Whether your organization has embraced the contemporary flow of year-long/ongoing real-time performance feedback processes, or retain the traditional year-end review, this is the time of year managers and employees engage in conversation to review accomplishments against milestones and to set objectives for next 12 months and beyond.  Regardless of the vehicle you use, or the cadence in which you check in, it is highly likely that you or your management team will be conducting some form of planning and evaluation, and the information you gather informs the plan.
Take this opportunity to help your managers and employees, and in turn your organization, grow.  Have an open conversation with the intent to benefit all stakeholders.  With a few strategic questions and the ensuing conversations, managers can gain a better understanding of each employee’s needs and motivation.  Managers will receive honest, valuable feedback and employees will feel respected, taking away a stronger sense of support for their continued success within the firm.
While the planning for these conversations should have occurred months in advance, it is still not too late to include one or more of the questions below from Career Partners International career management and leadership development coaches.  These questions can easily be added to any review and planning process to enhance the conversation and improve engagement.
“If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would be the one thing you would start doing that would have a significant business impact on the company?” – Mike Zorn, Executive Leadership Coach at Promark, A CPI Firm
To start, you learn where their true energy and motivation lie, this is a great way to tailor upcoming projects and objectives.  It is important to follow up this question by seeking to understand why the employee has not pursued this objective.  Has the idea been repeatedly shot down?  Does the employee not feel secure in making such a bold suggestion?  Does it fall outside of their scope of responsibilities?  All of these and more could be potential easy fixes to help the organization and the employee grow.  As a bonus, you might get some amazing ideas to implement in Q1!
“How have you contributed to ROI for the entire organization?” – Terry Gillis, CEO of Ahria Consulting Inc, A CPI Firm
This question requires the employee to determine for themselves what their contribution to the organization has been.  This knowledge helps to develop an increased sense of worth and pride in their position.  The question also ensures that the employee understands how ROI is derived within the organization.  With this level of thought, the employee can understand the company’s strategy to better select and prioritize future projects.   
“Who in your group is ready for a promotion? And, do you have a successor?” John Burke, CEO of Career Partners International Houston
Promoting key individuals is an important part of retaining high performers and top talent. By asking these two questions, the manager is acknowledging the value employees bring and shares a future-focused orientation.  It is not just about, “what have you done for me lately?” it is about “what are we collectively doing for tomorrow?” These questions can signal there is a path to promotion for the employee and others in the organization, a visible benefit which aides in attracting outside candidates to the organization as well.  It also makes clear that the organization expects each manager to be active in growing the future via next level leaders grown and developed from within.  A double engagement win! 
“At work, how do you know you’ve done a good job?” – Karen Valesco, Consultant Coach at Working Transitions, A CPI Firm
The response to this question will tell you both how the employee is motivated and whether the organization’s methods for recognition hit the mark as designed. If you hear a response such as “I just know,” or “I feel good about it,” then the chances are that the employee prefers internal motivation. If the responses are more like, “When someone tells me,” or “Everything works as it should,” the employee likely responds to external motivation. As a manager, once we know someone’s motivational preference (internal, external or balanced), we can engage and enthuse them in their work by being flexible in our leadership approach. We can also have more effective feedback conversations by adopting their natural preferences rather than our own. 
“What skill do you have, one we might not be aware of, that could make a positive contribution to your team or the organisation? How could you use that skill to make a difference?” – Kim Daglish, Director of Operations at Directioneering, A CPI Firm
Performance reviews and development conversations are often conducted within the prism of the employee’s existing role, what they have done in the past, and the logical career trajectory based on that track record. Managers tend to focus on what they understand of the individual’s capabilities as framed through the employee’s role and sometimes neglect to probe beyond these boundaries. This can inhibit the capacity of organisations to tap into the rich and diverse talent sitting within its own workforce. Similarly, employees often assume that their manager is fully aware of their capabilities and therefore, don’t feel the need to highlight any additional areas of expertise. Alternately, individuals don’t always feel comfortable discussing additional skills or motivational interests that sit outside of their current role. By proactively asking the question and showing genuine curiosity, the manager is giving the employee permission to broaden the development conversation and explore new career territory, unlocking talent that may otherwise go untapped.
“What aspects of your work excite and energize you? Are you getting enough of that?” – Penny Locey, VP of Delivery at Keystone Partners, A CPI Firm
This question can surface several situations that allow a manager or employee to act; to enrich the job, change priorities, or plan a shift. For example, a common situation is potential burnout –from doing what was once new and exciting exclusively.  Another issue could be when an individual was hired for one thing but asked to assume so many side-loaded responsibilities they have little time to spend on what attracted them in the first place. Lastly, the question can open a conversation around whether it is time for a person to move on because they want more than the role can give. Having the conversation early and openly helps both parties plan for a smooth transition.
“What developmental support do you need from me and the company in order to achieve alignment between your career growth and the business strategy?” – Sandy Wong, Managing Partner at Cornerstone International Group, A CPI Firm
This question helps the employee align their long-term goals with the objectives of the organization.  Further, it asks them to identify potential hazards and proactively provide solutions in the form of learning and development opportunities.  The manager is showing support to ensure win-win orientation, which in turn encourages the employee to utilize the opportunities to grow her career with the company.
“How has your learning and development this year helped maximise your contributions?” – Kate Johnson, Consultant Coach at Working Transitions, a CPI Firm
Encourage reflection on personal training and development activities.  After all, the organization has implemented these programs with an end in mind.  By asking this question the manager is seeking some validation of what has led to better contributions. Such reflection encourages the debate around what learning activities or approaches would enable growth and enhance performance in 2020.
“As you look to the future in terms of achieving your desired career growth, what do you need from me and the organization?  What can I do to support your growth?” – Sharon Imperiale, CEO at CCI Consulting, A CPI Firm
The philosophy around personal career growth has gone back and forth over the years in terms of just whose responsibility it is.  Is it the employee’s sole accountability, the company’s or both?  To truly engage the employee, they need to experience support and guidance in terms of what skills to develop and how to attain the experience they need to achieve their career goals.  Offering to be part of the journey is a leadership responsibility. Offering assistance and sponsorship while talking about the employee’s future will increase engagement. Performance “reviews”, although usually retrospective, should also be prospective.
Being a good leader requires more than basic management skills; employees now expect the best leaders to act as a guide as well, vested jointly in their success.  With programs like Manager as Career Coach, Career Partners International has helped thousands of managers steer their employees to more fulfilling career paths and better, longer engagements within the organization.  This year take a moment to move beyond the typical performance review and engage in a career coaching opportunity.
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