If you are coaching others in the workplace, you probably have some sort of performance management process. While these typically culminate in the annual meeting, many suggest or require at least a midyear check-in too. Even if your process doesn’t suggest that, I believe you benefit everyone by having midyear check-ins. The question is, how to have them, or how to get the most from them?
Here are my tips for creating more value and meaning from the midyear check-in.
Make them part of a process. Perhaps the biggest problem with most performance management systems is that they are treated like events. If you think about performance management that way, you end up with one or two required, emotionally charged meetings that might not go so well. Yes, the midyear check-in is important. But if you have ongoing conversations about performance and progress, these meetings will feel like a natural part of an ongoing conversation. Even if this hasn't been your approach up until now, the rest of these tips will be immediately applicable.
Expect joint ownership and preparation. Remember that these meetings aren't just meant to check off a box for HR. They are at least as important for the team member as they are for you as the leader. Since the topic is about the team member, their performance, the behavior, and their choices, they should come to the meeting prepared as a partner in the conversation. Set guidelines and expectations for them to come to the meeting ready to discuss their performance and progress.
Ask more and talk less. Chances are you are spending too much of the time talking in these meetings. If you want to create joint ownership of the meeting, you need to talk less. Make question identification and planning part of your preparation. What topics would you like to explore? What questions will draw them out? Know that the first time you shift to asking more/talking less people might be reticent to talk. That's ok, just be patient and supportive. That act alone will make the midyear check-in more valuable and meaningful to them.
Discuss more than the work itself. Now that you may be working virtually with your team members, these meetings are more important than ever. They represent a specific time devoted for you to communicate with your team members individually. Chances are, you are communicating less than you were before, so each interaction is more important. Take some time in these meetings to learn about their goals and aspirations, to check in on them personally and get a check on how they are doing and what they need from you to be even more successful.
Look forward. Too often midyear check-ins are nothing more than midyear reviews. Of course, you should look back at performance and progress, but make sure you look forward too. Both parties should leave this conversation knowing what they can do to sustain and improve performance in pursuit of your goals. If your team member doesn't have tangible steps, and you don't know what you can do to support them, how can you know performance will continue to improve?
Refocus on the big picture. Meaning comes from people knowing that what they do matters. Don't allow team members to get lost in the details of the work. Help people see the impact of their contribution. Remind them of the value and purpose of the work. Help them know how what they do can help others improve. While this is important for everyone, it is especially true if performance is lacking, or the team member is discouraged at all.
As you implement more of these ideas into your midyear check-ins they will be more successful and less stressful for everyone. More than that they will be a source of inspiration, connection, and genuine improvement.
Midyear (and more frequent) check-ins are a hallmark, habit and skill of effective coaches. If you want to build your confidence and competence as a coach and developer of others, join me at an upcoming virtually delivered Coaching with Confidence learning experience. Or contact us about bringing this learning experience into your organization.
Kevin Eikenberry is a world-renowned leadership expert, a two-time bestselling author, speaker, consultant, trainer, coach, leader, learner, husband and father. He was recently recognized by Inc.com as one of the top 100 Leadership & Management thinkers in the World. This article originally appeared on his Leadership and Learning Blog.