Managing Employee Performance – Assessing Performance Part 4

This blog is part of a series focusing on the topic of “Managing Employee Performance”.  Managing employee performance in the workplace is comprised of all of the interactions and activities that take place between an employer and an employee that result in the achievement of goals and expectations.

Previous blogs in this series answered questions about assessing performance and offered feedback principles that will enable the person sharing a performance assessment to “land” the message.  This blog will provide insights into the concept of “framing” a conversation and how it relates to landing the message.

Planning for a Performance Conversation

Planning for a performance conversation can dramatically improve the outcome of the conversation.  Recalling some of the principles from recent blogs in this series, a manager needs to use the FEED framework in their conversation planning.  FEED stands for:

  • Facts – start with facts
  • Expectations – review what is expected
  • Effect – outline the impact or “effects” of the actions taken
  • Dialogue – invite the other person to share their perspective

Determining the Theme of the Message

Either reinforcement of a desired behaviour or correction of an undesired behaviour, determining the theme of the message an important part of the planning process.  By establishing the theme of the message you want to “land”, you help keep things on track as the conversation evolves and create a way to measure if the conversation was successful.

Framing the Conversation

When you have outlined the FEED approach and established the message theme, you are ready to start the conversation.  You know what you want to say and why you want to say it, but the other person may be entering the conversation with little or no knowledge of your purpose and intent for the conversation.  This is where the concept of “framing” comes in.  When you provide a “frame” for the conversation, you provide context to the receiver that contains insights into your purpose and intentions.  Let’s look at an example of two different approaches a manager could take to invite an employee into a performance conversation.

Situation:

Judy, a good performer on your team has been leading a project and things have been going well.  At a meeting this morning, Judy made a mistake in the way she handled a situation and the outcome of the meeting was not what it could have been.  Judy did not make a career altering mistake, however the behaviour has enough impact that it warrants having a performance conversation with her to ensure that the undesired behaviour is corrected.  You have thought through the FEED framework and the message theme and have decided to give Judy a call to set up a meeting with her later today (if she is available).  Below are two different approaches to invite her into the conversation.

Approach #1

“Judy, this morning things didn’t go as planned in the meeting. Please meet me in my office at 3pm today to discuss the situation.”

Approach #2

“Judy, I know you have been working hard on the project and things have been going well.  At this morning’s meeting, there was a situation that seemed to not go as well as it might have.  I am committed to helping you achieve the success you are striving for in managing the project, so I thought we should meet later today to talk about what happened.  Are you available at 3pm today?  We could meet in my office to discuss the situation”.

Approach #1 does not offer much in the way of a frame for the conversation.  The challenge with this approach is that the employee could easily interpret the invitation in a negative context and could attend the meeting with a healthy degree of fear that is less likely to help them in their development in managing projects.

Approach #2 provides insight into the intentions of Judy’s manager and the desire to help them as a frame for the conversation.  This approach is much more likely to put Judy in the right frame of mind to be open to improvements when her manager goes to “land” their message and offer corrective feedback.

In summary, good planning can help with performance conversations.  Effective feedback requires you to develop a framework for delivering the message, identify the theme for the conversation and provide context – a frame – for the message to ensure your good intentions are clear.

The next blogs in this series will offer insights into how to deal with performance gaps and the prospect of confronting an employee with difficult feedback.

As always, I welcome your feedback. You can connect with me via email or telephone or leave a comment right here on the site.

Until next time,

Dave

David Town, CHRL, is a facilitator and coach of leadership and management principles that enable individuals and organizations to build greater leadership competency, resulting in higher performance and higher employee engagement. David has a particular focus on effectively managing conversations involving confrontation or conflict. As well, he provides insights and assessment strategies for integrating character competencies into leadership skills resulting in increased trust and reduced risk for leaders. David is a member of the International Coaching Federation and is President of Your Leadership Matters Inc.

Managing Employee Performance – Assessing Performance Part 3

two young business people discussing

This blog is part of a series focusing on the topic of “Managing Employee Performance”.  Managing employee performance in the workplace is comprised of all of the interactions and activities that take place between an employer and an employee that result in the achievement of goals and expectations.

Previous blogs in this series answered questions about how we assess performance and how we can share those assessments by “landing” the message.  This blog will offer further insights into how to be effective at landing the message.

Set the Theme of the Message of the Performance Conversation

When a manager has determined that they want to enter into a performance conversation with an employee, they must first decide the theme of the message that they want to leave with the employee. It could be argued that performance feedback can be divided into two categories.

  1. The feedback is either designed to reinforce the employee’s behaviour – communicating to the employee that they are on target with respect to meeting expectations,
  2. or it is designed to communicate to the employee that they are not on target and corrections need to be made to the employee’s behaviour.

Reinforcing behaviour or correcting behaviour are the two key purposes to performance feedback.   So, when a manager is about to engage in a performance conversation with an employee, they need to be clear on the purpose of the conversation.  Is the purpose to reinforce a positive behaviour that is meeting expectations?  Or, is the purpose to correct an inappropriate behaviour that is not meeting expectations. In order to be effective at “landing” a message, the first step is to determine what message you want to land.

Maximize the Effectiveness of the Performance Conversation

Once the manager has determined the purpose of the message, there are two other guidelines that they should follow in order to maximize the effectiveness of the performance conversation.

The first guideline is:  Be Specific.

Given that we have established that the two purposes of performance feedback are to either reinforce behaviour or to correct behaviour, it follows that effective messaging must include specific information regarding what was done correctly or incorrectly. Start with the specific facts that are related to the message you are trying to land and connect those facts to the expectations that have been communicated. The facts that you share will either reinforce expectations you communicated or will demonstrate that a correction is needed in order to achieve the expectations.

The second guideline is: Focus on the Performance, not the Person.

An example of focusing on the person versus focusing on the performance is demonstrated by the following statement: “you have an attitude problem”. Using the term “attitude problem” focuses on the person as an individual as opposed to the behaviour they demonstrated that would lead to that judgment.

There are two reasons why the guideline of focusing on the performance not the person is important. The first reason is that using personal statements that are typically judgmental in nature, usually results in the person receiving the message tuning out because they are offended by a judgmental statement. When a person has tuned out, there is no way to land the message. The second reason for focusing on performance is that it provides employees with specific information with respect to what needs to change or what needs to continue.

So, rather than making a statement “you have an attitude problem”, a better choice would be to describe the behaviours that the person is demonstrating that lead you to believe that they have an attitude problem. This might include the words and language they choose, or their tone of voice and observable reactions to their tone of voice. Although, at times this may seem like a subtle difference, it is critically important to landing the message.

In summary, in addition to using the FEED approach when sharing feedback, it is important to: establish the message that you want to land; be specific; and focus on the performance of the person.

The next blogs in this series will offer further insights into the importance of creating a motivating environment in order to help an employee succeed as part of an effective program for managing employee performance.

As always, I welcome your feedback. You can connect with me via email or telephone or leave a comment right here on the site.

Until next time,

Dave

David Town, CHRL, is a facilitator and coach of leadership and management principles that enable individuals and organizations to build greater leadership competency, resulting in higher performance and higher employee engagement. David has a particular focus on effectively managing conversations involving confrontation or conflict. As well, he provides insights and assessment strategies for integrating character competencies into leadership skills resulting in increased trust and reduced risk for leaders. David is a member of the International Coaching Federation and is President of Your Leadership Matters Inc.

Managing Employee Performance – Assessing Performance

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Managing employee performance in the workplace is comprised of all of the interactions and activities that take place between an employer and an employee, that result in the achievement of goals and expectations.

This blog is part of a series focusing on the topic of “Managing Employee Performance”.  The last blog offered insights into how to assess performance and provide employees with meaningful information on how they are doing.  This blog will continue to explore the process of giving meaningful performance feedback. Continue reading

Managing Employee Performance – Setting Expectations Part 2

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This blog is the third in a series focusing on the topic of “Managing Employee Performance”.  Managing employee performance in the workplace is comprised of all of the interactions and activities that take place between an employer and an employee that result in the achievement of goals and expectations.   The previous blog offered insights into how to set expectations.  Context, clarity and degrees of freedom are key elements in the development of clear expectations.   This blog will continue the topic of how to set expectations with a review of goal-setting. Continue reading

Managing Employee Performance – Setting Expectations

Setting Expectations

This blog is the second in a series focusing on the topic of “Managing Employee Performance”.  Managing employee performance in the workplace is comprised of all of the interactions and activities that take place between an employer and an employee, that result in the achievement of goals and expectations. The first blog emphasized the need for organizations to choose the most appropriate focus for performance management – the development of a relationship and work environment that enables the person to perform to the best of their abilities. Continue reading

Managing Employee Performance – It’s Not About the Forms

This blog is the first in a series focusing on the topic of “Managing Employee Performance”.  This is a hot topic with many organizations because the performance management process they are using often creates more problems than it solves.

Research indicates that many organizations have chosen to abandon what they describe as the “annual performance appraisal” process because of the problems it seems to create.  This blog will address some of the key challenges faced by organizations in managing employee performance. Continue reading