Performance Partnerships with 1on1s: Connect, Calibrate, and Coach


When it comes to annual performance reviews, it’s clear we’re at a major crossroads in the workplace. With 95 percent of managers dissatisfied with the process — and 90 percent of HR leaders saying annual reviews don’t yield accurate data — companies are quickly eliminating them (like GE, Accenture, Adobe, The Gap, and Microsoft already have). In a 7×24 world with an increasingly younger workforce, “annual” and “review” need to be replaced with more frequent conversations and performance partnerships.


Yet, simply telling managers to have regular 1on1 meetings isn’t a panacea. While HR executives and senior leaders are more expert at constructive coaching, young and middle managers may not be. Fortunately, 57 percent of employees prefer corrective feedback and 72 percent say their performance would improve with feedback. So even the 50% of managers who don’t want to give critique for fear of being the “bad guy” now have official license to put peoples’ success in front of the desire to be liked.


To boost your people and their performance, use a framework for 1on1s that connects, calibrates and coaches team members. Before the meetings, do two things:


First, make sure you’ve shared goals for the quarter to frame progress and priority discussions. Without clarity on what you define as success, people need to guess what matters and what the purpose of their work is.


Second, prepare for the meeting itself. Using in-person meetings to run down a list of what someone’s working on or throw more on their plate before understanding what’s already cooking is a formula for unproductive 1on1s. Instead, use weekly status reports or embrace performance and productivity apps to quickly see priorities, workload, and progress before the meeting.


Then use your 1on1 meetings to help you team members achieve their best with this framework:


  1. Start with “how are you?” Instead of a token opening, really listen to the response. Connect simply as humans to set the stage for coaching and constructive feedback. People are more receptive and engaged when they know you care about them.
  2. Ask whats in their way and how you can help. Help people resolve priority conflicts so they can increase their impact. Get roadblocks out of their way so they can deliver the results you’re expecting. This doesn’t mean doing their job, but rather removing obstacles outside the sphere of their responsibility.
  3. Sync on performance, alignment, and engagement level. If you’re not talking about alignment, you can’t expect it! Your employees want to perform well and be on the same page with you, so be open and compare your perceptions. Letting people know where you think they are in terms of their performance and contributions to work helps them move up and forward.
  4. Uplevel to longer range goals. Use the time together to help people think above the “action item” level. They’ll find it rejuvenating and be able to make better decisions day to day.
  5. Coach for career growth. Help your employees get to the next level by deepening their skills and competencies. What’s the next step they can take and what will you do to help them get there? Follow through on the help you commit to providing and you’ll foster great loyalty and have a lasting impact on their career.


Leading people is more important than ever as business gets faster and more complex, but leadership is far from dictatorship. Leaders at all levels must excel at setting clear goals, coaching people to their highest level, and creating a culture of high recognition and accountability. These are the essential elements of performance partnerships within high achieving teams; 1on1s create the conversation around these ingredients that enable leaders, teams, and each member to contribute their best.



About the Author: Deidre Paknad is CEO and co-founder of Workboard. She shapes its product strategy, customer engagement model, and thought leadership efforts. With decades of experience leading enterprise and startup teams on strategic pursuits, Dedire is passionate about providing tools and insights that help leaders engage their teams in great achievement. 

Deidre is a serial entrepreneur and has founded and led several companies. As CEO of PSS Systems, she and the team created a new market category and inspired deep customer loyalty from ExxonMobil, Citigroup, Travelers, Novartis, Wells Fargo, and many other large enterprises. The company was acquired by IBM in 2010. At IBM, Deidre was Vice President of a fast-growing global business improving information economics for IBM’s enterprise customers. She has been recognized by the Smithsonian for innovation twice and has more than a dozen patents. You can connect with Deidre on Twitter, LinkedIn, or learn more on the Workboard website or blog.








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