Since before the 1980's, HR professionals develop processes for managers to manage performance, rather than fixing the problem; that is to arm managers with the skills to have a quality dialogue with staff, at decent intervals, so that performance could be improved.

Honestly, any manager without the necessary skills to have that sort of conversation shouldn't be trusted with managing people at all. You'd be much better of leaving me the keys to the company jet!

Of course, managers, pushed back - didn't want to do them, didn't like to do them, "it should be HRs job" and so it became an annual process, or every six months at best.

I give my dogs better and more frequent coaching than that!

If we are to truly leverage better performance, the quality of these conversations need to improve and be a lot more frequent - daily I would suggest. They need to be relevant to the role or the role people are seeking to advance to. They need to be measured against the outcomes that the role should be generating and unique to the individual.

Sound complex? Well, it ain’t rocket science…

The case for 3 Simple Questions

Just 3 simple questions will encourage a quality dialogue that needn’t stop in the review meeting. It can continue on a daily basis, at the coffee machine, water cooler or in the company gymnasium. They need to be applied to individual tasks or projects as well as the job as a whole and to the individual themselves.

3 simple questions that, without doubt, form the basis of an ongoing dialogue that will support the team member, place ownership where it belongs, with the manager and they get results!

  1. The first questions drives clarity; “How well do you understand the job?” This might be the job or a task and isn’t asking about what’s in the job description but what the leader or manager expects from that individual. Most job descriptions detail minimum requirements, not expectations. You want performance, well you must describe that to someone or you've no chance of getting it. Once you’re on the same page, you can proceed to question
  2. How good at it are you?” This will either be an open discussion about known limitations or weaknesses, or an opportunity to share some candid feedback and evidence. By candid feedback, I mean, honest, not beating around the bush. Imagine you're Simon Cowell or Gordon Ramsey (without the expletives). Tell them straight, in language they'll understand. Now we have a gap to bridge between the managers expectations and what’s really happening.
  3. Time for the third question: “What help do you need?”. An exploration in to alternatives for development or support. How simple is that?

Surely, with the advent of apps, systems and processes, we can return to having meaningful dialogues without having to form fill or click a mouse.

Start at the top, if every manager in an organisation asks these questions of their teams, then they do the same with their teams, and so on both performance and communication will open up in a way you might not have seen since the 1980’s.

If you want to be a manager take some ownership. They're your team, they can either make you look good, or not. It's up to you!