We often get asked to work with organisations where the initial discussions focus on improving the performance management process. When we ask the question about what does an “improved” process look like – the discussion often moves away from the process and towards the quality of performance discussion and a desired change in behaviour.

The performance process can be extremely simple – the success comes from 2 critical factors – aligning performance objectives to the organisation strategy and then having the right type of conversation between manager and employee to deliver the performance.

If it’s that simple – why doesn’t it happen? There are many factors that will affect the quality of performance management discussions from the frequency, environment and current skills of the employee to the tone, approach and skills of the manager. One of the most underrated skills in this arena is that of listening.

Listening is not just about hearing. We spend our time listening at a number of levels and during these conversations our listening skills need to be at their best. This isn’t just about nodding, and maintaining eye contact – it’s more than that – you are trying to understand what is happening for your employee, you need to suspend judgement, quieten your own inner voice, lose your agenda and let the conversation flow. The benefits of improving this simple skill are many – problems can be resolved more quickly, you can engage and motivate your employees more effectively, build stronger relationships, allow learning and understanding to take place.

So maybe the first step is to ask yourself – what type of listener am I? And make sure you listen to the answer…..

As Stephen Covey said: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

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