Want to Improve Work Performance? Focus on Your Conversations

1-1-meeting-graphic-2016A new infographic released by The Ken Blanchard Companies shows that work communication isn’t happening with the quality or frequency people are hoping for.  The infographic looks specifically at one-on-one conversations and finds huge gaps (20 to 30 percent) between what employees want and what they actually experience when conversing with their manager.

These gaps are found in performance planning and performance review discussions as well as day-to-day coaching. According to a supporting white paper, this disparity translates into lowered employee intention to perform at a high level, apply discretionary effort, or even stay with the organization.

It’s a problem that needs to be addressed immediately, says Scott Blanchard, principal and EVP with The Ken Blanchard Companies. From Blanchard’s perspective, managers should meet with their direct reports weekly or at least biweekly to review progress, give feedback, and provide additional direction and support as needed.

“All good performance begins with clear goals. It’s about getting people focused and setting their priorities so that they know where they are going,” says Blanchard.

“Next, it’s about identifying the skills and motivation a direct report brings to a particular goal or task. Is it something brand new to the person that will require a lot of direction, or is it something they have experience doing? The manager needs to provide the right combination of direction and support to match the employee’s level of competence and commitment on the goal or task.”

In a recent article for his company’s Ignite! newsletter, Blanchard explains that the challenge for a manager is to be able to provide all four of the different styles of leadership people need based on their ability to accomplish a task. He points to research that shows most managers are adept at delivering only one style of leadership out of the four—for example, only directing or only supporting.

“Only 1 percent of managers we’ve worked with were already able to adjust the levels of direction and support they provided their direct reports based on specific needs. The good news is this is a skill that can be learned.”

Blanchard believes job one for a manager is to create commitment and clarity with people about where they’re going and what they’re doing. After that, the manager must make time to check in and evaluate progress on a regular—think weekly—basis.

“The best managers conduct these check-ins frequently by way of structured conversations with each direct report. This is more difficult than it sounds. Consider all of the projects being worked on by all of a manager’s direct reports. The manager needs to make sure they know which project is being reviewed. They may need four or five different conversations with a given employee depending on how many projects need to be discussed.”

Blanchard explains that the smart manager takes a situational approach to communication: they look at competence, confidence, and motivation to decide which management approach works best.

“It’s about flexing your leadership style based on what the direct report needs in a specific role. More than ever in today’s world, managers need to stop for a moment and think about the individual they are speaking with, the type of conversation they are having, how productive the conversation is, and how the direct report feels—and then decide on the best words to say.”

Getting Started

Blanchard encourages leaders to take the time to develop additional management skills.

“It can be a challenge at first, but it can be learned. We believe the success or failure of a manager hinges on the quality of the conversations they have with their people. Great managers know how to have useful conversations—how to talk things through, resolve issues, create clarity, and keep things moving forward. The capacity to learn how to have successful performance management conversations creates the foundational skill all managers need to succeed.”

Interested in learning more? 

Learning and talent development executives are invited to join Blanchard for a free special online event October 26.

scott-blanchard-square-headshotLeadership 201: Developing a Leadership Curriculum for Midlevel Managers

October 26, 2016, at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time

In this webinar, Scott Blanchard will share the advanced skills needed in any leadership development program aimed at midlevel managers. Drawing on the key principles from Situational Leadership® II, Blanchard will share the recommended components learning and talent development professionals should focus on when they create a midlevel manager curriculum, including:

  • The Five Elements of Advanced Goal Setting: A new take on the popular SMART Goal model that puts a special emphasis on motivation. Managers draw people into aligned goals instead of constantly having to hold them accountable to overall organization objectives.
  • The Four Stages of Development: How to identify the starting mindset of direct reports on new tasks; also, the four stages of development all people pass through when taking on a new goal or project.
  • How to Flex Your Leadership Style: The steps required for a leader to develop beyond a comfortable, default leadership style in order to provide appropriate direction and support for every direct report.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about the essential skill components midlevel managers need to succeed in today’s diverse and fast-paced work environment. Discover the components you should be considering as a part of your leadership development offerings.

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