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Improving Performance - WOW © feedback for those “difficult” conversations

Staff rarely fail to deliver on tasks i.e. “what they do”. Poor performance frequently results from unacceptable behaviours i.e. “how they do it.”

This technique will provide you with a simple and memorable framework from which to shape those “difficult conversations”, when you need to give a member of staff some feedback to improve their performance. Conversely the technique can also be used to share and learn best practice.

Hands up those who like conflict?

Looking forward to and performance management are not two phrases that are often used together. Performance management is often feared as a potential for conflict and we all know that most people actively avoid conflict. If you find yourself as one who avoids conflict then:

  • Flip your thinking – instead of thinking about how difficult this will be, consider this as giving feedback which will help the other person to improve.

  • Never ignore unacceptable behaviour – it grows a life of its own and what was once unacceptable behaviour becomes the norm not just for the one person but the whole of the team. Toxic behaviour can paralyse performance. Often one person takes up to 80% of the managers time. This is often the case when we are called in to help.

I have worked with great managers and leaders who understand the need to have the conversation at the earliest opportunity. These managers and leaders recognise the impact that under performance, or worse, unacceptable behaviour, can have on co-workers, their customers and the bottom line. They also know that unless they set clear expectations and provide feedback, the member of staff is often unaware of their shortfall.

So how can you build the courage to manage performance improvement and get results?

WOW© Feedback:

A simple technique to help you prepare and carry out those “difficult” conversations

What happened


Way forward together

This technique takes you both through a 3 step process, where the manager/leader takes ownership for his/her reactions to the actions/behaviours of the other person.

Step 1. What happened, start the conversation describing the situation:

  • When I received ……

  • I’m aware that when ....

  • Remember when x happened, I was concerned to see ….

  • Yesterday at the team meeting I noticed that you ….

  • Let’s reflect on our last conversation. What I heard caused me concern ….

Step 2. Outcome, in step 2 describe the outcome/ impact of their performance/behaviour:

  • I need you to know that….

  • I am now not able to ....

  • I need to advise you that .…

  • I noticed that the impact that this had ….

  • Let’s talk through how this has been received by others in the team ….

Step 3. Way forward together, in step 3, understand from their perspective. Then define clear expectations and what happens next:

  • Help me understand from your perspective ........

  • Describe how you will ….

  • What I need from you is .…

  • Describe what you will do differently as a result ……

  • Tell me how you will respond differently should you find yourself in a similar situation

Tips & Techniques to get the most out of the conversation

Manager/leader giving the feedback:

  • Take action

  • Take ownership of the feedback, using “I”

  • Practise on a trusted friend

  • Choose the location and timing with care, minimise interruptions

  • Give feedback, face to face, as soon as possible, after emotions have calmed

  • Avoid “we” in step 3, ownership for action must clearly lie with the other person

  • Specify a date for a review meeting.

For the person receiving the feedback:

  • Listen

  • Avoid being defensive

  • Seek clarification

  • Thank the person for their feedback

Keen to explore further? Then please do contact us at

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