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Developmental conversations boost work performance

A new approach to coaching high performance mindsets is emerging. It connects the manager-employee conversations with the daily realities of the business.

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The annual performance review system is no longer effective at facilitating the improvement and growth of employees.

According to a large-scale Deloitte survey, traditional performance management reviews are being revised. This is partly because they are all too frequently poorly conducted. Many are carried out in a perfunctory, tick-the-box fashion, and some leave the employee demoralised.

Rather than annual performance reviews, employees expect and welcome regular feedback and advice from their direct-report manager/supervisor about their near-term work that focuses on how to overcome difficulty and how to excel.

Some things go unnoticed in the learning and development leadership and management space and it surrounds people’s work performance mindset. Productivity, innovation, teamwork, and wellbeing all increase dramatically when managers discuss with their employees how their performance can be enhanced through applying a high performance mindset.

Here’s what we have learned

  1. Managers and supervisors who excel, have a strong skillset for conducting regular, near-term developmental conversations that make a difference to business outcomes. They also have a highly developed work mindset.
  2. If you want leaders and managers to excel at leading teams and managing individuals, then incorporate developmental conversations skillset training and high performance mindset training within their preparation program.
  3. In order for managers to discuss what it takes for employees to excel, conversations need to strengthen employee skillset and mindset. By strengthening mindset upwards of 10%, exponential ROI can be achieved.

The mindset of high performance

Our research indicates that a high performance mindset has 3 well-developed psychological elements:

  1. Work beliefs (e.g. self-directed motivation, positive self-acceptance, authenticity)
  2. Behavioural strengths (e.g. self-management, confidence)
  3. Lower degrees of work performance blockers (e.g. less anxiety or feeling down, less anger, less procrastination).

When leaders and managers talk to their staff about how elements of a high performance mindset can help them to deal with work challenges and tough work situations, employee mindset is strengthened and their work performance (productivity and innovation) accelerates.

Managers and team leaders should conduct developmental conversations with their teams once a month, in addition to regularly scheduled, 20-30 minute discussions with individuals. These conversations are not add-ons to the regular work of the leader, they are the work of a team leader and manager.

Case study

Recently, we completed a project at the Bastow Institute for Leadership. Our interest was to examine the impact of our High Performance Mindset at Work learning and developmental program on leadership mindset as well as on the ways in which leaders hold high performance conversations with their employees.

A majority of leaders reported a positive response from team members. Most judged the collective response to the high performance conversations initiative as enthusiastic, interested and positive, and a number of leaders found the conversations they had with individual members of their teams had a greater impact than discussions at a team-level.


The role of manager as a coach can be enhanced when s/he models and discusses how a high performance mindset at work can help people deal with stress, including work demands, challenges, difficult people and shortfalls in performance. These discussions can also help managers build high performing teams that continuously out-perform.

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