Monthly Archives: March 2013

Talk about Performance Problems Now!

Have you ever avoided a conversation with an employee because you were too uncomfortable bringing it up? Customer service issues, attendance, hygiene, poor work quality, lack of teamwork… if an employee’s performance is a problem, it needs to be addressed when the behavior is first noticed. There are many reasons why managers neglect to do this:

• We are afraid of what might happen if we talk about it. What if the employee cries or shouts?
• It’s easier to put off today what we can do tomorrow. We secretly hope the issue will just go away.
• We tell ourselves we don’t have time. But honestly, how much time will it cost you if you avoid the issue
until it blows up?
• We don’t know how to go about having the conversation. After all, they don’t really teach us the fine art of
conversation or confrontation in school.
• It’s no fun. Why do things that could be painful?

There’s always a good excuse for avoiding a performance conversation. But why manage by excuses when you could just address the issue and move along?

Here are some conversation suggestions:

Focus on desired outcomes, identified skill gaps, and end results. When feedback is framed as a means to an end, it becomes an opportunity to solve a problem rather than criticize a person. Frame the feedback around something that is critical to the organization.

Don’t be a know it all. Remember: there are at least two sides to every story. Even if you think you know the facts, you might not have the complete story. Approach conversations with the goal of getting a complete and accurate picture, which includes the employee’s perspective. Be willing to listen and be influenced by what you hear.

Give feedback quickly, frequently, and regularly. Feedback works when it is an ongoing activity rather than a formal event with the door closed. The more you offer it, formally and informally, as part of your daily management routine, the more “feedback-friendly” your work environment becomes.

Feedback is not a “one and done” deal. Just because you had a discussion with an employee about their performance doesn’t mean the conversation is over. Your employee’s ability to improve their behavior may require ongoing support. Following up is vital. If you don’t follow up, employees may just “wait you out” until you raise the issue (and the stakes) again.

Most importantly, the definition of a painless performance conversation is that it is a conversation with a person you care about concerning an issue you are concerned with where the outcome is uncertain and the situation requires your influence.

Bonus Pre-order Mini Webinar – Getting Started with Painless Performance Conversations

To celebrate the release of my new book, we’re offering a free bonus mini webinar recording, Getting Started with Painless Performance Conversations, to anyone who pre-orders a copy of Painless Performance Conversations. This is the jump-start you need to develop the confidence to tackle your toughest conversations. Just email your purchase receipt to and a link will be emailed to you by the end of the day on April 8th as part of our book launch celebration!

The full four-part Painless Performance Conversations webinar series will be available later this year. Watch your inbox or subscribe to our monthly E-Tip to receive tips on performance management, events and details! You can also visit our main website for more information.

Webinar Celebration

Conversations Drive Performance

Conversations Drive Performance

The premise of my new book, Painless Performance Conversations: A Practical Approach to Critical Day-to-Day Workplace Discussions, is that day-to-day conversations drive performance. Without conversation, employees are left to wonder what success looks like. In the book, you’ll learn the four mind-sets that must be present for performance conversations to be painless, for you and the employee.

The four mind-sets of a painless performance conversation are:

Lead with Behavior: Separating Actions from Attitudes
Eliminate Judgment: Focusing on Performance Evidence
Inquire with Purpose: Using Curiosity to Expand Possibilities
Be Clear: Creating a Culture of Ownership

The first mind-set, lead with behavior, reminds you to identify the specific actions an employee must change to improve performance. By focusing on behaviors, you can decrease the amount of defensiveness that often appears when you talk about performance issues.

The second mind-set is to eliminate judgment. By comparing the facts with your expectations, you will be able to identify critical gaps in the employee’s performance. Defining performance gaps allows you to communicate the need for change.

The third mind-set is to inquire with purpose. By framing the problem and asking questions that expand possibilities, you will be able to create an environment where the employee is involved in creating the solution.

Finally, the fourth mind-set is to be clear. When you are clear about who owns the problem and who is responsible for taking steps to solve the issue, you enhance levels of accountability in your work environment.

These practical strategies and ideas will help you tackle potentially painful conversations with greater confidence. For more on the four mind-sets read chapters 5-8 in Painless Performance Conversations.

You can also join our monthly E-Tips for more tips on Painless Performance Conversation mind-sets and other useful management tools.

In case you’ve missed them, visit our  Monthly E-Tip Archive!

Painless Performance Conversations Book Trailer

Watch our new Painless Performance Conversations: A Practical Approach to Critical Day-to-Day Workplace Discussions Book Trailer below to see what our new book has in store!

Quotes from Painless Performance Conversations

While waiting for the release of Painless Performance Conversations: A Practical Approach to Critical Day-to-Day Workplace Discussions, please enjoy this video containing insightful quotes from the book. You can download a version to share with others too!

Painless Performance Conversations Quotes Slideshow downloadable version



Challenging Workplace Conversations

Why is it that one of the most important parts of managing people is the part that is most often avoided or overlooked? Helping others be successful on the job is a core responsibility of managers. Yet, many managers avoid the tough conversations with employees.

Have you ever avoided a conversation with an employee about something because you were uncomfortable about bringing it up? Customer service issues, attendance, poor work quality, lack of teamwork. Those situations each call for exactly the conversations you should be having, not avoiding!

The next time you see an employee behavior that you believe needs to change and yet you feel fear welling up in your chest remember to:

1. Define the behavior that is not productive. How are the person’s actions impacting the work or other team members? The more job-specific you can be, the more objective the issue will sound.

2. Describe the behavior you expect. What should the person be doing instead of what they are doing now? Focus on the behaviors and not on the employee’s attitude.

3. Focus on outcomes. Ask yourself, What will happen if I talk with the employee about the behavior? or What will happen if I avoid having a conversation with the employee about the issue? These questions will usually remind you that the issue will not be resolved or the behavior will not change until you initiate the conversation.

4. Just do it. Waiting for the right time to have what you believe is a difficult conversation only gives you an excuse to avoid the situation. Often, waiting to have the conversation only makes the situation worse. The sooner you initiate the conversation, the sooner the employee can improve their performance and the sooner you can move on to more pleasant things.

Sometimes just having the conversation is all that is needed to resolve workplace issues. Don’t allow the human tendency to avoid conflict or bad news get in the way of doing what is required.

Using our Painless Performance Conversation Planner 2013 can help you prepare to handle tough conversations. The sooner the better!

Think about the most challenging conversation you’ve had in the workplace. What was it and how did you handle it?