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Make Room, Annual Performance Review. Behavior-Based Coaching Has Entered the Chat.

If you’ve worked in a corporate environment long enough–one year, to be exact–chances are you’ve been on the receiving end of an annual performance review. The drill is usually the same: your boss reviews what they think you’ve accomplished in the past year and where you fell short. If you’re lucky, you provide a little input as well. Then you learn if you'll get that raise you’ve been after.

And this is probably your process with your own employees.

But, like many areas of the workplace these days, performance management processes are evolving. Employees need consistent and effective coaching conversations on top of annual performance reviews to perform at their best, focusing on behaviors rather than wins and losses. It's time to change from feedback to feedforward and create the coaching culture your team needs.

What does this shift look like? The transition to generating real-time results that propel employee development is easier than you may think.

Have a Conversation, Not an Evaluation

The root of traditional performance evaluations is one-way feedback from leader to employee. Employees do not receive equal time to provide insights and are tasked only with absorbing those of their leader.

Feedforward coaching sessions take a different approach. As Workhuman notes, "managers move from being a 'window gazer'—someone who simply tells the employee what they see—to become a 'mirror holder'—someone who holds up a mirror, so the employee can see their performance in a whole new light."

Shedding new light on performance means a candid conversation and open-ended questions between the leader and employee, with both parties examining their behaviors.

Create a Safe Space

Feedforward coaching conversations only produce real-time results when leaders and employees are honest. The inherent power dynamic places the burden on leaders to create an environment of psychological safety in which to reflect.

Psychological safety means employees believe they can do several things without fear of reprimand:

  • Admit mistakes
  • Take emotional and creative risks
  • Express concerns or ask questions
  • Share new ideas

When leaders foster psychological safety by showing vulnerability, expressing their own fears, and talking about their mistakes, it opens the door for their team to do the same. And it provides the fuel for a productive feedforward coaching relationship.

Focus On Behaviors

Yearly reviews typically focus on goals, both hit and missed, but this approach leaves employees feeling frustrated rather than empowered Because an annual review is once a year, it’s difficult to remember what happened throughout the year. Unfortunately, achievements, new skills, and experiences are often forgotten about. And, it’s too late to even mention behaviors.

In a feedforward coaching conversation, both the employee and the leader share which behaviors have been recently productive for them, along with those that haven't.

Reflecting on strengths and how those strengths can affect team dynamics when they're overused, positions leaders and employees to create actionable steps for real-time results.

Is your employee assertive, or are they more likely to suggest rather than tell? Do they insist on a plan when it comes to task completion, or are they flexible when it comes to processes? These are examples of behaviors that may or may not be productive for employees depending on the situation and colleagues involved. At the start of your conversation, be sure to recognize positive behaviors prior to discussing problematic behaviors. Perhaps your assertive employee provided momentum for a team collaboration session when they voiced their thoughts in a silent room. Or their flexibility allowed them to adapt easily to a recent change in strategy.

Leaders are expected to be decisive, but there may be times when your team needs you to provide more time for them to reflect. If you tend to be practical and emphasize facts, how might your lack of emotional expressiveness affect your coaching?

When leaders and employees discuss productive and unproductive behaviors together, psychological safety is established. As trust is reinforced through continued feedforward conversations, insights can become richer and provide additional clarity around development opportunities.

Create an Action Plan

Your employee shared their behavioral insights. You shared yours. Now what?

Through developing the next steps designed to modify unproductive behaviors, the feedforward approach can do the most for you and your employees. Your action plans should include concrete steps you can both take to avoid overusing your strengths and turning them into liabilities. 

If there are situations in which your decisiveness creates stress for your employee, consider giving them a set amount of time to reflect on the issue at hand if it’s not critical to business operations. For instance, plan a follow-up meeting with the employee 24 hours after the initial problem solving discussion to determine a final course of action.

Another example of examing your behaviors can be if you feel your practical nature conveyed a lack of empathy. Practice asking questions to give your employees space for emotions. In doing so, you continue to create an ideal outcome: the safe space critical to employee engagement and performance.

It’s Time to Move Forward

Employees crave coaching, and once a year just isn’t enough. When you consistently provide feedback to your employees with a feedforward approach through behavior-based coaching, it does more than create momentum for their personal growth. It creates a coaching culture grounded in psychological safety for employees. And the real-time performance results will transform your employees from mere colleagues into a high-performance team.

Ready to change your approach to coaching? Listen to our coaching webinar led by Birkman President Amy Shepley and download our behavior-based coaching guide.

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