I'm doing something a bit unusual with this episode: I'm cross-posting it both to the podcast and as a vlog (video blog). That way, you can consume this information however you like! ~Halelly
Are you having ongoing, regular, and timely conversations with every single one of your employees about performance, goals, career, and feedback? Or are you waiting for the once- or twice-per-year ‘Performance Review’ formal conversations? Purposeful conversations positively contribute to the employee’s current and future level of performance and engagement at work, so don’t leave things up to chance or wait too long. And just in case you’re not sure what to talk about, I recorded this solo episode to help you plan and execute on these kinds of important leader-employee conversations. Listen and learn the top 10 types of conversations that you should be having with every employee throughout each year. P.S., be sure to subscribe, rate, and leave a quick review in iTunes, please and thank you!
What you'll learn:
Why are today’s people managers struggling with having regular conversations with their employees? (2:15)
- What does Halelly believe is any leader's job - as a leader? (3:01)
- What’s one of the common fallbacks many leaders succumb to? (3:27)
- Why does Halelly want to ‘stop the madness’? (3:47)
- What’s a common mistake repeated in many organizations? (3:52)
- Why are many organizations getting rid of the old performance management process? What do we need to replace it with? (4:33)
- What are the 10 conversations that leaders should have with every employee throughout the year? What will it require from you? (5:10)
- Strengths conversations (5:57)
- Goal planning conversations (7:49)
- Day-to-day performance conversations (9:15)
- Weekly check-in conversations (10:20)
- Positive feedback conversations (12:20)
- Developmental feedback conversations (13:28)
- Career conversations (14:28)
- "Stay interview" conversations (16:11)
- Impact conversations (17:58)
- Development and training planning conversations (19:59)
- Bonus: what are some additional ideas for topics you can discuss with employees beyond these 10? (22:07)
This podcast episode (and the accompanying vlog post) were based on this article I wrote. So if you're a regular listener and you're curious to see what I look like when i am speaking to you, here's your chance :)
Check out my book, Strength to Strength: How Working from Your Strengths Can Help You Lead a More Fulfilling Life, to learn more about strengths and how helping your employees work from their strengths can make a huge difference.
Listen to Jeremy Epstein describe how he has 1:1 check-in conversations here on episode 34 of the podcast.
Parkinson's Law says: "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."
Check out my STS Formula for positive feedback to learn how to do it right.
Listen to Chip Joyce describe the way we must reinterpret the employer-employee relationship on episode 22.
Watch Lucille Ball wrap chocolates with no sense of 'impact' in this hilarious scene from I Love Lucy.
Check out my book, Employee Development on a Shoestring, for 11 different methods of developing your employees (and yourself) outside the classroom and on a budget.
- Download the 10 Mistakes Leaders Make and How to Avoid Them free tool!
- Intro/outro music for The TalentGrow Show: "Why-Y" by Esta - a great band of exquisitely talented musicians, and good friends of mine.
About Halelly Azulay
Have we met? I'm Halelly Azulay. I'm an author, speaker, facilitator, and leadership development strategist and an expert in leadership, communication skills, and emotional intelligence. I am the author of two books, Employee Development on a Shoestring (ASTD Press) and Strength to Strength: How Working from Your Strengths Can Help You Lead a More Fulfilling Life. My books, workshops and retreats build on my 20+ years of professional experience in communication and leadership development in corporate, government, nonprofit and academic organizations.
I am the president of TalentGrow LLC, a consulting company focused on developing leaders and teams, especially for enterprises experiencing explosive growth or expansion. TalentGrow specializes in people leadership skills, which include communication skills, teambuilding, coaching and emotional intelligence. TalentGrow works with all organizational levels, including C-level leaders, frontline managers, and individual contributors.
People hire me to speak at conferences and meetings and to facilitate leadership workshops, but what I love most is to help fast growing organizations create a leadership development strategy and approach. Contact me if I can be of service to your organization!
I'm a contributing author to numerous books, articles and blogs. I was recently described as a “Leadership Development Guru” by TD Magazine. I blog, publish a leadership podcast (doh - it's right here!), and have a popular free weekly subscription newsletter – so you should definitely sign up at www.tinyurl.com/talentgrow
Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.
Halelly: Hey there. Welcome back to the TalentGrow Show. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist with a solo episode. As you might know, if you’re a regular listener to the show, most of my episodes are interviews with someone else sharing their expertise or experience. But because leadership development is what I do for a living, I actually also have some expertise and experience to share. And so, in my solo episodes, that’s what I try to do. And this particular episode is a little bit different from my previous solo episodes because I recorded it actually with video, too. So, in the podcast, I’m sharing the audio only. But over on my blog, I shared the video. So if you’re curious to see what I look like when I talk about this, you can go over there and check it out. That actually came out last – a week before this podcast is coming out. But I think that you’ll enjoy this even if you’re just driving in the car, or going for a walk, or a run, or washing the dishes, or whatever it is that you do when you listen to podcasts. (In fact, I’m really curious to know when and how you listen to this!)
But this episode is all about the top 10 conversations every leader should have with every employee. This is to give you food for thought and ideas for what is the kind of content that you should be making the topic of conversations with your employees on a regular basis. Lots of people are not really sure what to talk about with their employees and maybe you’re avoiding talking to your employees as a result of that. So I hope that after listening to this episode, that will no longer be one of your problems.
But, as always, I’d love to hear what you thought. Leave me comments afterwards in the show notes page comments section so that I can not only know what your thought but maybe you have some other suggestions for other types of conversations that you think are important for leaders to have with employees.
Alright, here we go.
Halelly: One of the things that in my work as a leadership development strategist I encounter a lot is people are really not sure how often and about what to speak with their employees. Because in today’s world of work, let’s face it – most people don’t have just the job of being a manager, a people manager, full-time. Most of us, when we are a people manager, we are also some kind of a project manager, we have some kind of responsibilities to continue performing our technical duties, whatever it is that we’ve excelled in, that earned us that promotion in the first place. So you end up having to juggle a lot of different things at the same time in addition to this responsibility of managing people and their performance.
Now I believe that a leader’s job is to facilitate peak performance in others. And that means that you have to give them the resources, the skills, the ability to do what they need to do to excel in their job, to remove obstacles from their way, and to support them from the side whenever possible, to help to redirect them, to give them feedback, to give them direction. So when you are struggling to do your people management aspect of your job, one of the things that I find a lot of people fall back into is either old habits or modeling what they’ve seen from people who have led them. And unfortunately, I think, you and I both know that there’s a lot of bad examples out there, So I’m trying to do my part to stop the madness and stop getting people to continue repeating the mistakes of the past.
One of the mistakes of the past that I see repeated in organizations and in some cases it’s because it’s culturally ordained, is this idea that we talk to employees in a formal way once or twice or maybe four times a year throughout the official “performance review” process, and that all of the other conversations are maybe just about questions they have or things you need to delegate to them, but there really isn’t some kind of a proactive, manager-driven, regular, habitual discussion with employees that happens, or conversation with employees, that happens outside of the performance management process.
This is a huge mistake. Lots of companies are now seeing the light and in fact, many, many organizations are doing away with that official performance review process of yore, because it was not producing the results we need to see in the 21st Century workplace. And we need to replace that not with a vacuum, but with consistent ongoing communication. Weekly communication, even daily communication. And conversations with employees is the way to do that.
I recently wrote an article that’s become pretty popular which is the “Top 10 conversations every leader should have with every employee,” and I wanted to go over some of those with you here to help you get a sense of what you should be doing with your employees on a regular basis. It’s going to require habituation from you. That means you’re going to have to intentionally plan to make this happen, and create some key habits to make this a regularly occurring thing. But I hope that I will give you some ideas about the content of these conversations, or the types of conversations, to help make that job easier. Here are my top 10 conversations that every leader should have with every employee.
And the first one is that every employee needs to be working to their strengths. I hope that you are thinking about this and that you are aware of what strengths are, but in general, the more that you can match people’s work to their strength, the better that they will perform, the better quality results that they will produce for you, and the more engaged that they will be, the more excited they will be about their work and the better the culture of your organization and team will be. So you need to have conversations with people in order to learn more about their strengths and to make sure that they are getting a chance to use their strengths everyday at work. Find out what is it that makes them feel a sense of passion, a sense of flow at work? What really helps them utilize their skills and also their passions, and what comes easily to them that other people find not that easy? Those are some of the clues about what their strengths might be.
And of course I wrote a book about this, and there are lots of tools out there to help you get an actual assessment of what people’s strengths are, and this is a great thing that you should be able to do, because it gives you more food for discussion with them and more specific information that you can use. So have strength conversations with your employees on a pretty regular basis. Now, this doesn’t mean that you talk to them about this every week because there’s lots of things you need to still talk to them about. This is something that maybe you want to talk once or twice a year about to make sure that you’re both in sync and that they’re still feeling like their job allows them to use their strengths daily and that they’re doing things that are supported by their strengths rather than always going against the grain of their strengths. Because in the end, you won’t be utilizing their value, their ultimate potential value, and optimizing their ability to contribute to the organization if you don’t allow them to work from their strengths.
The second kind of conversation that every leader should have with every employee is goal-planning conversations. Now, that probably doesn’t happen daily either, but you need to make sure that at some point you’re having a conversation with the employee about what their main goals are for the year, and then you are having a regular check-in with employees about what is their progress toward their goals and what changes might have happened in what their goals are, what their goals should be, what way that they should be working about those goals or maybe the prioritization. Because the world is very dynamic. Things change. Organizations change. People change. Workflows change. So whatever goals you set at the beginning, they’re not set in stone. Now, you shouldn’t throw them out the window every other day and change them willy-nilly, but they should be dynamic and therefore there should be some tweaks, changes – maybe minor, maybe major – to the goals. So this should be something that is included in regular conversations that you’re having with your employees so that they are always feeling like they understand what they’re working toward, so that they have the capacity to make good decisions when there is a conflict of interest or when they have competing priorities. Because a lot of time is wasted when people aren’t clear, aren’t sure, what they should be working on, and having goals conversations can eliminate a lot of that uncertainty and time waste. And improve your productivity for sure.
The third kind of conversation that you should be having regularly with your employees is day-to-day performance conversations. As I mentioned before, if you’re keeping performance conversations to once or twice a year, you’re doing it wrong. People need to have regular information about how they are performing against their goals and against the measures of their success. They need to know your assessment of their progress and they need to have the opportunity to make course corrections along the way, rather than finding out about something that’s a problem maybe further down the road after they’ve been basically just allowed to continue making the mistake over and over or maybe doing something in a way that is less productive or less effective than they could be. Everybody has the opportunity to make improvements and would appreciate having the chance to do so by you talking with them about their performance in a day-to-day way. You need not withhold information about their performance. You need to seek opportunities to have conversations about performance on a very, very regular basis.
A weekly check-in is one of the ways that you could do that, and that’s the fourth type of conversation I recommend every leader have with every employee. A weekly check-in. Not a quarterly check-in. Not a bi-annual check-in. A weekly check-in. That means one-on-one time that’s dedicated to talking about whatever it is that you need to talk about, like updates about their project, updates about their goals, talking about how they feel, what things are going on, what’s exciting to them, what is happening maybe in side projects. Anything that you can ask them about and tell them from your perspective can take place during these conversations, and they don’t have to be very long conversations. You don’t have a schedule an hour with every employee every week. They can be five minutes, 10 minutes, 15-minute conversations. One of my friends and colleagues, Jeremy Epstein whom I interviewed in episode 34 of my podcast of the TalentGrow Show was telling me how every Sunday night, he sits down and he schedules all the one-on-ones with all of his employees and even some of his skip level, the less than direct reports, who report to his direct reports, so that he is able to make sure that he saves time for those important conversations. Because otherwise, the work will expand to the time available – that’s Parkinson’s Law – and it’s true. It happens. So if you don’t make time for those, if you don’t build them into your schedule, the time will not be there. But if you do build them into your schedule because it is your job, it is your job to do that, then you will be able to make sure that you’re checking in with people on a regular basis. Everything about your job will improve if you do nothing but this. Change. So make sure that you schedule one-on-one conversations with all of your employees. You will thank me for it.
The fifth kind of conversation you should be having regularly with your employees is positive feedback conversations. You need to be on the lookout for things to tell them about their performance that are going well. You need to be on the lookout for ways to tell them about what you appreciate about their approach, their style, their skill. Specific things they said, specific things they did. Feedback from customers, feedback from peers, feedback from other departments. All of the information that you can gather about what they’re doing right, and you need to communicate that regularly. Now, ideally what you want to do is communicate that as close to its occurrence as possible. You don’t want to save it up for any kind of scheduled conversation, if by any chance you are able to give them that feedback right away. You can use my STS formula, which I’ve discussed elsewhere – I’ll link to it – to know how to give that kind of feedback that is really valuable to people and helps them know what is working so that they can keep doing that. The more specific, the better.
But of course, you also should be having developmental feedback conversations. Because everybody wants to learn and grow. Everybody wants to get even better at what they’re doing. So if you’re only telling them about what’s working and you’re not telling them about anything that they could do to even ratchet up their performance, you’re withholding information from them that they need in order to reach mastery, which is one of those drivers of motivation in the 21st Century. As I’ve discussed before and as described by Daniel Pink in his wonderful book, Drive. So how are you helping people reach mastery if you’re not telling them ways in which they could improve? Look for opportunities to give them very timely, very specific and well-defined feedback about ways in which they could ratchet up the effectiveness of what they’re doing. Now, of course this would be the category under which you would give them information about things you need them to stop doing, mistakes they’re making or something that they’re just doing incorrectly, because they need to know that so that they don’t keep making that mistake.
The seventh kind of conversation every leader should have with employees is career conversations. Do you know what their career aspirations are? Do you know what their development needs are? Do you know what their next steps are in their career, where they’ve been, where they want to go? And are you facilitating that for them? Because as the developer of talent, as a manager, it is your responsibility to help people achieve their goals in their careers to the extent that you can. So what do they want to accomplish their career, and are there ways in which you can help them achieve those goals? You’re not going to keep them forever. A friend of mine, Chip Joyce, who I also interviewed on the podcast, is the CEO of a company called Allied Talent that works to implement what has been written in a book by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh called The Alliance that says that in the modern workplace, we are lying to ourselves when we pretend that it’s like a marriage, forever, forever, until death do us part. We used to pretend – maybe it used to be true before, I don’t know, but it’s definitely not true now – nobody takes on a job with the intention of staying in it forever, and no employer hires someone with the intention of keeping them around forever. So let’s stop the charade and let’s have conversations that are open and honest and real about the fact that when somebody joins your team, it’s for a finite period of time and it’s to accomplish certain goals. So how can they add the most value when they’re with you, and how can you add value to their career so that they feel developed, that they feel supported and that it actually makes them want to stay longer, not less? So talk about it.
The eighth kind of conversation that every leader should have with every employee is what my friend and mentor Dr. Beverly Kaye calls stay interviews. She was featured on the second episode ever of the TalentGrow Show and she’s written a book, co-authored a book, called Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go. And Beverly Kaye is a very wise woman, because it’s true. So what is a stay interview? Well, I bet you’ve heard of exit interviews, right? Here’s what’s really absurd about exit interviews. Organizations often don’t talk to people – managers don’t talk to people – until they are about to leave, when they’ve decided they’re done, they’ve had it, they want to go somewhere else. Now we suddenly want to know what’s going on, could we keep you, what could we have done differently to keep you? Why are we waiting until they leave or until they’ve emotionally disconnected to have that conversation? We should be having conversations all the time about what do we need to do to keep you here, to keep you happy, to prevent you from exiting? Those are stay interviews to oppose the exit interviews. So if you’re having conversations with people all the time about what they need, about what they want, about what could help them feel even happier in their job, about what things are maybe getting on their nerves or not working for them, the better you can do to keep them happy, to keep them engaged, to keep them motivated and to keep them performing at their top performance. Which is what you want! So stay interviews are fantastic kind of conversation. So I will link to that, to the book, and to the interview with Dr. Kaye so that you can listen to that to learn a little bit more about that.
The ninth kind of conversation every leader should have with every employee is impact conversation. And that’s to just help embed and contextualize for every employee how what they do supports the bottom line. How what they do contributes to the ultimate mission of the organization. How what they’re doing helps the organization do what it’s promised its constituents that it wants, that it will do for them, so that they never feel like some kind of cog in the wheel. So that they never feel like that episode in I Love Lucy where Lucille Ball is trying to learn a job where her whole job is to just wrap chocolate bon-bons. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this video – you can Google and watch it on You Tube – it’s hilarious! All she knows is that there’s a little hole in the wall and little chocolate bon-bons come out of it, that hole, on a conveyor belt. Her job is to wrap them up and these little packages and send them on their way down the conveyor belt, through another hole in another wall. She has no sense of the impact of her work on the end consumer. She doesn’t see people enjoying the chocolates. She doesn’t see their hands not getting dirty or not getting into the chocolates as a result of the fact that she’s wrapped them so well and so on. Her job becomes so isolated and it’s like she has tunnel vision about what she’s trying to do to the extent that she doesn’t care that much about what she’s doing. Of course there’s a lot of comedy involved and it’s on purpose that she really, really is very clueless about what she’s doing, but I think it delivers a very good point which is does every one of your employees see the connection between what they’re doing on a daily basis to the ultimate mission of the organization, to the results, to the satisfaction of the clients, to the value, to the shareholders or whatever it is that you’re trying to achieve in your mission? Make sure that you talk to them about that on a regular basis, not just once a year.
And then finally, the tenth conversation that every leader should have with every employee – by the way, these are not in any particular order, I should have said that earlier. They’re just generally 10 types of conversations that you should be having. So the tenth one, are you ready, is development and training conversations. Now, I come from the world of talent development and training and employee development, so this is near and dear to my heart. I wrote a book about this called Employee Development on a Shoestring that helps busy managers get more ideas about how they can help develop their employees without always having to just send them to some training class. Let’s face it, there aren’t training classes for every kind of development needed. Second, we don’t have time to send people to so many training classes. Third, we don’t have the money, the budget, to send people to so many training classes. And fourth, some things are not best learned in a training class. They’re best learned in some other way. You need to think about what does each employee want to learn? What skills do they need to develop? What are their goals and in terms of their mastery trajectory and developing the kinds of skills that will help them not only in their current job, but in their future jobs, and how can you support their learning needs?
So there are lots and lots of ways that you can do that. Volunteering is one way. Mentoring is another way. On the job learning through shadowing or job rotations. There are lots of ways that people can develop skills that don't require sending them to training. So check out my book, Employee Development on a Shoestring, it’s on Amazon and everywhere books are sold, and of course here on my website, but there are lots of ideas that I can share with you and you need to make sure that this is part of your regular conversation with employees.
So, I’ve shared with you the 10 kinds of conversations that I think every leader should have with every employee. And I think that if you make time for these, they’re not all 10 every day, all the time. But all throughout the year, you need to be regularly having conversations with employees and these are all the types of things that you should be talking about with them, in addition to just asking them about their weekend and asking them about their summer and asking them what makes them tick or what makes them happy or what really gets on their nerves. Just so that you get to know them and build trust and build a camaraderie. All of those things are going to go so far in helping you with your job, in helping them with their job, and in helping the organization get things done in the best possible way.
Halelly: Okay, so what did you think – was that useful? Did you get some new ideas? Do you think you’re going to use any of these types of conversations going forward with your employees? And if you’re not yet a manager or a leader officially, this doesn’t mean you can’t use any of this information. Because, first of all, these are the kinds of conversations you can have with your peers employees. And also, these are the kinds of conversations that maybe you can initiate with your manager, with your boss. Because, let’s face it, maybe they didn’t hear about these ideas. Maybe they didn’t think about it. And it still would make your relationship much better, and would make your work situation much better, if you did talk about these things. So, that might be an idea for you to consider.
But at any rate, I would love to hear what you thought in the comments. Just go over to the show notes page, which is www.talentgrow.com/podcast/episode38 and over there is where I’ll link to everything that I mentioned, and give you an opportunity to leave comments.
So, thank you for tuning in. I hope that you enjoyed this solo episode. I hope that you will subscribe if you haven’t subscribed yet. And give me a shout-out over on iTunes in a rating and a review, because that’s super helpful to other people because it helps them discover the show – it shows up in the search results more. So, thank you for your time. Thank you for listening. Make today great!
Announcer: Thanks for listening to the TalentGrow Show, where we help you develop your talent to become the kind of leader that people want to follow. For more information, visit TalentGrow.com.
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