Trading places is always a smart way to reflect on any business communication. That’s especially true with performance conversations. Think about what the other person is hearing as opposed to what you’re saying.
So, trade places for a moment with a team member you recently met with for a 10-minute check-in. If you were that person, would you be able to answer the following questions?
What am I doing well?
Where can I improve?
What action can I take?
Those three questions are a solid foundation for any discussion about performance or any follow-up to a performance discussion. They’re also key questions to keep in mind when writing performance reviews that coach, not just document.
Note that the second and third questions look ahead, not back. In the words coined by Marshall Goldsmith, this is “FeedForward” not feedback.
Instead of belaboring the past, take what has happened in the past and turn it into direction for the future. That’s effective coaching.
Here’s an illustration of that forward-focused coaching with Alyson and Paul:
Alyson’s status reports have been late every week in the last month. Although the reports are thorough when Paul receives them, this is a habit that can’t continue, especially since others on the team know her reports are late.
Paul’s Check-in Lead
Let’s talk about your weekly status reports. They’re always thorough, and I appreciate that. The detail you provide helps me keep senior management informed when I write my report. Since they’ve been late every week in the last month, how can we ensure that I receive them by the end of the day on Friday? What’s getting in the way of that?
There’s just not enough time Friday afternoon. By the time I finish my afternoon phone conferences, it’s time to leave work and go pick up my daughter from her after school program. I always write them over the weekend so you at least have them first thing Monday morning.
What would happen if you rescheduled those phone conferences to earlier in the day?
I hadn’t thought of that.
It’s worth a try, isn’t it? See if you can reschedule them and let’s see if that makes a difference.
Trading Places with Alyson
What am I doing well? Writing thorough reports
What can I improve? Getting them in on time
What action can I take? Reschedule Friday afternoon phone conferences
Analysis of Paul’s Coaching
He didn’t dwell on the fact that the reports have been late. She knew that already. There’s no point in blaming her or focusing on what she’s not doing right. Instead, Paul turns the conversation to the future. He uses open-ended questions to encourage Alyson to uncover the cause for late reports and help her discover an option she hadn’t thought of on her own.
Paul’s Follow-up Coaching Email
Subject line: Our Conversation Yesterday
Thanks again for always writing thorough reports. As I mentioned, the detail you provide helps me keep senior management informed when I write my report. To ensure that I receive your reports by the end of the day every Friday, we agreed you will try to reschedule your Friday afternoon phone conferences. That will give you more time at the end of the day. You also won’t have to take weekend time to complete them.
Please let me know if I can be of any help.
Analysis of Paul’s Follow Up
It took only six sentences to recap Alyson’s commitment while reinforcing the positive conversation, stressing the benefits for Alyson, and offering support. If she hasn’t already moved ahead with rescheduling, Paul’s coaching email will prompt her to do that. If the rescheduling is all set, his email gives Alyson a perfect opportunity to quickly hit Reply and let him know that, very likely in one sentence.
Try trading places before and after your next check-in to focus on what someone learns from your conversation. Then, follow up with a short coaching email. This is a great formula for building healthy team relationships and for meeting work objectives.