your performance documentation.) But if you are coming from a place of “Yes you can,” be clear on why. Show her examples of how she’s done this before. Break down the goals into bite size behaviors. Start small and be impressed.

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

If here in lies the challenge, start by asking questions. Why does she choose to work here? What makes here feel great at the end of the day? Connect what you’re asking of her to why it matters.

Holding successful performance improvement conversations takes practice. Consistent focus on these four areas will help you get to the root cause of the issue more quickly. Don’t be afraid to ask her, “What else can I do to be most helpful?” And then, really listen to the what she has to say.