By Bruce Hodes, author of “Front Line Heroes“
I have run my own business and coached employees for years but the whole notion of calling meetings between employee and manager “progress meetings” is something I learned from Wayne. Wayne is the president of Keyne Insight, a firm dedicated to identifying and proving the concepts of execution management. He is also the creator of KeyneLink; a cutting edge execution management system that is used by many companies globally. Most of this material comes out of my collaboration and association with Wayne Nelsen and the Keyne Method.
The distinction between progress meetings and all other meetings is simple and elegant and makes all the difference in changing the context of the meeting. The meeting is not an appraisal meeting where the manager is judging the accomplishments or lack thereof. A progress meeting is a formal opportunity to review, reflect and give feedback on the progress that the employee is making on their goals. More on this further into the article.
Types of Meetings.
Many different meetings occur in business between managers and employees. The most typical meetings can be categorized firefighting meetings. Firefighting meetings occur on an ad hoc basis to solve specific problems such as: 1. Customer X did not get the right product; 2. Machine number 6 is not functioning properly; etc. The purpose of these meetings is simply to resolve issues. Issues discussed are hot topics that need to be resolved immediately. A progress meeting is not this kind of firefighting meeting.
Another type of meeting is a departmental meeting. In this type of meeting participants shuffle into a conference room and sit around. Someone speaks and updates on various issues. Frequently, people’s attention wanders off and they do not pay attention. They might look like they do but they actually are not and may well be texting and the like. At the end of the meeting everyone shuffles out of the conference room and scurry off to their next meeting. This process repeats. A progress meeting is not that kind of meeting.
Then there is the yearly appraisal process with associated meetings. This is least celebrated and underappreciated type of meeting that goes on in organizations. In fact in most organizations it is downright hated. Typically this meeting occurs at the end of the year. It entails the manager evaluating the employee’s accomplishments and skill development. This process turns into a bureaucratic chore pushed by HR so that they can update their records. Most of the time the employees’ goals were not tracked or discussed during the year thus the appraisal is often incomplete and inaccurate. The yearly appraisal becomes an exercise which corporate citizens participate in without a lot of enthusiasm or energy.
Progress Meetings Defined.
The progress meeting is not an after the fact appraisal meeting. No one is being judged or appraised. It is a proactive coaching meeting designed to produce feedback, conversation, next steps and alignment. It is designed to give power and support not to give judgment and assessment.
As a precursor to progress meetings, employees and managers work together to build a performance agreement based on the employees accountabilities and goals of the employee. Progress meetings are 30 minute meeting every two months to discuss the progress being made towards demonstrating the company values, fulfilling job accountabilities, achievement of goals.
For progress meetings, typically I wear my Sundays finest – kidding – usually I am in just shorts and sandals – kidding again. Dress how you typically dress. Certainly face to face meetings are the best. I like meeting at a coffee shop or restaurant; however, the phone and screen sharing/web conferencing work.
The rest of the progress meeting is a gap analysis between the manager’s and employee’s perceptions of the employee’s job accountabilities, demonstration of the corporate values, and the status of his/her goals. During the meeting, the employee and manager trade views. The meeting is about listening and reflecting. I have participated in this process as both employee and manager and in my opinion listening to the view and scores of the other is the best part. The meeting also lays out a great process from which to hold conversations about performance.
If you are still confused, the following is an analogy for a progress meeting. Progress meeting are similar to a coach’s meeting with his/her athlete during practice. In my younger years I competed in riding competitions. These events are timed and each round gets more difficult so getting through the course quickly and with the fewest mistakes is critical. This was serious business… My coach and I would meet prior to the event to create a plan based on the type of obstacles and the horse I was riding. After each round we would meet again to assess my status, the horse’s status and the course. We would revise our plan based on the current situation to improve our time and win the event.
I was committed to winning by executing the plan that the coach and I had designed. The coach was committed to winning despite not riding the horse. He was watching and had a different perspective. He also had a lot of knowledge and experience. I never did figure out what the horse was up to. In this sense, these meetings were like a progress meeting; the employee is committed to making progress and executing on their goals. The manager has aligned with the goals and accountabilities of the employee and certainly has a perspective of what is getting accomplished.
These meetings with my coach, which the horse attended sometimes, were an opportunity to share perspectives and assess with real data where we were given our goal of winning. This is just like the conversation that takes place between managers and employees during progress meetings using the Keyne Method. Right after our meeting I got back on the horse and we went back into the arena and started jumping. That is the essence of a progress meeting between manager and employee. I do recommend that you do not actually go jump in the work place after a progress meeting – you may feel like it however – I recommend against it.
My clients repeatedly express that progress meetings are powerful and useful. Jaime, CEO of a large regional road construction company, reflected, “progress meetings force me to have the conversations that I have needed to have and been avoiding.” Ralph, CEO, and Suzanne, Executive VP of a National Staffing Company, feel similarly. “Our culture tends to avoid conflict. We find that the progress meeting format causes straight talk, getting hot topics on the table and allows us to get our hands around issues and create next steps.” In all of these cases individual performances has improved.
Progress meetings have endless real. First managers get to acknowledge what is working and what is not working given the employees performance agreement. The truth will set you free; it may cause upset but dealing with the situation whatever it is usually is the most powerful outcome.
Secondly if there are updates and changes that need to be made to the employees goals and accountabilities it is easy to do right in the meeting especially utilizing the KeyneLink software. Business conditions are always changing; KeyneLink makes it easy to make changes in real time.
Finally the meeting allows participants understand each other’s perspectives. If the manager and employee have differing views, the performance meeting allows them to communicate and hopefully align. If not then manager and employee at least understand each other and are in communication.
For a great progress meeting, one does need to be a bit proactive. The following are some tips to ensure a quality outcome:
- Treat the progress meeting seriously and believe it will make a difference.
- Remember that the meeting is about coaching and development and it is not an appraisal meeting.
- Treat the progress meeting as if you are an athlete meeting with their coach: the game is active and the outcome is uncertain. The conversation that you are having matters.
To ensure that everyone hates the progress meetings do the following:
- Believe that the meeting is not going to make a difference and that you have better things to do with your time.
- Treat the progress meeting like an appraisal meeting with the employee sitting there passively getting judged and appraised by the manager.
- Cancel the appointment over and over again.
Formal conversations between employees and managers that follow the progress meeting format are essential to good coaching and development. This is the bottom line and end of story. When meetings do not occur you can forget about getting any value from coaching and development. Progress meetings are the keys to the kingdom.
So there you have it, everything you wanted to know about progress meetings and then some now go set up a system where you can have progress meetings that are Keyne with your employees. Progress on…
Since growing up in his family’s boating business to founding his company CMI, Bruce Hodes has dedicated himself to helping companies grow by developing executive leadership teams, business leaders and executives into powerful performers. Bruce’s adaptable Breakthrough Strategic Business Planning methodology has been specifically designed for small-to-mid-sized companies and is especially valuable for family company challenges. In February of 2012 Bruce published his first book “Front Line Heroes“.