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10 Guidelines for More Productive Employee Development Conversations

By Ray Sclafani | September 15, 2015

If you’re like most advisors, you probably meet with individual team members on an annual or quarterly basis to provide performance feedback. These evaluations are typically very hierarchical and directive – formal management reviews rather than informal employee development conversations. Yet it’s the latter, not the former, that is far more critical to the ongoing success and continued improvement of your team.


Nurturing collaborative development

For team members to enthusiastically embrace growth and improvement, the desire for professional development needs to be rooted in the idea of “equality.” We do it together. Although it’s owned by each individual team member, professional development must be a continuous, ongoing and collaborative effort between you as team leader and each individual. Feedback simply cannot be relegated to once a year or once a quarter. The only meaningful way for any improvements to take hold is through consistent, regular feedback. So don’t wait!

Truly collaborative conversations require forthright communication and joint co-creation of achievable goals and results. Built on a foundation of presence, partnership, listening, questioning, feedback and advice, these conversations will serve to solidify strong personal and professional relationships between you and each individual member of your team.

Strive to give feedback and advice in a manner that supports the growth and advancement of the employee without forcing them to move in a particular direction. Your goal should be to actively encourage each team member to learn from, disagree with, and/or explore more about how to use the specific feedback to further his or her thinking, growth, and actions.


Consider incorporating the following ten steps as ground rules for providing collaborative feedback and advice as a team leader: 

1.     Focus on the individual and his/her success

2.     Respect, encourage, and support the employee

3.     Base your feedback/advice on specific facts, not opinion or emotion

4.     Be curious about and open to their response to your feedback/advice

5.     Invite honest disagreement with aspects of your feedback/advice

6.    Invite the team member to share learnings from the feedback/advice

7.     Share what you are learning as a result of the collaborative conversation

8.    Ask the individual what thinking or action, if any, is prompted by the feedback

9.     Be honest and sincere throughout the conversation

10.  Don’t use your position to defend or justify the validity of your advice/feedback


Coaching Questions from this article:

  1. Think about any feedback or advice you recently gave that wasn’t as collaborative as you would like. How could you approach similar situations in the future to be more collaborative?
  2. Think about your day-to-day interactions with team members. How can you improve the consistency and regularity of your professional development feedback/advice to them?
  3. How open are you to disagreement and/or alternative ideas? What steps can you take to be more inviting of other’s views?

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Topics: Leadership Communication Team Development

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