Welcome to Performance Clinic, a new series from Clear Review. We’ll be answering questions from colleagues, customers and anyone with a performance or engagement conundrum. If you have a burning question you’d like to put to our board of experts then get in touch with us on Linkedin or by email. We’ll keep all questions anonymous, naturally.
This week, we ran a webinar — 5 Critical Conversations for High Performance — a really insightful look at the sort of conversations you need to have at work and how to navigate them. We explored the critical first day meeting between a new starter and their manager, top tips for a great check-in performance conversation and career discussion, and gave our insights into how managers can tackle the more tricky, but essential conversations including wellbeing and realignment (our name for the under-performance conversation). We received some very practical questions at the end and we’ve collated the answers here from our CEO Stuart Hearn, Head of Performance and Change Expertise Amira Kohler and Chief Consciousness Officer Natasha Wallace. The full presentation plus questions is available on-demand now.
Who is responsible for scheduling check-ins? Is it the manager or the employee?
So let’s start with how it works in the Clear Review model. We take the position that continuous performance improvement is the concern of both parties; both have the ability to set the meeting, and if a meeting hasn’t happened for a while then both manager and employee get the prompt to book one.
Having said that, there are organizational things to consider here. On the one hand, no one should care about the employee’s performance more than the employee themselves. On the other, some organizations are quite traditional in their outlook and will want the process to be manager-led.
There’s no right or wrong answer. The important thing is that the meetings happen and that they’re meaningful and future-focused. We also find the responsibility can shift over time – in a new employee / manager relationship it would be usual for the manager to take ownership for scheduling the meetings, but over time it might become the responsibility of the employee.
It’s hard enough to get managers to meet once a year for appraisals. How can we get them to meet more regularly than that?
This is an absolutely classic question. The first thing to note is that a performance check-in conversation is not the same as the traditional (and much-maligned) performance appraisal. I think if organisations were trying to persuade their managers to do an appraisal six or more times a year there would understandably be uproar! No one wants that! A great check-in is just that: a chance to check in on performance over the recent weeks; to consider feedback and lessons learned; to find opportunities to leverage strengths; to review goals and see if they need to be amended to keep them relevant and meaningful. Critically, it’s a chance to look forward to the next period.
Let’s take measurement as an example. Most people want measurement data around performance management — and rightly so — but I’ve seen some very convoluted, complex ways of ranking and rating people. Something like that can add a layer of detail and busywork that you just don’t need if you’re meeting regularly. No one is suggesting that measurement is removed, but if you have regular check-ins to discuss performance, that should give the manager an excellent idea of how the employee is performing. Does adding a “4 out of 5” to the end of that really give you any insight that you didn’t have already?
The point of continuous performance management is to focus your energy on the things that make performance better. In the vast majority of cases, you see the value when you have the meetings.
You talked about the importance of the manager having a wellness conversation when an individual may be struggling with work, home, or their feelings at work. Surely managers are the group facing the biggest risk of physical and mental health issues? Where do they fit into this picture?
You are absolutely right — managers are employees too. Sometimes we forget that. And whilst I don’t know if they’re the most at risk, certainly it’s something we need to be aware of.
How do you address this? A wellbeing mindset and culture has to permeate the organization. Just as managers need to be aware of the strain their employees are under, so senior leaders need to do the same for managers.
When organisations start having conversations in a more open way, this makes a significant difference. When everyone (from the CEO down) is able to notice and be aware of the challenges their colleagues are facing, that will help. Create the environment. Make people aware that it’s okay and healthy to speak up. If you work in a culture where you hardly ever speak to your manager (or your employees), it’s very hard to go from that to a challenging conversation about re-alignment or wellbeing. But if you normalise the culture, and help people understand that it’s ok to be vulnerable — it’s ok to ask for help — you’re on the right path.
To learn more, watch the full webinar on 5 Critical Conversations for High Performance.