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Prepare For Your First Performance Improvement Conversation (Video)

Managing underperformance is one of the most unpleasant but crucial managerial tasks. And the first time may feel very uncomfortable or even scary. But you can limit the awkwardness and anxiety by preparing well. This video will walk you through the steps you need to take to feel ready.

It is important to accept the fact that improving performance is a mutual responsibility and effort between you and the employee, and you both have your essential roles in it. You will also both need to do a lot of work to ensure success.

Clarify objectives

The first step in preparing for a performance improvement conversation is to clarify your objectives for the discussion.

These may vary greatly depending on the specific situation. For example, if a good performer suddenly starts making mistakes, the conversation may be dedicated to exploring the root cause and providing support. If the conversation is with someone who has previously received coaching and is still underperforming, you may want to be firmer and provide strict deadlines for improvement.

Gather the facts

No one likes receiving negative feedback. And depending on the personalities and the level of maturity of your employees, you may face reactions such as self-deprecation, resistance or even hostility.

Getting specific data and examples of the errors or behaviors that concern you is an excellent way to mitigate any of those reactions. More than that, providing particular cases of underperformance will make it easier for the employee to correct and improve.

Try to identify the root cause

Even before you go into the performance improvement conversation with your team member, you should try to understand the reason for underperformance. Did a process change? Was new technology implemented? Has the employee had any personal challenges?

This will help you think about the possible remediation actions that can be taken.

Create a draft action plan

Think about any possible steps you can take to support the employee in improving their performance. This will depend greatly on the root cause and may include anything from additional training to closer monitoring to offering some time off.

Include in the plan your clear expectations of the actions that the employee should take to improve their performance and the measures of success.

This plan will not be final until you actually talk to your team member. There will be new information and insights that will come from that conversation that you will need to incorporate. However, it will be a good basis for the discussion.

Prepare a conversation plan

The last step of your preparation is to build a conversation plan and jot down some talking points. A performance improvement conversation can veer in many directions. To ensure that you cover all topics and achieve the objectives you have set for the conversation, it’s good to be prepared.

Your plan needs to include all the information and decisions you have accumulated in the previous steps. It should also allow for plenty of time for discussion and questions.

And now you are ready to schedule your first performance improvement conversation. If the underperformance you need to address is minor and sporadic, the conversation can occur during your regular 1-to-1. However, if you are trying to address some significant gaps in delivery, you should probably dedicate a separate meeting for the discussion.

Good luck and let me know how it went!

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