Simple Follow Up — One Way to Maximize Performance Conversations
Performance conversations can be very positive experiences, especially when they occur frequently and when the focus is coaching. That’s the opinion I hear from managers and their team members.
And yet, I hear this common frustration from managers — Why do I have to repeat the same coaching again and again? Why don’t some people “get it” the first time?
The intent of this article is not to explore all the possible reasons behind a manager’s frustration. Instead, let’s look at one practical coaching option you might not have considered yet.
Team members who don’t “get it” the first time may not remember what you think you’ve made very clear. How can you ensure that people remember what you say?
Research shows that people remember and act on what they hear when they also see it in print. Based on that, it makes sense that written follow up adds value to face-to-face discussions. But, I’m not talking about documenting or reporting. That old traditional method was rarely effective. Features in some apps offer an opportunity for comments, but those features are often overlooked. A practical option is a simple coaching email. One that sounds just like you in your face-to-face time, with the same personal tone.
Coaching emails do more than help people remember. They can help you strengthen relationships with your team. They show that you care. That you listened to the other person’s viewpoint. That you understand.
Let me share two examples to illustrate the value of this simple follow up.
Helping Someone Remember
Here’s a story from Leonia (not her real name), a manager who was frustrated with one person on her team:
Armand (not the team member’s real name) was not meeting Leonia’s project management expectations. In a performance conversation with him, she was very aware of her tone of voice: Be firm but not scolding. She felt she gave him concrete action steps, but two weeks later, Armand didn’t recall some key points from their conversation. Leonia had to repeat the coaching. What a waste of time — hers and Armand’s. And how did both of them feel about this? Leonia was disappointed and frustrated. Armand was embarrassed; this was just more evidence he wasn’t measuring up, and he was fearful of the long-term consequences.
If Leonia had captured the conversation in a follow-up coaching email, Armand would have had the chance to revisit her direction, perhaps even more than once. Taking a few minutes to write something very simple might have saved Leonia a lot of time and eliminated the frustration.
Note that I called this a “simple coaching email.” No one wants to take a lot of time.
For Leonia, a message like this could work:
Thanks for offering some good ideas yesterday when we talked about better ways to manage your projects. To ensure that you stay on track with Project XYZ, I’d like to recap the action plan we felt would be most helpful:
If you want to clarify anything with me, just ask. I want your experience with XYZ to be as positive as possible.
Here’s a story from Kyan who likes using coaching emails when he feels the situation calls for it:
Kyan was challenged with a very good team member who was late to work more often than she was on time. He simply couldn’t let that habit continue, but he didn’t want to come down too hard on Denise. Since he wasn’t able to offer the latitude of making her schedule more flexible, he was eager to solve the issue another way.
In his check-in with her, he used a very effective coaching method of asking questions to determine what was behind her lateness. When Denise poured her heart out explaining all the juggling she had to do each morning, Kyan made some practical suggestions that he reinforced in the following email:
Thanks for exploring some ideas to consider as you try to ensure that you’re in the office on time every day. If you can drop off Tyler at school 15 minutes earlier, that may give you enough time, especially when traffic is heavier than normal. I hope that will work out for you.
Let’s continue to stay on top of this. I’ll be here to help in any way that I can.
That email didn’t take Kyan more than a few minutes to write, and he said the rewards were well worth the extra attention. Denise heard the reinforcement of their discussion, and Kyan’s very sincere tone made her feel even more comfortable sharing her experiences as a single mom. More important, Kyan’s suggestion worked — dropping off Tyler just 15 minutes earlier was exactly what Denise needed to do. She hadn’t thought about asking Tyler’s school if that would be possible. “Coach” Kyan gave her the advice she needed, and she appreciated that.
Coaching emails can take your performance conversations one notch higher. Although you certainly don’t need to write one after every face-to-face, having the idea there as an option makes you a better coach and a better manager.