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By Katie Magoon, People Solutions Center

Does the thought of sitting down for a performance review make your managers scream and your employees cringe?

Most managers find that performance evaluations are burdensome and difficult to complete. Meanwhile, most employees find them unproductive and de-motivating.

Are you ready to stop banging your head against this wall and consider a whole new approach?

One of the most recent trends in Human Resources is to throw out the traditional performance evaluation and shift to a series of coaching conversations. What’s the difference?

Performance evaluations are frustrating to everyone because they spend time focusing on the wrong thing — a long written document that focuses on reviewing the past and giving a forced rating.

Coaching conversations turn these into meaningful, real-time discussions about competencies or behaviors that an employee can develop in the future.

There are a few best practices to keep in mind when converting to coaching conversations:

  • Focus on the future – There are three simple questions that frame these conversations to focus on the future:
    • What should this individual start doing?
    • What should this individual stop doing?
    • What should this individual continue doing?

It really is this easy — 3 questions!

All of these look forward and move you to development and action planning. This makes the feedback actionable and applicable to what needs to happen going forward.

  • Focus on the conversation, not the document — In fact, let’s eliminate the pre-written performance evaluation! Coaching conversations should be planned out to ensure they are meaningful and thoughtful, but this could simply be an outline for the discussion. Ditch the long novel for a meaningful, two-way, authentic conversation! Discussion planner tools are perfect ways to help managers prepare for great outcomes.
  • Focus on frequency — Once coaching conversations became less burdensome, it’s easier to do them more frequently. The more frequent and consistent they become, the easier they are for everyone! Ideally, these are monthly or quarterly depending on the size of the team. Shorter, more frequent, check-ins ensure an employee is applying the feedback and receiving the development they need. The consistency helps reinforce that you are serious about investing in their development.
  • Focus on the feedback, not a rating — Removing the rating from these conversations removes everyone’s focus on “what’s my score” and shifts it to “how can I develop”. This practice also allows you to untangle employee development from compensation discussions.



This does not mean that everyone gets the same raise — we still want to pay for performance. It just means that you look at the employee’s overall compensation and ensure that everyone is paid appropriately based on the value they bring to the team. Compensation reviews, benchmarking and calibration discussions start to become key to compensation decisions. Even better, take the entire compensation discussion outside of the coaching conversation. This sounds hard, but it gets easier with a little practice! In the end it is a much more effective and fair approach to your compensation philosophy.

It may sound intimidating, but let’s talk about the amazing benefits you can expect to see:

  • Employee engagement in their own development increases, particularly for your top performers
  • Coaching conversations start to happen more frequently — without chasing managers down to ‘check the box’
  • Performance issues are more likely to be addressed in a timely manner
  • Legal risks are reduced when you eliminate performance ratings and documents that might contradict termination decisions for poor performance. For example, have you ever terminated an employee who’s last performance rating was an “above expectations”? That’s a hard one to explain, but it happens frequently.

Before your employees and managers start kicking and screaming about the next round of performance evaluations, it might be time throw it all out! This is your chance to transform your organization into a culture of coaching — will join this most recent trend?

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