The Quarterly Conversation


Are You Frustrated with Employee Performance? Who is the Problem?

Wayne Kurzen, Certified EOS Implementer™

A recent survey of clients using EOS® revealed that 82.4% implemented EOS® because they were not getting all that they wanted from their people. I am delighted to announce that my colleagues, Gino Wickman (founder of EOS®) and Rene’ Boer just released, How to be a Great Boss, an outstanding book for leaders at all levels. Their findings show that “… ‘People issues’ are one of the most common frustrations shared by bosses—not sales, not profit…people!”

Wickman and Boer cite some interesting statistics from a 2015 Harris Poll:
• 39% of employees have no idea of their company’s goals and objectives
• 47% are unfamiliar with the state of their company’s performance
• 44% don’t understand how their role helps the organization meet its goals

The Gallup Organization reports that:
• 31.5% of full-time American workers are “engaged” at their job
• 17.5% are “actively disengaged”

WOW! Think about that – what if less than 1/3 of your employees are fully engaged and 17% are actively disengaged? Even if your organization is significantly better, it is still kind of sobering and indicates there is plenty of opportunity. Can you see that with this widespread crisis in enthusiasm, that gaining greater engagement could easily be your competitive advantage?

Last summer, I attended a book signing for Jack and Suzy Welch’s book The Real-Life MBA. Jack was questioned about GE’s practice to get rid of the bottom 10%. In response,he estimated that during the book tour he had the opportunity to be in front of more than one million people. When he asked, “By a show of hands, how many of you know where you stand with your boss?” The response was shocking with a minuscule number between 10-15%. His point was this, no one should ever be surprised when they are let go for poor performance.

We know that one of the key premises in any organization that uses EOS® as their business operating system is that we, the leadership team, own every problem and issue. In the case of Jack’s question above, the issue that needs ownership is that many employees simply do not know where they stand.

While there are many actions and practices we help organizations implement to remedy this issue, I would like to address one that is often the most challenging. That is having regular open, honest and transparent, one-to-one conversation with our direct reports. We call this the Quarterly Conversation™.

If you are normal, your response goes something like this: “I hate performance reviews – they are way outside of my comfort zone – besides, I don’t like making others feel uncomfortable — and I am so busy…” Believe me, I know the feeling well. I recently avoided this kind of conversation and eventually things just got worse in terms of unmet expectations on the part of both parties. We both took the approach, “Let sleeping dogs lie.”

Quarterly Conversation™is a face-to-face conversation with each direct report. It is an informal conversation to talk about what’s working and what’s not. It’s not a performance review (that is a subject for another time).  It is also different than a one-on-one meeting, where you’re focusing on immediate issues. The overarching purpose is helping them do a better job, ensure they have the resources, have greater satisfaction and to improve your relationship. As a result of course, this means they are happier, getting more done and the organization is more efficient.

The Conversation should be held off-site, over coffee or lunch. You also want to be in a place where you won’t be interrupted, where you can speak openly and where you’ll be free from distractions. So the coffee house you frequent and have many acquaintances is not a good place.

To keep the conversation focused on why you are there and to help prevent wasting time with the small talk we often used to avoid the hard conversations, we use what is called The 5-5-5™ (illustrated below). Nearly everything this conversation should be about revolves around your Core Values, their Rocks and their specific Roles.

The 5 5 5The “5s” are symbolic for 3-7 Core Values, 1-7 Rocks (priorities for the current quarter) and 4-6 Roles that define their roles and responsibilities. The Conversation is held quarterly because we know it is a proven fact that our clarity and focus begins to fray after about 90 days.

The Quarterly Conversation™is so important that the authors of How to Be a Great Boss have devoted an entire chapter to the techniques. I highly recommend that you read it.

As you begin the practices, it will likely feel a little awkward for both of you.  But press on! You will be glad you did.

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that often the most difficult person to see is ourselves. Think what you will learn about you and your own blind spots from conducting the Conversation and how you will be on your way to being a “Great Boss.”

Next Steps

Discover how to be a great boss—download a free chapter of How to Be a Great Boss

Order the book: How to Be a Great Boss

Request a Free Meeting with Wayne to get a clear picture of what it looks like to run your company on EOS®

Feel free to pass this on to someone you think would find value.

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