Silence is Golden

The biggest mistake managers make in performance management is wanting to tell an employee what to do.

My definition of telling? Not letting the employee interact with you in a meaningful way during any performance conversation.  A general rule of thumb with any performance conversation, whether formal or informal – if you’re the manager and you’re doing 80-90% of the talking, you’ve failed.

Which means you’re going to have to stop talking once in a while during performance conversations.  Times when you should stop talking include:

  • When you’ve made an observation that’s going to be the basis for your evaluation of work (you’d like to know how they feel)
  • When you’ve reminded them of the performance goal in question and you’re looking for agreement that they haven’t hit that goal.
  • When you ask them what they can do differently to hit the performance goal in question.

Why don’t we remain silent in those situations?  Mainly because two things are in play:

  1. We just want to tell them what to do and be done with it, or;
  2. We’re afraid we can’t control the conversation if it goes off the rails and we hear excuses and other forms of objections.

Studies show that you’ll get more buy-in into performance conversations if your airtime drops and the employee’s airtime in the conversation rises.

But you have to be brave enough to remain silent more. Brave enough to have a conversation.

Silence is golden.  Give it a try.