Let’s say there’s an employee on your team who isn’t contributing their fair share. The rest of the team can tell this employee is a poor performer. You know you need to address it because if you don’t do something, your credibility will suffer. But what do you say?
The purpose of performance coaching conversations like this isn’t to punish the employee. It’s to change their performance behaviors. That’s why you don’t want to delay the conversation because the employee will think their behavior is acceptable since no one addressed it. The longer you wait, the harder the conversation. Here’s an outline you can use as you plan the performance coaching conversation you want to have with the employee.
- Let the employee know your concern. Don’t minimize the importance of this conversation by spending a huge amount of time with small talk about the latest season of “Dead to Me” and a little on the topic of performance. This is an important matter and should be treated that way.
- Share what you have observed. Offer specifics about actual behaviors you’ve witnessed. If someone else witnessed the behaviors, try to have that person there. Employees don’t respond well to the line “someone told me you did this…” If you’re trying to change behavior, be able to specifically discuss the behavior.
- Explain how their behavior impacts the team. Employees might not realize how their behavior negatively impacts the organization or the team. It’s important to draw a connection between their behavior and impact to the company. If negative impact can’t be explained, then an employee will question why they need to change their behavior.
- Tell them the expected behavior. It’s possible that an employee will not know what they should be doing. Come to the discussion prepared to explain what the acceptable performance standard is and how an employee can achieve the standard. If an employee needs refresher training, be prepared to authorize it.
- Solicit solutions from the employee on how to fix the situation. This is so important! Let the employee tell you what they’re going to do to fix the situation. It creates buy-in. If you tell an employee what to do, they haven’t bought into it. If necessary, give the employee a short time to think about possible solutions.
- Convey the consequences. Let the employee know what will happen if the situation is not resolved. Please notice, I haven’t written one word about disciplinary action. Sometimes the consequence is an employee will not be eligible for a transfer. Or they will not be able to participate in remote work. Maybe the next step is discipline. Regardless, make sure the employee is aware of what happens if the matter isn’t resolved.
- Agree upon a follow-up date. No news is good news isn’t a performance management philosophy. After the employee agrees to work toward improving their performance, set a follow-up date to discuss progress.
- Express your confidence. Since the goal of this coaching conversation is to improve performance, don’t be afraid to tell an employee you’re confident they can correct the situation. And that you will be there to support them.
None of us likes to have a negative performance conversation. I always try to remember the purpose – it’s to help an employee change their behavior. If the conversation stays focused on helping the employee be successful, then hopefully it never escalates to disciplinary action. And the employee understands that the manager and the company are having this conversation because they want the employee to be successful.
Performance conversations can be a bit scary – both for the person giving them and the person receiving the feedback. Take time to plan out your thoughts. Think of the different responses that could arise during the conversation and how you would answer them. Preparation will make the coaching conversation easier and hopefully, get the results you’re looking for.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Las Vegas, NV16