Keys To Having Successful Performance Conversations

Performance conversations are essential to helping your team do their best and building your relationship with everyone. These one-on-one discussions give you the opportunity to listen to your employees, provide personalized coaching, and deepen your rapport. While everyone has their own style for handling this type of meeting, here are a few keys that are important to having a successful talk. 


Spend plenty of time preparing for this meeting. You want to keep the person's personality and communication style in mind so that you have a productive discussion. Some team members are very straightforward and blunt and appreciate the same from their manager. Other people require more tact and being allowed to come to their own conclusion based on your conversation. Develop an agenda based on the topics you want to cover and those that the team member has mentioned. If you have notes from previous one-on-one meetings, take a look at those as part of your review. 


You want to develop a deep understanding of the motivations that each person brings to the table, as well as the way they work best. This information allows you to offer coaching tips that truly fit their needs, rather than ones that fall short of the mark. Discuss the most challenging aspects of the work with your team members and see whether particular roadblocks are standing in their way of success. The more you know about the individual, the better you can provide performance management. 

2. Understand what motivates them and what their work preferences are to tailor your coaching tips. Find out where their challenges are and whether something is a roadblock towards them meeting their goals. 

Ongoing Coaching

Coaching is not a one-and-done process that is limited to performance conversations. You want to keep employee coaching going continually between these scheduled meetings. Pay close attention and reach out proactively if you're seeing signs that they're running into problems or failing to meet performance goals. If there are areas that an employee wants to learn more about, or they'd like to take on additional responsibilities, you can send tips revolving around that area as well. 


Positive reinforcement goes a long way towards motivating someone to do better. When the employee performance meets or exceeds your expectations, make sure that you recognize this achievement. Give employees plenty of praise in these situations. If you can offer perks for a reward or celebration, that's even better. 

Active Listening

One of the most important parts of being a manager is learning the art of listening. Some people simply listen to hear their cue to start talking again. Active listening is taking in all the information that a person says, displaying empathy, and absorbing all of the unspoken parts of the conversation as well. Take every opportunity to practice your listening skills, and you'll be amazed at how much more you'll learn about your people. This skill will serve you well in other aspects of your professional life, and your personal one as well! 

Guiding Questions

While performance conversations have a lot of open-ended discussions, you do have specific areas on your agenda to cover. Use guiding questions to direct the conversation so that you can bring up important topics. You can always leave time for fully open-ended questions, as well. The way that you phrase these questions depends a lot on how the individual has discussions. You might need to spell out exactly what you're looking for in an answer, or you can trust that they'll interpret it the way that you intended. 

Goal Setting

Make your employee performance expectations clear by setting concrete goals. If you've previously met with this employee, review the goals that you brought up in the last one-on-one meeting to see whether they have been accomplished. Talk with your team members on whether they felt like those goals were realistic based on their workload and capabilities, or if adjustments are needed. When you're setting new goals, keep this feedback in mind so you're setting your people up for success. 



The meeting time is solely dedicated to this performance discussion. Don't multi-task or drop the meeting to address something else, unless it's truly urgent. You want your team to feel like they're a priority, and that's hard if you're not giving them your undivided attention during this time slot. If possible, turn off your computer monitor, silence your phones, and make sure that everyone knows to not come into the office unless it's an emergency. 


You should be thinking of the next employee performance meeting before the end of the current one. Schedule follow-ups on a regular basis, either at the same time each week or month or after the completion of important milestones or big projects. When you frequently touch base with your employees, you give them more opportunities to discuss concerns and questions that they have with their work duties. They can be confident that you'll have the time set aside for them to come to you with these conversation topics. 

It's hard to have stellar performance conversations when you haven't worked with a team member for a long time or you don't really know them and understand how they work. Cloverleaf helps you have more productive, meaningful, and enjoyable performance conversations. This solution gives you the insights to truly understand who you're talking with. You learn about their strengths, motivations, preferences, and natural working styles so you can personalize the conversation and your coaching tips. 

Don't leave something as important as performance management up to guesswork. Cloverleaf gives you the information you need to have a successful one-on-one every time. It even helps you with ongoing coaching through automated tips sent straight to the person's inbox. 

The Cloverleaf Team