Having Quarterly Conversations – Part 2

Rene' Boer People


Accountability starts by keeping expectations clear. This is a two-way street, where your direct reports are crystal clear on your expectations of them, and just as importantly, you’re clear on their expectations of you.

George Bernard Shaw said that the problem with communication is the illusion that it’s actually occurred. In a quarterly conversation, at a higher level, we make sure that we know what’s on each other’s mind. We’re not making any assumptions. We’re allowing them to have a conversation with us, so apply the 80/20 rule, where we’re spending most of our time listening and less time talking.

By having the right meeting pulse we ensure that we’re keeping the circles connected.

There are four parts to the quarterly conversation, and it starts with what’s working. Think about all the things that happen over a 90-day timeframe. Who could possibly remember everything that went well, when we spend most of our time trying to solve all the issues that come up on a daily and weekly basis. Raise the conversation to a higher level, recognize some wins, celebrate some successes, and genuinely thank someone for a job well done. It starts the conversation off on a very positive footing.

Next, ask your direct report, “What do you think is not working or should be working a lot better?” It may be a broken process. It may be a procedure. They may be a little confused about their role, or maybe you’ve observed a behavior that’s contrary to a core value.

Next is next steps. Ask them, “What do you think you could do to improve, and how do you think I could help?” Now remember, this is that lesson from Ken Blanchard in “The One-Minute Manager Meets the Monkey”. Make sure that they’re solving their own issues. They own the next step. That’s the monkey. Don’t take the monkey if it doesn’t belong to you. More often than not, it doesn’t. So, what are they going to do to improve, and how can you help? This is also a good time to address developmental opportunities, either within your department or within the company, that give them an opportunity to grow.

Finally, ask for feedback. Take your relationship to a higher level, so ask, “How am I doing? Give me some feedback. What could I do to be more effective as your boss?”

That’s the quarterly conversation. Remember, it’s just a quarterly conversation. That’s all you’re doing. You’re just having a conversation. It’s okay to take notes, but you don’t have to document the conversation.