What if I told you that the 10-minute window at your virtual parents evening was a mini-course in how to facilitate dynamic and meaningful and performance reviews?

 How would you like to turn your micro meeting about phonics or GCSE option choices, into at least five nuggets you can use now to be a better virtual leader? 

Better yet, what if I shared my recent experience and listed five nuggets you can implement now to create a motivational personal development review and save you the time? 

Another month, another series of firsts. Tick. 

For me, last month it was the virtual parents evening.  In our case, the virtual development consultation. Yep, they renamed it with a fancy pants title because it was a daytime-only event. Cue working parents tearing their hair out to rearrange meetings desperate to find out how effective their dual role of professional and teacher has played out. 

It turns out the fancy pants title was a deliberate move to name it something that was more reflective of the experience. And they nailed it. This was not the stressful bunfight in the school hall I was used to. And within the new format were some subtle reminders of how we need to be.  

What does this have to do with leadership? I hear you say. Well, quite a lot when it comes to performance reviews and personal development planning happening at this time of the year. We all know how important our people are. Development conversations often are the meetings that get compromised in some way or another. An operational crisis always seems to trump the all-important conversation that could have averted the said crisis if it had taken place!  

What never fails to surprise me is how few senior leaders are invited to development conversations themselves. The higher up the organisation you go, the less this appears to happen. If you are not experiencing a great quality conversation with your line manager that inspires and motivates you to action, why would you prioritise it for your team? I am not saying they don’t happen, but if you are not experiencing what great looks like, you are at risk of just going through the motions with your team.  

When you are on the receiving end of a compelling and meaningful development review its visceral. Fortunately, my daughter experienced some brilliant meetings last week. And there were a couple that, for me, were outstanding.  Set your minimum standards high in any meetings where performance and development are the focus, and the payoffs will be clear.  

Here are 5 things that I have taken from the best sessions last week:

1. Manage your time. Setting boundaries and clearly articulating the purpose and format of the meeting is essential. This is a no brainer for any meeting to be honest, but when you are honing in on an individual, their performance and potential, turning up on time with a clear roadmap sets the right tone. Being punctual on arrival isn’t enough. You need to manage and signpost throughout the meeting to cover everything required to show them how valued they are.

 2. Be prepared. I am sure there are many aspects of your role where you just wing it right now. And by wing it, I mean think on your feet quickly with little or no certainty. This is not one of them. Preparation is key, and taking the time to review performance and consider areas for growth is paramount. Have any documents and examples to hand to reinforce feedback. Equally, think about how you want them to prepare and make that clear before the meeting. Finally, prepare your environment. Set your workspace so that you replicate the in-person vibe you would have had in a before covid life. No employee will feel motivated and inspired with a 60 minute nostril shot with your iPad falling over every 5 mins. 

3. Manage your energy.  It might be the eighth appraisal/review you have done this week, but it is the ONLY one for them. Make it count. Manage your energy so that you can turn up as the best version of yourself. Be interested and enthusiastic. Give yourself time before and after each meeting to switch your energy so that you can communicate as your best self. Disable any notifications and minimise distractions so that you can be fully present on the call. They may not be able to see the calendar invites pouring in or the queries coming in on Whatsapp but if the stimulus is impacting you, they will feel it too.

 4. Use coaching questions. The teachers that stood out for me last week were the ones that created a partnership very quickly. They used great coaching questions to help my daughter reflect on and review her own progress, establish where she is now, where she wanted to be and then helped her think about how she would close the gaps. Managing development and performance should be a collaborative process. Make a note of some incisive questions, experiment and find the ones that generate the best responses. I can assure you that getting a teenager to open up is no mean feat but I witnessed some amazingly innovative open questions. 

5. Signpost what next. Having established the current situation, the aspiration and how to close any gaps, you now want your team member to be accountable for executing the plan. Make sure that you summarise what you have agreed so that everyone knows the next steps and the part they play. Facilitating development in others shouldn’t mean you walk away with a long to do list. Make sure that you are empowering them to take action and responsibility for their own progress.  

But what if what they need is more of your time to get some real traction?

 In the current circumstances, you want to maintain engagement and motivation through development, but feel more time poor than ever. You know it makes sense to elevate the performance of others but you just don’t have the time or energy to be adding even more Zoom calls into your diary. Especially coaching sessions that can feel time consuming.  This is where an external coach can help. By ‘outsourcing’ this facet of your role, you can set the direction and leave me to coach them towards their goals. You get to enjoy the benefits of their progress and they feel valued and invested in.  It’s not a failure or laziness as a leader, it’s being resourceful. If you want to know more contact me hello@jocowlin.com and we can explore how I can help.   

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