What does reviewing performance involve a leader doing? What options does the leader have for the way they invest their time? How does the leader add value? What are typical coaching goals? What resource material does the leader need as a platform for the coaching? What tools does the leader need from the Coaches Toolkit? I start with an overview of coaching for reviewing performance. I then draw on the experience of two senior leaders I have worked with and observed in action.
This Post is written for Leaders of Others who have a team of Individual Contributors reporting to them. Consider a coaching strategy for coaching for reviewing performance that sits alongside Coaching for Supporting Performance. Take the opportunity to use a coaching approach during formal performance reviews with your direct reports. In most cases it is desirable to have these once per quarter. More valuable to the leader will be to schedule short (say 15-30 minutes) ‘Performance Coaching Conversations’. You might also call these ‘Progress Reviews’. These are just suggestions. Your exact coaching process will depend on your team circumstances and stage of the individual’s development. Your performance review process may depend on your organisation’s HR policies. Take a view with your manager/coach and HR partner. Here is what self-described ‘HR Evangelist’ Dr Christopher D Lee has to say on this subject in his book ‘Performance Conversations: An Alternative to Appraisals’: “Conversations, not evaluations, are the key to successfully coaching performance”. I’d say that is brief enough and clear enough! What do you think?
Suggested goals for the leader when coaching for reviewing performance include:
- Direct reports know at all times whether they are ahead of, on track or behind their objectives.
- Identify reasons for celebrating success.
- Ensure there are plans in place for performance recovery if required.
- Direct reports are aware of your opinions on the value of their past achievements, their current performance status and their future potential.
- Set expectation that business goals will be met and exceeded.
- Maintain a positive performance focussed environment for individual direct reports and for the team.
- Direct reports readily summarise their own and the team’s accomplishments, and articulate the passion that drives them to succeed.
- Your team’s contributions to the organisation are very visible and people outside of the team can readily summarise the efforts, accomplishments and passion of your team and of your direct reports.
See Building Trust, Being Present and Being Curious in the Tools section of the Coaches Toolkit.
The four areas of focus or subjects of your coaching when you are reviewing performance with your direct reports are:
- Evaluating Results & Opportunities
This means establishing how and where to extract results and selecting from competing priorities those with the greatest potential for driving business value. This enables you to guide your direct reports towards task priorities that align with the business goals. Your coaching approach will be to ask questions about your direct report and their concerns, opinions and aspirations rather than focussing on their tasks. Do this and the discussion will inevitably flow towards the tasks. Ask questions about what is going well, what challenges they are having, what could be improved and how they see the work they are doing unfolding in the future. Listen and Give Feedback. At intervals have a parallel discussion about how their career goals link to the organisational goals.
Platforms: Management Information Reporting (MIR).
Tools: from the Coaches Toolkit include Building Trust & Rapport, Situational Coaching, Levels of Listening and Feedback in Coaching.
- Setting Stretch Goals
This means establishing stretch goals and standards of performance for yourself and for others. Direct your coaching approach towards connecting with your direct reports and energising them towards realising their full potential. This is about striving for excellence. Help them identify barriers to performance – real and imagined. Show your confidence in them and help them be confident in themselves.
Platforms: Examples of best practice.
Tools: from the Coaches Toolkit include Challenging Perceptions, Being Present and Being Curious.
- Achieving Goals
This means methodically assessing and improving performance towards stretch goals. You will ideally be having regular short ‘Performance Coaching Conversations’ or ‘Progress Reviews’ with direct reports. Consider working with a simple traffic light system:
- Green means all is OK;
- Amber means there are concerns which are being addressed;
- Red means there are performance issues for which a recovery plan is needed.
Platforms: Management Information Reporting (MIR) for year to date and Business Goals.
Tools: from the Coaches Toolkit include Purposeful Questions and Levels of Listening.
- Staying Focused
Remain self-disciplined – make sure you and your direct report are aware of the results for the current period. Evaluate these results and have them to hand. Assess progress – start your coaching conversations with questions about how your direct report assesses their own progress before you give your views or feedback. Reprioritise – make sure you and your direct report are living in the real world and be prepared to reset priorities. Avoid distractions – schedule time for your ‘Performance Coaching Conversations’ and stick to your plan. It’s not enough to simply meet the immediate objectives. You use coaching to help direct reports accomplish highly valued business results. Can you afford to wait up to 13 weeks to have these sort of conversations? You conduct frequent progress reviews with your team. ‘HR Evangelist’ Dr Christopher D Lee may be on to something when he suggests Performance Conversations ® should be both frequent and informal.
Platforms: Current period results, current business priorities.
Tools: from the Coaches Toolkit include AIDA Guidelines for Feedback, Coaching for Change Leadership and Intuition in Coaching.
MAKING IT REAL
In my June Post ‘Executive Presence’ I explained how I spent an enjoyable five year period in my recent career as an independent executive assessor working with one of the world’s leading firms in this area. In 2004 one of my candidates was Paul. He was a particularly strong operational manager working in a heavy industry. I notice from his current LinkedIn profile he now holds a senior role in his company. Here is how I summarised in my report the way Paul approached his approach to reviewing performance:
Driving for Results (Strength). “You set stretch goals in your own business and put plans in place to reach them. You are able to claim significant recent business increases”.
Reviewing Results (Strength). “You work with colleagues to establish the best opportunities for improving results. You stay focussed on future priorities for reducing variation and improving quality”.
I have been working with Keith since 2010. Here is how he recently described coaching for performance:
“There are two specific situations in business where coaching is very valuable. The first kind is where a team member is not living up to his or her potential and the second kind is when a team member is already successful at producing results and wants to develop much further. As a result of the coaching the individuals begins to consider what is possible from a much wider perspective and, at the same time, develop a realistic view of what it will take to be successful in achieving the goals that have been set and agreed. Imagine having all of your team members being that clear? The difference in aggregate performance is a competitive advantage”.
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