An Introduction To Development Conversations
Have you ever, as a manager, had a one-on-one with an employee, come out of it feeling satisfied that you were on the same page, and then found out later that your employee emerged with an entirely different understanding? Maybe it was as simple as you thinking you were praising them and them hearing criticism. Maybe it was as complicated as your telling them they were on a performance plan and them hearing that they were a high performer. Maybe you never did find out what the discrepancy was; you just never saw the alignment you thought you had created.
We created the Development Conversations because we wanted to find a better way to create alignment between managers and employees, one that worked. Over time, we found that bypassing the traditional evaluation models and focusing on what signals people were giving and getting, such as how often and what kinds of supervision employees received, produced much better conversations about what would support that employee’s development.
These conversations eventually sorted themselves into five Development Zones, which describe the employee’s current situation and provide a framework for articulating what the employee’s development looks like and how the manager can support it.
This employee is a trusted high performer who is ready for the next challenge; what do they want to do next?
This employee is developing inside their existing role; how can you best support them?
This employee’s demonstrated skills may no longer be needed; what other skills/talents do they have and where might they be deployed?
There’s a mismatch between this employee and their existing role; where would they be better aligned?
You’re not seeing either effort or results; what’s going on?
Development Conversations are a powerful tool to align managers and their direct reports because they first help ensure that both people agree on the existing situation and they then frame the conversation on next steps.
If a manager thinks the employee’s situation is Challenge, but the employee thinks it’s Unleash, this framework will surface that discrepancy at the beginning, instead of leaving it implicit where it can create misunderstandings.
Once everyone agrees on the Zone in question, the resulting conversation will be much more powerful and productive.