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Are you equipped to have challenging conversations with staff?

18th Feb, 2013

Training and feedback should be at the heart of any good performance management strategy. Yet research suggests that employees are not getting useful or regular feedback from their leaders.

Last year the Cornerstone OnDemand Survey, conducted in the US, found that 60% of employees haven’t had useful feedback from their bosses for six months. A quarter of the employees surveyed did not have any established career goals and 70% did not receive any training from their employer last year.

I would suggest that the UK paints a similar picture.

These are particularly worrying findings. If staff are directionless and have poor relationships with their manager they will be less motivated and loyal to their employer. If leaders and managers make the effort to invest in and improve the skills of their staff, they will reap the benefits of an engaged, committed and dexterous workforce.

Leadership development programmes must equip managers to have difficult conversations with their staff and provide robust and useful feedback. Managers and leaders need to be taught how to encourage employees to identify their own strengths and weaknesses. One of the most effective ways for leaders to broach aspects of an employee’s performance that could be improved is to ask open questions:

• How are you finding your job?

• Are there any areas that you think are not working so well?

Nine times out of ten, the employee will have a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses than their manager. It is much less confrontational to get the employee to pin point what is wrong and initiate the conversation about what needs to be improved than to bombard them with a list of criticisms. Also it is important to remember that, as the Cornerstone survey shows, most employees want feedback and coaching from managers.

It is then important for the manager to delve into internal or external factors that might be bringing an individual’s performance down. Are there any aspects of the way their team is organised that creates difficulties or challenges? Are they suffering from stress caused by a high workload? Are relationships with other colleagues under strain?  Leaders should strive to create a business culture that is open and transparent and create an environment where discussion about behaviour is accepted practise in the organisation.

Once the ice has been broken, and an open and frank discussion about both the positive and negative aspects of an individual’s performance has been had, the employee and manager can confirm what has been raised in a personal development plan.

It may also be appropriate to tackle the issues raised by providing further coaching or training. This will not only better equip an employee to do their job, but also boost their confidence and make them feel that their future with the organisation is important to their manager. Good management recognises the importance of individual training in relation to the organisation’s wider goals objectives. Are you giving staff the feedback and training they deserve?

Talk to us today to find out how our leadership development programme includes guidance on performance management and advise on how to conduct challenging conversations for managers.

Call the team on 01604 589675 or click here to contact us now

By Colin Graves