Performance Conversations: How to Impress the Boss During Your 1-on-1

performance conversationsConversations about your performance are a given if you are an employee. You are hired to do a job and your employer wants to make sure they made the right decision. They also want you to succeed and grow in return for your valuable contribution. However, the quality, frequency, and format of performance conversations vary widely in the workplace.

At the core of these discussion? The relationship with your manager. So it pays to give proper attention to your one-to-one. Here are some tips to help that conversation go well…

Remember: It’s a Partnership

The relationship between direct report and manager is changing (albeit slowly in some companies) from a parental one to more of a partnership. The shift is about control – less micro-management, more autonomy, and empowerment. Today, effective managers are enablers, helping people to realize their potential, use their talents, and grow. Not purely for altruistic reasons, but also to deliver for the team, the section, the business.

With this in mind: Ideally, the performance conversations work best when the roles of direct report and manager are complementary. For example, a software engineer will know the ins and outs of a particular piece of software. Often, a manager will be less familiar because they don’t need to work with it every day. However, they will have other knowledge, skills, and experience that help the software engineer to achieve (context, strategy, coaching, client relationships, etc).

In other words: The learning and mutual support is a two-way street and the working relationship is mutually beneficial.

Why Have a One-to-One?

People want to be valued and to make a difference through their contribution. Having performance conversations once or twice a year as part of a formal process does not meet those wants. Also, it makes no sense for an employer who needs performance to be agile in response to change. Regular one-to-one performance conversations help you to stay on track and adjust if necessary. It’s a space to build and maintain a trusting relationship in a psychologically safe place. You hold yourself to account and are accountable to your manager, so you can do and be at your best.

Research shows that employees want six things from a frequent one-to-one:

  • Goal setting
  • Goal review
  • Performance feedback
  • Problem-solving
  • Soliciting support
  • Problems with colleagues

As a manager, take a holistic view of the person both inside and outside work. Add wellbeing and professionalism to that list.

What’s This 1-on-1 Performance Conversation About?

These performance conversations are not about your day-to-day to-do list. It’s not the chat across the desk. Instead, for half an hour every 2 to 4 weeks, you are stepping back from the action to talk informally about how you are doing and feeling. Expect or encourage a coaching style from your manager. What’s on your mind? How well are you meeting your commitments? What is holding you back? How can we resolve issues or improve things in the short-term? Agree on a short, clear agenda and create actions together.

However, if your manager starts canceling one-to-ones, it’s a sign they or you are not a priority. And it will reduce your productivity, which is in no-one’s interests. Don’t accept interruptions either. Otherwise, it’s time for an assertive conversation. To learn more, here’s how not to shoot yourself in the foot  during a tough 1-on-1.

The Difficult Bit: When the Conversation Gets Personal

People are not all difficult, but their behavior can be. When this happens, and the conversation turns more personal, apply all the emotional intelligence necessary to separate the person from what they do. As a manager, things always go better when you go into a performance conversation with a listening mindset and a positive intent.

As a direct report, the balancing act is between being appropriately assertive and being tactful and helpful. Speak up when facing an uncomfortable moment or when you hear weasel words from a poor manager. Instead of extending the emotional aspects of the conversation, ask yourself: How can I support my manager in a way that helps us both?

To do that, you will need to manage your emotions before, during, and after the conversation. So, plan, rehearse and pause in the moment.

In summary, a regular conversation about your performance and growth is a healthy personal, professional, and business enabler. Ensure you get the most out of your one-to-one by applying the tips in this post!

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For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at LearningToLeap.

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David Shindler AuthorAbout the Author: David Shindler helps you to be clearer, more confident, and purposeful so you take the right job and career actions for you. Career Coach, Blogger, Books on developing your employability, internships, and critical attitudes for success.

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