How to have a nourishing performance conversation


Tis the season .. for annual performance reviews. Are you the kind of person who gets anxious leading up to going in for your own annual performance review? Or perhaps you are a manager who wants to find a better way to make the most of your time with your team member at this time of year?

Either way, this blog aims to provide you with a few tips to take the fear out of performance conversations and enable them to be a positive experience for manager and team member.

Let’s start with the team member’s perspective.

If you are someone who does find these conversations anxiety inducing, it is likely you are assuming one of the following:

  • I’ve worked hard but I’m not sure my results are where they should be. Will my manager recognise I have done all I could?
  • I don’t think my manager is close enough to my work to know what I’ve been doing. How can they give me a fair performance appraisal?
  • I know that I find it hard to put my opinions across when talking about myself. I bet I’ll get tongue-tied and walk out annoyed with myself.
  • My goals kept changing through the year. How can my performance be appraised on that?

What’s common in the above is a sense that the result of the appraisal may not be where you would like it to be. This is more likely a concern when your appraisal result feeds into a pay rise, promotion, or assessment of future career potential.

I would suspect that most people at some point over their career have had an appraisal which they felt didn’t reflect where they felt they should be. The important thing is to recognise that this can happen and to learn from it to avoid a repeat situation if possible.

With that in mind, going into a performance conversation, don’t focus on the rating, focus on how to get the most from the conversation in terms of what you can learn and how it can set you up for success in the year to come. Making these outcomes the focus of the conversation can help you to get more from it.

Top tips to prepare include:

  1. Focus on what you can learn and how to set yourself up for success in the following year
  2. Consider what your agreed goals were for the year and how you have progressed against them – where you have achieved what was agreed, be clear on what you personally did to make that happen and any stretch or learning achieved.
  3. Where your goals haven’t been met, did you manage expectations through the year? What contributed to not meeting goals? What could you have done differently? What can you learn from this for next year? Are there still elements that you felt you did well that you are pleased about?
  4. Given what you know about the team’s goals and the organisation’s strategy, what might be some focus areas for you for the following year? What would be of value to the organisation and provide you with stretch, learning and be motivating for you?


How about if you are a manager considering your team member’s performance review?

Remember when providing feedback that the word ‘feed’ can help us to consider that what we share should be nourishing like good food rather than detrimental. Being clear on why you are sharing the feedback and focusing on helping your team member recognise both what they have done well and how they might do even better in the following year can be helpful.

If you are anticipating that there may be a performance shortfall from your team member that needs discussing, gathering evidence is key in order to be objective. Recognise that it is important for a team member to feel heard and to have a chance to explain their thoughts on their results, effort and learning. If this is done well with you giving them uninterrupted attention, they are more likely to be receptive to your views.

Being clear on what you want for you, for the other person, and for the relationship at the end of the performance conversation can help you to set the right tone from the start and to ensure that there is value for your team member.

Finally whether team member or team manager, remember that you both would rather have a positive performance discussion. Being open, objective and willing to put yourself in the other’s shoes can help to build trust and a stronger relationship…and should be a continuation of ongoing conversations about performance throughout the year.

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