10 Performance Conversation Starters

You’re a hero when you get hired and a loser during traditional performance reviews.

It’s a waste to hire for strength and evaluate for weakness.

it's a waste to hire for strength and evaluate for weakness

Replace traditional annual reviews with monthly performance conversations. Better yet, discuss performance in some way, every week.

Make it normal, not an exception, to discuss performance. 

7 reasons traditional annual reviews waste time:

  1. Busy managers and employees copy content from previous reviews.
  2. The goal is to get through the pain, not engage in substantive performance conversations. “Let’s get over this.”
  3. Managers often lose sleep during performance appraisal season. They don’t like it any more than employees.
  4. Managers who enjoy the process often enjoy the power of making individuals sweat. Performance appraisals make weak managers feel powerful.
  5. Feedback that should have been given long ago comes out too late.
  6. A few weeks after the review, employees remember how bad it felt, but forget their goals.
  7. Feelings of partnership decline. Hierarchy and distance go up.

10 performance conversation starters:

  1. What do you notice about the reasons for your success?
  2. What are you trying to accomplish?
  3. How are you being helpful to your team?
  4. What are you doing that hurts your team? (Insert customers, employees, manager, yourself, or organization?)
  5. What’s working for you?
  6. What could be better?
  7. What matters most to your customers? (Insert you, team, employees, manager, or leaders?)
  8. I notice…. (Describe behaviors.)
  9. What are the most impactful things you do?
  10. If things were going perfectly, what would it look like?

Bonus: What do you need to stop?

5 second questions:

The second question sets direction. Focus curiosity on behaviors. Don’t blame or judge.

  1. What’s important to you about that? (Explore the power of purpose.)
  2. What would you like to do about that?
  3. How might I help? (Help is not doing someone’s job for them.)
  4. What’s next?
  5. What behaviors move you in that direction?

How might managers start performance conversations?

What makes performance conversations go well? Poorly?

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