Performance Conversations Training: Is it Important?
According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report of 2014, 79 per cent of organizations worldwide struggle to engage and retain their employees and 86 per cent believe they do not have an adequate leadership pipeline to address these problems.
An increasing number of management thinkers are calling for a more humane workplace; one that energizes employees by creating an environment where it feels good to come to work. People in these more positive surroundings get things done more proficiently, and business results follow.
The Deloitte’s survey results—although unsurprising—are nevertheless stark. Why are managers reluctant to engage in performance conversations with the people they lead? Why do leaders lack the capacity or willingness to converse with those they work with? Is it a lack of skill or a lack of will, or both?
Just as a bad case of the flu needs medical treatment, so too does an absence of quality performance conversation need remedying.
Simon Mitchell in his article, “Driving Workplace Performance Through High-quality Conversations”, defines what’s and how’s of leadership. The ‘what’s’ refer to the tasks leaders are supposed to do. Leaders are challenged to foster innovation, focus on customer needs, develop long-term strategies, make countless day-to-day decisions, and simultaneously, develop future talent.
This list is like putting together a piece of furniture from Ikea—there’s always more to it than meets the eye. Nonetheless, these tasks are at the heart of leadership. They are what Mitchell refers to as the what’s.
What are the ‘how’s’? The how’s are the ways leaders get what’s done.
The day-to-day interactions—the how’s—determine leadership success. Communicating is how the what’s are achieved. In Simon Mitchell’s words,
“Leadership outcomes will, to a large extent, depend on the dozens of conversations leaders have every day. The success of leadership will be determined by the effectiveness of these conversations.”
Conversation is the tool to realize the objectives of leadership. Just as following the instruction manual can be underestimated and underutilized when assembling a piece of furniture, so to can conversations be taken for granted. Leaders would do well to focus on the how’s as much as the what’s.
DDI’s research highlights that leaders everywhere are deficient in the fundamentals of how to have effective interactions with their team members, and other colleagues. This research reinforces the gulf between what leaders are required to do and how they go about doing it.
Based on findings from the actual data of thousands of leaders who have been evaluated through DDI’s assessment centers, communication skills are poor or non-existent. The research underscores that both executives and junior leaders are inept at conversing.
The outcome of the assessment centers found leaders to be generally poor at clarifying a situation before acting. Further, the clear majority (90 per cent) of leaders rely on their own ideas rather than seeking involvement from others.
Worse still, 89 per cent of leaders failed to listen or respond to interpersonal cues from those they interact with. The findings indicated that there is often no lucidity around the steps to be taken in situations requiring some form of action.
Disturbingly, only 5 per cent of leaders are effective in building trust in their interactions with team members. All of this is sobering.
Performance Conversations Training Program
Does training help? Good training surely does. Leaders need training to develop confidence, appreciate the importance and value of performance conversations, and build skills.
WINNERS-at-WORK has a performance conversations training program that meets these three needs. The program offers managers the opportunity to practice their skills within the safety of the training room. These practice conversations are recorded and used to critique the conversations as part of the program.
Performance conversations training are particularly useful for the tough conversations that managers often avoid. These conversations often involve some confrontation (or at least anticipated confrontation).
We work with these in the training program. The performance conversations training program can help to arrest the startling results of these surveys mentioned at the beginning of the article.