Asking Your Way to Improved Performance

Kevin Trokey on December 05, 2011

Managing the performance of your employees is the key to maximizing their productivity. A Hacket Group study backs this up showing that companies who excel at performance management post earnings that are 15% more than their competition who are less effective at managing performance, they show a 22% improvement in net profit margin, and they spend 6% less on HR overall.


As important as they should be, almost nobody likes performance reviews. They’re uncomfortable for the giver and the receiver, largely because managers aren’t adequately trained in how to make performance reviews meaningful. While I would certainly encourage you to make that training investment, I would like to suggest a simple way to improve in this area right away.

Instead of thinking of performance reviews as an annual event, start by thinking of the review process as an ongoing dialogue, a dialogue that needs to start with the right questions

David Farr, CEO of Emerson Electric, is noted for asking every employee a short list of questions such as . . .

  • How do you make a difference?
  • What improvement idea are you working on?
  • When did you last get coaching from your boss?

Together, the answers help employees discover how their role links to the overall company direction, puts a sharp focus on continuous improvement, and highlights how much coaching and development is valued by the organization.

When people choose for themselves what to do instead of just being told, they are always more committed to the outcome. So, although as a leader you likely feel a responsibility to tell your employees how to improve, you'll do better by asking them questions that will help them reach their own conclusions about how to improve.

Photo by takomabibelot.

Topics: Leadership + Management, Team Development