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How to Plan and Conduct an Effective Performance Improvement Conversation

Leaders and managers often lament the “difficult conversations they have to have” with staff about performance – whether it be to address a specific behavioural problem or highlight an attitude that is less than ideal in the individual.

In almost all instances, this conversation seeks to bring about a change in the individual that has to come from them and to which they must commit.


Here’s a practical process for planning and conducting these conversations to achieve better outcomes:

Process for Conducting Performance Improvement Conversations (Behaviour or Attitude Related)
  Step Examples
1 Explain the nature of the problem, issue or concern I’ve noticed / I’ve become aware of / Someone has informed me that issue / attitude/behaviour is happening / that performance is not where it is required to be…
2 Provide some specific and objective evidence to support your comments (not hearsay or opinion) Here’s some information / stats about the problem
3 Explore the reason it is a problem, issue or concern and outline of consequences as appropriate This is a problem for me/the organisation because… If this continues it creates the further problem of…
4 Question for understanding I’d like to understand more about why this is happening so that we can work together to prevent it in the future. Why do you think this is happening? What do you believe is causing it to happen? What else?
5 Communicate collaboratively to search for possible solutions What could we do to overcome / solve / fix / improve the situation? What options are available to us to address this? What else? (If key options not mentioned – I think we could also consider options including…)
6 Selecting the best option From all of those options, which one(s) would make the biggest difference / get the best outcome / could you implement to address the situation? Which others? (If key options not mentioned – I think we could also consider doing …)
7 Agree on option(s) So let’s just confirm that we are both in agreement that you’ll do….and I’ll do…
to support you…
8 Agree on measure(s) Let’s talk about how we are going to measure this. What will be different once this option has been implemented? What will you do differently? What will I be doing differently?
9 First actions to implement the agreed option So what’s the first step in making these things happen? Where would it make sense to start? What would you do then? And then?
10 Agreed follow up I’d like us to meet again in X days/weeks to check that everything is working to plan and to make any adjustments we may need and check the measures we’ve put in place

Extracted from LMA’s High Performance Management, (Diploma of Management). To find details about the next High Performance Management course or our entire course range, please click here.