Keep It Going - Informal Performance Chats

Julie Caspar
December 8, 2020

Feedback is the breakfast of champions. Ken-Blanchard

In last month’s blog, Begin the Chat-End the Chatter, not only was the criticality of providing employees with feedback and coaching (F&C) discussed, but also the importance of increasing F&C regularity through something I call informal Performance Chats. Managers should not wait for the formally scheduled meetings such as year-end performance reviews before talking with direct reports on a more informal basis to find out what’s going on, how employees are doing in their jobs, discussing issues along with ways to mitigate those issues, and identifying pathways for goal achievement. Informal performance chats should take place throughout the year. By doing so, the probability of increasing employee engagement, goal achievement and advancing an employee’s capability in their jobs and respective careers significantly rise then if ongoing informal chats do not take place.

Four suggestions on how to increase performance chats include but are not limited to:

  • Manage by walking around, stopping in to talk with employees or pulling them aside when seeing them on company grounds or in the hallways as appropriate. Please note: When teams are remote as many are at this time, there is still nothing to stop you as the manager from quickly emailing a team member to see if they have a moment, then giving them a call or meeting on-line for a brief informal performance chat.
  • Use the chat time to give feedback that is expedient and close to the timing of specific occurrences. Also provide coaching if needed and/or requested by the employee.
  • Start the informal performance chat with the idea it will last about 15 minutes. However, go with the flow if you feel more time is necessary.
  • Use a feedback and coaching approach that is effective and with which you are comfortable using.

How we get managers to become more apt to informally chat with employees in a meaningful way is to give them tools, information and training so they become more comfortable and adept at talking to and guiding their team through performance chats as well as understanding the impact to the employee when done well.

Recognized is that manager’s often have extremely full plates making it challenging to set time aside to talk with employees on a regular basis about ongoing activities, issues, and solutions. With that said, employees need and want ongoing feedback and guidance from their managers according to Gallup and other research organizations. Managers, as all employees, are typically held accountable for delivering a certain level of performance. Much of that performance happens through the direct team. If the team does not perform, neither does the manager. As a result, for companies to do better and be better, companies should hold managers accountable in how they treat, interact, and work with their teams. Unfortunately, many companies have found that what finally wakes some managers up is when pay is at risk. Some companies include employee meetings and discussions as part of the manager’s goals to make it happen. Incorporating manager goals around feedback and coaching helps to change the manager’s focus and behavior until it becomes normalized into the culture. If manager’s do not wish to partake in providing ongoing feedback and coaching with their teams, then these managers should seriously consider not being managers of people but find careers as individual contributors. Managers need to realize their teams come first, making it incumbent upon the manager to do what they can to ensure individuals and the team overall succeeds.

There are many different feedback and coaching models developed by experts that are out in the marketplace for our use. I encourage you to do your own research to find the feedback and coaching approach that is identified as most optimal for you and/or your companies. Understand that feedback and coaching are different and use different approaches but can and often should be integrated, increasing the level of impact and meaning to the discussion for the employee.

Distinctions between feedback and coaching include:

  • FEEDBACK: Information provided to an individual regarding specific actions and behaviors related to an occurrence or incident that had occurred; in this case within the context of work. Feedback is a form of telling that is intended to help reinforce or improve upon desired actions, behaviors, and/or results or guide an individual to redirect or change undesired actions, behaviors and/or results to acceptable levels. All feedback should incorporate STAFF principles: feedback should be Specific, Timely, Accurate, Focused and Fair.
  • COACHING: A means by which individuals are led to critically think through issues and identify solutions by answering reflective questions posed by another (i.e. the coach), with the potential of ultimately unlocking a person’s potential; paving new ways forward.

Ultimately using a feedback and coaching approach with employees in an informal performance chat setting on a regular basis, is a win-win approach for both the manager and the employee. Regular informal performance chats not only make the employee better, but they also make the manager better at being a manager and a leader.

Julie Caspar President, HR Hotline Associates

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