Just do it!

Ignore-me“It won’t happen again,” “I’m sure he has it under control now,” “She does everything else so well,” and “I hate having to talk about this.”

How often have you had this talk with yourself? I know I have and many leaders I work with have shared that they also dread having tough performance conversations. We avoid the issue, we over-analyze, we search for glimmers of improvement, we obsess and over-prepare. And what happens? The performance problem continues or gets worse!

To drive high performance we just need to dive in and have the conversation. While that is easier said then done, the “Two Minute Challenge” (from The Practical Coach distributed by Media Partners) is a straight-forward guide to start the conversation and initiate improvement.

The Two Minute Challenge asks you to follow these five steps, in order, without skipping one:

  1. State what you have observed – only the actual behavior or issue. Be specific but concise with no extra details, potential motives or personal assumptions.
  2. Wait for a response – make yourself stop. Do not charge forward with your ideas. This clarifies that they are responsible for taking action, not you.
  3. State or clarify the expected performance or goal – focus on the outcome desired not explanations or unrelated issues.
  4. Ask for a specific solution that will meet the expectation – what specifically will they do differently?
  5. Agree together on the solution – clarify what they will be doing and establish a shared understanding of next steps.

Following these five steps doesn’t make the conversation easy but it provides a structure that can help you take action sooner. Recently a dean at one of our schools shared that he had been planning and planning a performance conversation with a faculty member and not actually having it. After I shared the two minute challenge with him he scheduled the meeting, followed the steps and agreed with the faculty member on a plan of action. It wasn’t the favorite part of his day but it was productive and started the ball rolling!

Most of us will never enjoy having tough performance conversations but the Two Minute Challenge can kick-start the action needed for a productive outcome. Give it a try when you hear yourself hoping the issue will go away.

Todd Thorsgaard


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