A few years ago, it seemed that performance management was on its way out; in fact, a number of prominent companies abandoned their systems.

But many organizations (including my firm) have continued performance management because we find a system helps employees set goals that support the company strategy while providing a framework for professional development.

The value of any performance management system is communication. In fact, true effectiveness lies beyond process; it's about the dialogue between manager and team member.

Whether you are a new supervisor who has never lead an in-depth performance discussion, or a manager with many years of experience, your effectiveness depends on how well you prepare.

Here are five ways to have effective performance discussions:

1. Plan for performance discussions
The more you prepare for a performance discussion, the more effective it will be:  

  • Spend time before a planned performance discussion thinking about what you want to achieve.  
  • Review relevant documents so that you have past conversations fresh in your mind.  
  • Try to anticipate questions or concerns your team member may raise.  

2. Have the meeting in person (if possible)

If you're someone who manages people remotely, it may be difficult to get together face to face. But try to schedule an in-person kick-off meeting for performance management, when your team member will be with you. The personal interaction makes a difference.


3. Make sure the dialogue is actually a dialogue 
The more you engage team members in performance discussions, the greater their commitment will be. You and your team members share responsibility for goal setting and development planning, which means that you need to involve employees in the discussions.

One great way to encourage dialogue is to ask your team member to bring draft performance or development goals to the meeting.

4. Listen and respond with empathy
You need to listen actively to understand your team member's perspective:

5. Discuss throughout the year
The more you continue the dialogue throughout the year, the more your team member will In fact, team members should not be surprised by anything they hear at their annual performance review. Therefore, it's important that you provide ongoing performance feedback.

These performance discussions can take the form of informal feedback given in real-time or planned discussions.