Transform your performance conversations

It’s that time of year when many of us are planning for the future, refining plans, and setting targets for the year ahead. If you lead a team you may also be thinking about how to prepare them for the new year and make sure they’re engaged and ready to go. So I’m sharing three skills that could transform your performance conversations.

Part of your planning may involve holding performance and goal-setting conversations with each member of your team. And I agree this seems a great way to start the year. Starting 2023 with clearly defined targets and an engaged team who know what they need to do and how they are going to do it sounds pretty savvy to me.

However, a common complaint I hear from managers is that their staff aren’t as engaged as they’d like them to be, especially when it comes to conversations about how they’re getting on, their performance, goals, development needs, and so on. So if this sounds familiar you might be interested to know that through my Savvy Conversations research, I’ve identified three skills that could transform your performance conversations for 2023.

They may not be the three skills that first jump to mind so I’d like to share a little bit about each of them here…


Engaging Skill 1: Positive Body Language

Does your body language support the verbal messages you’re communicating? As a manager, have you ever asked your staff for feedback? Try it. You may be surprised by how others see you.

When you start a meeting, fast rapport-building is really important. Even if you know the person already, spending a little time to create a positive atmosphere is time well spent, especially when you want to persuade or influence someone to your point of view.

A great way to build rapport is through mirroring. When you are ‘in rapport’ with someone, you tend to unconsciously copy their body language and speech patterns. They receive non-verbal cues that you ‘get them’ which helps create a feeling of safety. Using this technique consciously can be an incredibly effective way of increasing rapport.

A great place to start is by noticing and mirroring someone’s posture.

? Are they relaxed or formal?

? How animated are they?

? What sort of hand gestures, facial expressions and movements are they using to communicate their message?

A note of caution though. This technique should be used sparingly and in an unobtrusive way or it could be perceived as manipulative or inauthentic. Don’t force it – natural mirroring is the way to go.


Engaging Skill 2: Asking Questions

Asking questions is a great way to gauge interest and encourage participation, involvement and commitment. But asking questions in the right way can actually be quite tricky. Your motivation needs to be right. Your questions should come from an intention to be curious and to understand. For better engagement, you should try not to ask questions in order to judge.

If your questions come from a place of curiosity, learning, listening, and collaboration, they should help you have great relationship-building conversations that feel genuine, create enthusiasm, and build a shared understanding.

Use lots of questions starting with:

How, what, which, when, where, who?

And be cautious with:


‘Why’ questions tend to sound more judgemental than curious so try to use them only when absolutely appropriate.

By asking lots of questions, you can often help others understand what you’re saying without you having to spell it out. Questions help people find their own solutions to problems rather than relying on you to come up with the answers; solutions that they more readily buy into and are fully engaged with.


Engaging Skill 3: Optimism

A positive mood is probably one of the most engaging tools you have. No matter how serious the discussion, it is always possible to bring a positive, optimistic mood. At times when being jolly or cheerful isn’t appropriate, you can still bring a positive mood by being upbeat and constructive in your approach.

Bringing an optimistic outlook to conversations will allow you to spot opportunities when they arise. This can lead to really engaging conversations and unexpected collaborations. New solutions may be found and innovative ideas explored which may never have been possible without a positive, open mindset.

Optimism makes people feel good. So even when the situation looks grim, it is always possible to see things in a more positive light, bounce back from setbacks and cultivate the resilience needed to carry on. If you can share optimism with your team, why wouldn’t they want to join you for a performance conversation?

Be Engaging

As you go into 2023 and before you hold your next one-to-one conversations with your team, do spend a little time thinking about how you can truly engage them.

How will you make sure that everyone benefits from the conversations you have with them?

By making sure your conversations are genuinely two-way and inclusive, you’ll be well on your way to making every conversation an engaging, savvy conversation.

Want to know more?

Sarah Harvey is the Founding Director of Savvy Conversations Ltd and author of the highly acclaimed book “Savvy Conversations: A practical framework for effective workplace relationships.”


Linked In:

Twitter: @SarahSavvySarah

Instagram: savvysarah


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