Tag Archives: employee retention


Stop Doing All the Work

Performance evaluations are often painful because they are one-sided.


You talk and the employee listens. There’s an easy way to take the pain out of this awkward annual ritual and that is to get the employee involved.

In order to encourage dialogue during the meeting, employees should know that they have your full interest and undivided attention. This is accomplished by holding the meeting in an environment that has no distractions. Your job is to ask thought-provoking and insightful questions to encourage the employee to do most of the talking. I know, this is easier said than done. Here are some pointers for engaging employees to participate as much as possible in the performance evaluation conversation.

Use as many open-ended questions as possible. Questions such as Do you agree with the evaluation?, and Do you have any questions? are commonly asked by managers in performance evaluation meetings; and they lead nowhere. These questions get you one word responses which are not very useful in gauging the employee’s perspective, and they don’t encourage the employee to elaborate. In fact, they shut down the conversation.

Instead, ask as many open-ended questions as possible during the evaluation meeting to ensure that you get the most feedback and insight as possible. Open-ended questions also offer a platform for the employee to express their true thoughts and viewpoints. Questions such as What do you like or dislike about your job? and What aspects of your role are most challenging? are likely to encourage more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response.

Use conversation starters. Of course you want to keep the conversation flowing throughout the entire evaluation meeting. No one likes awkward silence.  To avoid the sound of crickets, keep a list of conversation starters in your back pocket and use them whenever the conversation begins to dwindle. Common examples of great conversation starters include:

“Go on…..”
“Tell me more…”
“Why do you say that…”
“How do you mean…”
“Can you give me an example…”
“What else…”

Let the employee read the evaluation before the meeting. The employee is more likely to contribute to the evaluation conversation if he/she has had time to gather their thoughts. By asking the employee to read and digest the performance review beforehand, you allow him/her time to process their thoughts and prepare their own questions for you.

Performance evaluation meetings don’t have to be awkward and one-sided. Open up the conversation, allow the employee to contribute, and the meeting has the potential to become a time for valuable dialogue.

For more articles on performance management, read our other blog posts: Eight Warning Signs Performance Evaluations Are Working Against You, and How to Make Performance Evaluations Meaningful‏.

Be Clear – Create an Ownership Culture

Do your employees act like owners? Or are they merely renters?

Job renters are not fully engaged. They’re non-committal. They may contribute for awhile but then they move along.  Owners, on the other hand, choose to take full responsibility for their performance, embracing the full result of their efforts regardless of the outcome. You may even describe owners as “accountable.”

Accountability sounds like a reasonable expectation for employees, but be careful… Accountability is often done TO employees, rather than with employees. Ownership, on the other hand, represents how an employee approaches the job–with integrity, creativity, and energy. Simply put, when employees own their work, accountability is the result.

So how can you begin to establish a culture of ownership? Here are a few practical tips:

  • Share big-picture and organizational plans early and often.
  • Enlist employee participation in goal setting for the work unit.
  • Conduct regular “keep interviews”-conversations about what will keep the employee motivated, engaged, and retained.
  • Give employees ample opportunity to own their assigned projects and progress.
  • Communicate reasonable expectations and check with employees to make sure they are clear on those expectations.
  • Give frequent and immediate feedback so employees know when they are meeting your expectations.
  • Give specific and timely feedback when employees are not meeting your expectations.
  • Ask employees to make recommendations for addressing ongoing organizational challenges.
  • Seek customer feedback and share it directly with employees in a timely manner.
  • Break away from micromanaging. Set expectations and allow space for employees to learn. Learn to let go.
  • Create a reward system to reinforce ownership behavior.

Every day you are creating a work environment filled with renters or owners. Creating an ownership culture is one of the four mind-sets for a painless performance conversation.  Learn more about creating a workplace full of owners in chapter eight of my new book Painless Performance Conversations.

You can also read about the four mind-sets for painless performance conversations in a  recently featured article on American Express OPEN ForumOPEN forum.
4 Ways to Motivate Detached Employees.

Communication and Workplace Performance Conversations

Frequent performance conversations, rather than annual performance reviews, produce quicker results and happier team members. In organizations, success depends on employee performance, yet many leaders struggle with, and even avoid, providing honest feedback to those who need it most. Listen in to this archived episode of Communication Nation, hosted by the Impromptu Guru, Jill Schiefelbein: http://www.voiceamerica.com/show/2188/communication-nation. My conversation with Jill will lead you to having more “painless performance conversations” where both you and the employee benefit. In the interview you will learn three timely tips for managing performance conversations, as well as hear Jill’s provocative perspective on employer-employee communication.



New! Painless Performance Conversations Webinar Series

Painless Performance Conversations Webinar Series

PPC Webinar PicThis series of practical, tool-driven webinars is for supervisors and managers at every level. Whether you are a new supervisor seeking foundational skills or an experienced leader looking for a boost, you won’t want to miss this series. Attend just one session or all four!

The Painless Performance Conversations Webinar Series is an affordable and efficient way to deliver quality management training throughout your organization. Rather than taking a full day away from work to attend a live workshop, you can take in these critical tools right at your desk or conference room. Attend one, several, or all four—it’s your choice!

At just $169 per seminar, you can experience the best performance management practices from Marnie E. Green, award-winning author of Painless Performance Evaluations: A Practical Approach to Managing Day-to-Day Employee Performance and the new book, Painless Performance Conversations: A Practical Approach to Critical Day-to-Day Workplace Discussions.  If you purchase our All Access Pass to attend the entire series, pay just $599. The webinars will be recorded, so you can still get the training even if you can’t tune in to the “live” meeting.

$169 for each individual webinar

$599 for the All Access Pass which entitles you to attend all four webinars in the series and includes a signed copy of Marnie’s new book, Painless Performance Conversations: A Practical Approach to Critical Day-to-Day Workplace Discussions.

When you register, you will receive a confirmation email immediately and another email with a unique link for each webinar you purchased and log-in instructions within 24 hours.  This link can only be used on one computer at a time.  However, we don’t mind if you gather your colleagues in a conference room and share the registration. In fact, we encourage you to share the information and follow each webinar with a team discussion about how the ideas apply in your organization.

Time: All webinars begin at 11:00 AM Pacific/12:00 PM Mountain/1:00 PM Central/2:00 PM Eastern.

Dates and topics:
August 13, 2013 – Making Painless Performance Conversations Happen

August 20, 2013 – Eliminating Defensiveness with Painless Performance Conversations

August 27, 2013 – Creating a Culture of Ownership with Painless Performance Conversations

September 3, 2013 – Leading Painless Performance Conversations with Confidence

Conversations about work performance lead to better business results, and there’s no better time to brush up on these critical skills. In celebration of the April publication of my newest book, Painless Performance Conversations: A Practical Approach to Critical Day-to-Day Workplace Discussions, I’m offering this new webinar series to boost the confidence and skill of leaders in your organization and establish a foundation for painless performance conversations throughout the year.

Employee performance management is the single largest contributor to organizational effectiveness.  Think about the impact you can have on individuals, as well as on your team, if you just begin the conversation.  The Painless Performance Conversations Webinar Series is designed to show you how.


I’m finally a CSP!

What’s a CSP?  CSP is the Certified Speaking Professional® (CSP) designation, conferred by the National Speakers Association (NSA) and the Global Speakers Federation (GSF), only on accomplished professional speakers who have earned it by meeting strict criteria. CSPs must document a proven track record of continuing speaking experience and expertise, as well as a commitment to ongoing education, outstanding client service, and ethical behavior.

On July 27, 2013 I will be awarded a CSP medal (yes, like an Olympic medal!) at the annual NSA Convention in Philadelphia. A big huge thank you goes out to all of the Management Education Group clients over the past five years who contributed to this honor.  You trusted me with your training needs, and I am grateful.

Established in 1980, the CSP is the speaking profession’s international measure of speaking experience and skill. Fewer than 10 percent of speakers who belong to the Global Speakers Federation (GSF) hold this professional designation. This year only ten US-based speakers were awarded this honor.

You can read more about the designation and NSA in their recent press release: http://www.nsaspeaker.org/media-center/news/2013/06/26/the-national-speakers-association-certifies-19-speaking-professionals

CSP color logo

4 Ways to Motivate Detached Employees

The four mind-sets for painless performance conversations was recently featured in an article, 4 Ways to Motivate Detached Employees, on American Express OPEN Forum.
You will also find the article below.

By Vivian Giang
Careers Reporter, Business Insider
May 28, 2013

Are your employees struggling with their work? Here are 4 tactics to revive their excitement.

It’s not easy to talk about performance with employees. It can be awkward and downright tough to focus on someone’s weaknesses. But every leader has the opportunity and responsibility to be a catalyst for change within his or her organization, and that starts with knowing how to motivate and inspire employees.

Marnie Green, principal consultant at Management Education Group and author of Painless Performance Conversations, says that performance conversations should happen regularly, not annually. It takes practice to handle them well. “Managers fail at these conversation because part of it is [having the right] skills,” Green tells us. “There is a definitely a skill to it that can be learned.”

For managers, it’s important to have the right attitude before having these conversations. According to Green, there are four critical mindsets that every leader should embrace:

1. Lead With Behavior

Don’t let emotions get in the way. Take a more methodical approach. Identify the problems you’d like to discuss and then explain how the employee’s behavior affects company culture and productivity.

Green says that rather than telling employees what they should stop doing, focus on what you expect from them instead. “It could be that you expect a higher level of production, a faster response rate or higher levels of productivity from the entire team,” she says. Whatever it is you expect, verbalize this clearly and never let your own attitude toward the employee get in the way of professional communication.

2. Eliminate Judgment 

“When you have the conversation, you need to hold your judgment and focus on the performance issue instead,” Green says. “You can’t change an employee’s behavior unless it’s specific and something you observe. If you lead the conversation with ‘I don’t think you care,’ it won’t get you anywhere with the other person, because they’re immediately defensive.”

For example, instead of asking, “Are you overwhelmed? I know your work hasn’t been as good as before,” say, “I noticed your work has been different. Is this the case?”

Green also says it’s important to determine whether the issue you have with your employee is a pet peeve or something that actually affects the work environment.

3. Ask Solution-Oriented Questions

The savviest leaders allow employees to come up with their own solutions. “The idea is that you have to create space for the employee,” Green says. You can do this by asking questions that will lead to a solution both of you can agree on.

Once you’ve both identified and discussed specific behaviors, ask your employees why they think they’re adopting these behaviors. For example, say, “Why do you think you haven’t been speaking up during team meetings?” or “What do you think has been different between last month compared to this month?”

4. Give Them Ownership 

Through these conversations, you want to help the employee feel a sense of ownership over his behavior and capacity to change. Putting the ball in his court gives him a greater sense of control and responsibility. That’s why asking questions—and getting feedback from an employee—is the smartest way to go. Managers can troubleshoot, but they don’t always have all the answers.

Rather, employees know themselves best and may come up with the most reasonable, innovative solution that benefits everyone. Managers, as catalysts for change, can help facilitate this by continually making expectations and goals clear and consistent and striking up these performance conversations regularly.

“Managing employee performance means you are leveraging your resources,” Green says. “If you could do it all yourself, you would. But you can’t. It is critical to develop trust with your employees. Allow them to excel. As a manager, your employees’ success makes you look good.”

Painless Performance Conversations Podcast

I recently sat down with fellow speaker and NSA member Craig Price to talk about Painless Performance Conversations as part of his popular podcast program, Reality Check with Craig Price.

The link to the episode file for you to download is here:


You can also access the full interview on Reality Check with Craig Price.

Lead with Behavior

Lead with Behavior

What happens when you try to change an employee’s attitude?

Often, the attitude just gets bigger. In the process, the employee is left feeling smaller and their behavior doesn’t change. Before you begin your next performance-related conversation, consider this critical mind-set: Lead with Behavior.

Describing the employee’s attitude won’t help him or her understand what they are expected to do differently. For example, if you say, “John, you need to focus more so you can improve your performance,” John will likely say that he is focused. At that point the conflict is about whether or not he is focused, which is really not the issue. Instead, if you describe the behavior, such as, “John, I’ve noticed that your tracking forms were not completed for our last three one-on-one meetings,” he is more likely to engage in the conversation.

Leading a conversation with a description of the employee’s attitude does not leave room for a productive change. If you say the employee is lazy, rude, distracted, or slow, the dialogue is more general in nature, and he or she won’t really know what to do differently. When you give a specific example about what he/she did or didn’t do that had an impact on the job, there is room in the conversation to explore options. This might sound like, “John, during our last three meetings when you did not bring your completed tracking forms, we were unable to review the progress you’ve made.”

When the conversation focuses on the employee’s attitude, you will most likely get a defensive reaction. If the employee feels attacked, whether emotionally or personally, the reaction will be to withdraw or fight back. In turn, the employee will stop listening and become more concerned about his or her next response rather than a solution.
In your next performance conversation, define the behaviors you would like the employee to change and lead with those. It will take the pain out of the conversation for you and for the employee.

Leveraging the One-on-One to Boost Performance

How often do you meet one-on-one with your employees? To make the most of what has been called the most powerful management tool in the world, a one-on-one meeting should be regularly scheduled (every other Tuesday at 9AM or every Monday at 4PM or whatever works). It should be rarely missed and its primary focus must be on the employee and their performance. Notes should be taken by both the employee and the manager. The meeting will likely last no more than 30 minutes with 10 minutes for the employee to provide an update on their progress, 10 minutes for you to share your perspectives, and 10 minutes to focus on the employee’s development.

Some managers use a standardized form to track the outcomes of each one-on-one. The format might include notes you take from the employee’s update, notes you prepare for your update to the employee, and a list of agreements or follow-up items. The fundamental goal of the conversation is to maintain an ongoing dialogue with each employee about:

performance expectations
resources the employee needs to meet the performance expectations
feedback on the employee’s progress
development opportunities the employee is pursuing

If a regularly scheduled one-on-one conversation with your employees is one of the most powerful tools you can use to boost performance, why not give it a try?

Thank You!

Painless Performance Conversations has been six years in the making. Shortly after my first book, Painless Performance Evaluations was released I realized that while evaluations are painful for managers, the real pain is in the conversation. Managers need support in leading meaningful performance conversations that they would prefer to avoid.

Thank you to the many colleagues and clients who have contributed to the development of Painless Performance Conversations, which is officially released in three days.

Tracy Bannon
Tamara Becker
Jay Castellano
Cheryl Cepelak
Stephen Cleveland
Dr. Richard Deems
Marla DeSoto
Kendra Eberhart
Betsy Fretwell
Neil Giuliano
Vicki Grove
Katrina Hase
Rick Hunt
Jolaine Jackson
Debbie Kent
Kevin Klimas
Michelle May, M.D.
Mark Olson
Neil Reichenberg
Ann Roseberry
Edward Scannell
Mike Sung
Karen Thoreson
Natalie Trudel
Nancy Van Pelt
Christine Wilkinson
Kay Wilkinson

Remember, you can still pre-order your copy of Painless Performance Conversations at any of these booksellers:Amazon Button 800 CEO Read button Barnes And Noble Books A Million