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Honest Conversations

How good are you at having honest conversations with those who work for you?

Would they agree with your assessment?

Honest Conversations

Many business leaders think they are good at having an open, frank conversation with their employees.

However, as evidenced by the continued rise of unengaged employees, most business leaders apparently are unable to have honest conversations with their employees.

One-sided or Two-Sided Conversations

Business leaders and managers today have many options to develop skills enabling them to have honest conversations with their employees.

Tools are available to track employee performance.  Evaluation techniques can be implemented to gather information about specific jobs and personnel.  And, job descriptions are often available against which job performance can be measured.

In the typical workplace, a manager would use these tools to collect all this information and set aside a time to meet with an employee.  At this point, unfortunately, the manager would then proceed to tell the employee what they are doing right, what they are doing wrong, and then check off the to-do list one more successful evaluation completed.

There may be a little two-way interaction in some evaluation discussions, but for the most part, the manager does all the talking.  It is a one-sided conversation


The best employee evaluations are not one-sided but are two-sided, where both the manager and employee are engaged in a discussion about the employee’s performance.

And, for that to occur requires the managers to get permission from the employee to provide feedback.  For the conversation to be two-sided, the employee needs to be motivated to ask for advice.

Asking For Advice

Its human nature, if we are not asking for advice, our boss, friends, and family can talk all they want, and if we are not ready to receive advice, we will block it out.

It is only when we acknowledge that we need help will that advice becomes valuable, and we will listen and work to follow it.

Just because you are a supervisor over someone doesn’t mean you automatically get to deliver advice and recommendations.  Your employee needs to be in a situation to receive it.

Here are several thoughts before delivering advice to an employee.

  • Ask.  Simply ask if the employee wants your input.  Although they may respond positively or negatively, either way, asking the question is a great conversation starter.
  • Make the case. Your employee may not be aware that part of their job is to receive your feedback seriously and professionally.  Explain the impact that their resistance has on you, the team, and the organization.
  • Get curious. Don’t assume that the employee sees their behavior in the same way that you do. Ask open-ended questions to draw out thoughtful responses to the concerns you have over job performance.
  • Use neutral language. Avoid words that carry negative connotations and place blame. Withholding any judgment and interpretation, so you are more open to their responses.
  • Ask for feedback yourself. Ask if you are contributing to the particular issue, and be prepared for frank and open answers.
  • Secure a commitment. Make a specific request for a behavior change, be open to counter-offers, and agree on the goal.
  • Acknowledge positive change. As soon as you’ve had the conversation, start looking for evidence that the employee has taken your advice to heart. Speak up the very first time you notice him acting differently.

The Bible

For great managers, the request for permission to provide feedback starts years before any conversation about job performance is held.

Proverbs 27:6 says.

Wounds from a friend are better than kisses from an enemy!

Criticisms, advice, and suggestions are best when they come from a friend.  And friendships do not happen overnight, nor are they casual about offering to help.  Good friends ask permission before proceeding with a long list of advice.