Choreographing “The Dance”

the dance

Is it time for “The Dance” – the comprehensive performance review conversation?  As the manager who is reviewing performance or the staff member whose performance is reviewed, you have a vested interest in making this performance conversation a meaningful experience. 

Here are three things for the manager and staff member to keep in mind:

Check Attitude.  Whether an affirming or a difficult conversation, choose to have an optimistic attitude – even if it has been a tough performance year for you personally or for the business.  Attitude is the only thing within your control, and it becomes the thermostat for the performance conversation.  Listen, ask questions and engage in two-way dialogue.  Be aware of potential defensive body language signals – folded arms, legs crossed or tensed facial muscles.  As Motivational Speaker Dennis S. Brown says, “Attitude is Everything – Pass it On.”

Trust.  A performance review meeting can be ripe ground for rich conversation that contributes to trust or the platform that triggers a “flight, fright, freeze or appease response” (Glaser, 2014).[i]  The latter demonstrates the frailty of the relationship, and is neither effective for the staff member nor manager.  Words and tone of voice matter. Carefully consider what to say and how to say it in a way where it is truly heard, not ignored, discounted, deemed irrelevant or met with resistance.  Creating an environment of trust begins well in advance of the actual performance meeting, typically through mutually respectful conversations throughout the year.  Trust is fortified when words spoken and actions taken align – manager and staff member share this joint accountability.

Agree on a Way Forward.  In the end, the annual performance conversation is only a part of the bigger picture.  There are infinite opportunities each day to forge a collaborative business relationship that yields expected results.  Just like the New Year, treat the annual “Dance” as a fresh start.  Determine what you will both do to move forward – what to do more of, better or differently.  Commit to ongoing, engaging performance conversations throughout the year – even if you are blazing new trails in the organization.  Be willing to coach and be coached – no matter your role.

Access other articles in “The Dance” Series at the links below:

Preparing for “The Dance”

Don’t Rain on “The Dance”


[i] Glaser, Judith E. (2014). Conversational intelligence: How great leaders build trust and get extraordinary results (1st ed.). Brookline, MA: Bibliomotion, Inc.

Lillian Davenport, SPHR, SHRM – SCP, CTACC, Principal, End View Solutions, LLC

Lillian Davenport

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Lillian Davenport is a coach, consultant, and leadership strategist. Her signature program, M3 LeadershipSM, prepares you to enhance and develop your self-awareness, embrace your inner strength, and lead with confidence, courage, and impact.

Lillian’s career as a human resources leader includes roles at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Woodforest National Bank, and American International Group, Inc. (AIG), where she leveraged employee relations, and diversity, equity, and inclusion expertise in leadership development.