7 Powerful Performance Conversation Starters

Have performance conversations so frequently that they feel natural.

Repetition builds confidence and culture.

Cheer, clap, and pat:

If you wait until something goes wrong to give positive feedback, it’s too late. I’m referring to practice of sandwiching negative feedback between two slices of positive feedback – the sh*t sandwich.

Performance conversations feel like punishment if you wait for failure to have them.

Honor what you want. Do you want energy? Cheer when you see it. Do you want responsibility? Clap when people take it.

Don’t make people feel they’ve arrived. Invite them to believe they can reach higher.

7 powerful performance conversation starters:

#1. Evaluate processes or systems.

  • What’s running smoothly?
  • Where are you solving the same problem over and over?

#2. Discuss results.

  • What have you achieved that makes you proud?
  • What could have been better?

#3. Analyze decisions.

  • What decisions didn’t happen that caused disappointing results?
  • What decisions preceded good results?

#4. Explore relationships.

  • Where are the pockets of positive energy in your area?
  • Where is the negative energy?

#5. Look for Fulfillment.

  • What brings you satisfaction at work?
  • Where are you disappointed with yourself?
  • What’s frustrating? What does that say about you?

#6. Investigate development.

  • What skills are you improving?
  • What skills would you like to improve?

#7. Uncover learning – provide time for reflection.

  • What are you learning about your role?
  • What are you learning about yourself?
  • What are you learning about your team?


Seek lots of feedback if you expect to give lots of feedback.

Invite people to evaluate your performance.

  • Don’t ask, “How am I doing?” That’s useless.
  • Declare intention. “I’m working on building positive energy on the team.”
  • Ask for specific feedback. “What do you see me doing that builds positive energy? Drains it?”
  • Be thankful.
  • Explore behaviors that better express your intentions. “What suggestions might you have?”

How might leaders establish performance conversation rituals?

What makes performance conversations fail? Successful?