Performance Makes the Difference

Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

There are leaders who believe that discussing performance with an employee, using a structured process, is a waste of time for the organization and for the employee. If the process is conducted inappropriately, then they may be right. Some businesses have ceased performance discussions entirely.On the other hand, when leaders believe that their people make the difference, then they appreciate their responsibility to invest in their human resources, initiated through individual discussions about performance and development.

It’s the actions of employees that execute strategies and achieve goals. And if you value the role that culture plays in the success of your organization, then knowing how they act to deliver results is vital information.

Performance discussions offer a valued opportunity for a leader and subordinate to share uninterrupted access to one another, investing precious time to discuss issues that otherwise might not be addressed. The impact of this intense, focused interaction on both parties should not be underestimated. When facilitated well by the leader, the subordinate is recognized for contributions and motivated to strengthen professional competencies that may lead to greater responsibility. For the leader, these discussions provide a chance to clarify expectations and to demonstrate a sustained commitment to the development of people which often inspires them to greater discretionary effort.

What makes a performance and development discussion productive?

  • A commitment by leadership to conduct these one-on-one discussions with subordinates at least twice a year, usually mid-year and year-end, a schedule that enables gentle course corrections if necessary during the year;
  • Positioning the discussions as a dialogue, not a grading exercise, between leader and subordinate to celebrate accomplishments, to identify development opportunities, and to close the gap in expectations between the two parties, using the subordinate’s self-assessment to create a low-stress basis for the discussion;
  • Including as part of the discussion a review of: (1) job description accuracy (are the duties and time allocations documented in the job description still valid?), (2) assigned goal status, (3) behavior consistency versus expected cultural standards, (4) the subordinate’s professional development journey and goal status, and (5) the subordinate’s assessment of the leader’s strengths and needed improvements in supporting the subordinate; and
  • Documenting the results from each part of the dialogue to ensure the accuracy and continuity of the ongoing discussion, and securing signatures from leader and subordinate to validate their agreement with the documentation.

Motivated employees value structure, development andplan for growth. Organizations that integrate performance and development discussions into their efforts to achieve their business goals and strengthen their competitive advantage help their people understand how each of them makes a difference for customers, each other and their organization.

How are your performance and development
discussions conducted?

 How might the concepts described here improve your process?

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