How do I follow up with my employees after having difficult discussions with them?

September 18th, 2020
First of all, you’re on the right track by doing the follow-up. All too often, managers think having the discussion is all that needs to be done but then often end up frustrated months later when the same cycle is repeating itself. Follow-up is key to behavior change and accountability.
Here are some suggestions:
  • First off, at the end of a difficult conversation, be sure you make an agreement as to when a follow-up discussion will occur. If you didn’t, then reach out to schedule a follow-up conversation.
  • The first part of the conversation should be your intention about the meeting. ‘My intention today is to follow-up on progress and commitments we made from our last conversation two weeks ago about your performance.’ I want to keep feedback continuous and be honest about how you’re doing and how you’re feeling about your performance.
  • Set an agenda so you are clear about what you want to discuss. If you keep the conversation vague (let’s circle back to our last conversation) you won’t get what you want to track progress. Ideas to include: feedback from the last conversation, any commitment(s) that were made or decision(s) that needed to be made, what did they do/implement, what worked/what didn’t, and what is their plan going forward. Specifics matter here. ‘It’s going well’ doesn’t tell you anything. ‘I’ve made 10 outbound calls this week’ is telling you specifically what someone is doing and giving you an opportunity to ask questions and have a discussion about progress.
  • If commitments were missed, what happened and what is the new commitment going forward. Additionally, how to you expect missed commitments to be handled in the future (do you want notice before it’s missed?  If so, what is reasonable?). Remember here that blame and shame accomplish nothing. It’s not about blaming someone for the miss, it’s about shifting the perspective to being proactive before they miss the deadline and asking for help or guidance earlier.
  • Reward any behavior you like. Be specific about what you’re seeing, where they’re stretching or trying something new, progress you see.
  • Share any feedback on what’s still not working. Remember to own your language and energy to eliminate defensiveness. ‘Here’s what I’m noticing, I wonder if…..’ are ways to deliver feedback and create conversation and problem-solving. ‘You are’ usually creates defensiveness and distractions.
  • Ask for a commitment going forward, including a date/time for the next conversation – that creates accountability.
Follow-up on difficult conversations often takes a few meetings to really see behavior change. It’s important to keep at it to create the change and success you desire and not just lower the bar to eliminate potential conflict.
As always, your BankTalentHQ coaches are here to help – just reach out!
Donna Flynn, Career & Management Coach – BankTalentHQ