How to Have a Successful Performance Management Discussion

Hey, manager: Here’s how to give team members what they need

A few years ago, it seemed that performance management was on its way out; in fact, a number of prominent companies abandoned their systems.

But many organizations (including my firm) have continued performance management because we find a system helps employees set goals that support the company strategy while providing a framework for professional development.

The value of any good performance management system is communication. In fact, the true effectiveness of a performance management system lies beyond process; it’s about the dialogue between manager and team member.

Whether you are a new supervisor who has never lead an in-depth performance discussion, or a manager with many years of experience, your effectiveness depends on how well you prepare.

Here are some guidelines to have effective performance discussions:

Plan for performance discussions
The more you prepare for a performance discussion, the more effective it will be:

Spend time before a planned performance discussion thinking about what you want to achieve.

Review relevant documents so that you have past conversations fresh in your mind.

Try to anticipate questions or concerns your team member may raise.

Have the session in person (if possible)

If you’re someone who manages people remotely, it may be difficult to get together face to face. But try to schedule an in-person kick-off meeting for performance management, when your team member will be with you. The personal interaction makes a difference.

Make sure the dialogue is actually a dialogue
The more you engage team members in performance discussions, the greater their commitment will be. You and your team members share responsibility for goal setting and development planning, which means that you need to involve employees in the discussions.

One way to engage team members is to ask them to bring draft performance or development goals to the meeting and discuss them together.

Listen and respond with empathy
In an effective performance discussion, both the manager and employee need to listen actively to understand each other’s perspective:

Allow your team member to express opposing views.

Invite your team member to share his/her thoughts and listen carefully to what he/she says.

Respond with empathy so that they know he/she is heard and understood. Be present in the moment and attuned to the other person’s body language.

Discuss performance continually throughout the year
The performance review process should not begin and end with an annual review. Rather, the annual performance review should act as a summary of all of the performance discussions throughout the year.

Employees should not be surprised by anything they read or hear at their annual performance review. Therefore, it’s important that you provide ongoing performance feedback.

These performance discussions can take the form of informal feedback given in real-time or planned discussions.

Originally published at

Alison Davis is founder and CEO of Davis and Company, the award-winning employee communication firm. Visit to know more.