As I mentioned in my previous BLOG, performance reviews can be viewed as one of the most dreaded workplace rituals. There’s no two ways about it—effective face-to-face performance reviews play an essential role in successfully building your team. Doing these well takes leadership courage and discretion. Also, most leaders are having to recalibrate goals with their employees due to COVID 19. To make the most of mid-year performance check-ins, I’ve identified several competencies leaders can focus on below. This BLOG will address a few of the most important communication skills for you (in the context of a performance feedback meeting).
The communication skills I will focus on are: non-threatening physical presence, active listening, and proper questioning techniques. Mastery of these components, as well as understanding each employees’ DISC behavior profile, will help ensure successful performance review outcomes.
In Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, author Peter Drucker cites, “Downward communications cannot work and do not work. They come after upward communications have been successfully established.” In other words, if at any point in a performance review you’re planning on giving feedback, you want the employee ready to listen. You can be more inclusive by requesting performance input from the employee first. They are more likely to feel they are valued by you. One way you can encourage this is with body language. You are letting them know you are engaged and want to hear from them; by maintaining a comfortable forward lean, using eye contact, nodding your head when you’re in agreement, avoiding distractions like cell phones and computers, etc. You demonstrate you are truly present for them. Consider these trust building opportunities as important for both of you.
As an active listener, you’re doing more than just hearing the other person. You must be fully focused on the employee. Listen without judging and don’t interrupt. Repeating what you’ve heard confirms you understand what they’ve shared with you. For example – “So, I heard you say you need help dealing with a member of your team. Is that correct?” The sense of sight is also involved. As an active listener you choose to hear but also pay attention to facial expressions, nonverbal cues and displays of emotion, then respond accordingly. If your employee looks distressed you might say, “You look frustrated. Please tell me what you’re thinking.” Use your leadership courage and move toward any potential conflict, not away from it!
Proper questioning technique includes knowing when and how you ask open-ended and close ended questions. Open ended questions, when asked non-judgmentally, can invite more general and lengthy responses. They’re perfect for seeking to understand. For example, “What happened in that situation?” Open-ended questions typically start with “How”, “Why”, “What”. In comparison, close-ended questions are used to help clarify and get specific information. Proper close-ended questions should create “Yes” or “No” responses. For example, “Did you get the outcome you were looking for?” Remember, the one asking the questions is in control of the conversation!
Communicating to the Individual
Knowing how your employees like to be communicated with and how they like to receive feedback are powerful skills when delivering performance feedback. I use the DISC Behavior Style assessment in my coaching practice. Does your employee prefer direct feedback? Congenial, engaging feedback? Nice, gentle feedback? Or feedback with lots of details? Delivering vital information to their individual behavior style preference enables them to “hear” your message, process it and understand it more quickly. Each of your employees is unique by design. This uniqueness includes how they like to be communicated to by you.
You can master these important aspects of effective communication to help create productive and informative mid-year performance check-ins. These meetings with your employees may be challenging, especially when dealing with performance improvement issues. Muster your leadership courage and be prepared! If you are struggling to make the most of employee performance check-ins , I can help! Contact me here.