Painless Performance Conversations

Mid-year performance reviews … I can hear most of you saying “ugh” (or worse). Why? Firstly perhaps it’s because the conversations are only practised once or twice a year - practise something once or twice a year and you will be rusty. Secondly, performance reviews are about the past and no one can change history. What if this could be far more practical – 4 core conversations practised every day about the future? No surprises. No fear. No shock.

The underlying performance management process is like any other - plan/manage/review & reset. 

Planning is handled by establishing clear and compelling goals. If you don’t know where you are going, you don’t know how to get there.

Praising conversations reinforce desired behaviour when delivered in a timely and specific way. “Nice job” is a platitude, not a praising – observe the behaviour you want to reinforce, and note its impact. Catch people doing something right.

Redirecting does just that – bringing the team member back on track when they vary. Saying what needs to be said requires honesty and bravery delivered in a way which minimises feelings of blame or judgement. We know that people need 4 times more praisings than redirections – what’s your ratio? Why do people get nervous about “feedback”? Its nearly always a euphemism for “I want to tell you how you messed up”.

At the end of a goal, project or measurement period, a wrapping-up conversation allows learnings to be consolidated and recognition to be given. So often, we just move on to the next project without stopping to reflect on the one just finished, with the result that our people feel fatigued and exploited.

These four conversations take a minute of planning, we say “the first minute matters” – consider your intentions and the impact with your conversations, what you know about the individual and what questions or concerns they may have. Then step into the conversation by first connecting with an appropriate greeting to establish rapport, focus on each topic of conversation in turn, activate your plans for the future, and have the individual summarise their understanding of the path forward as a review, ensuring that you express confidence in their ability to continue developing and gaining the success that they deserve.

Authors: Ian Beeson and Andrew Miedler, Directors.

Blanchard Australia is part of The Ken Blanchard Companies® global network, a recognised leader in workplace learning, productivity, performance, and leadership effectiveness.  We are best known for SLII®, the most widely taught leadership model in the world. To find out more visit:

Download their white paper, The Problem with Performance Review, here.