• Jill Hauwiller

It’s not about Performance Management

Talent Development Conversations — Part 1


Working for a leader who excels at talent development can transform careers. That’s why I will be sharing my experiences from years of coaching leaders and executives in this article series on talent development conversations. Whether you are leading a team or just starting out in your career, I hope this series helps you have better, more frequent talent development conversations.

Let’s start at the beginning: talent development is not performance management. Performance management tends to involve formal organization-driven processes whether an annual review or using a performance improvement plan when an employee is underperforming. In contrast, talent development conversations are frequent, personalized leader or employee-led discussions. There may be elements of overlap with an annual review conversation, but the structure can be quite different.

The characteristics of a talent development conversation include curiosity and inquiry about an employee’s goals and aspirations, a mindset of helping the person grow in their skills and capabilities, and an openness to new shared insights. Talent development is about discovering and creating plans connected to an employee’s potential and their career interests.

I have worked with more than one leader during coaching engagements who benefited from shifting their mindset regarding the distinctions between performance management and talent management. Prior to coaching, they viewed their one-on-one meetings with employees as their time and acted accordingly, setting agendas, talking during most of the meeting, and driving the conversation. When I encouraged them to flip their thinking on the purpose of these meetings, their interactions with employees were remarkably different, over time.

When the employee was in the driver’s seat for one-on-one meetings and the manager focused on listening more than talking and asking questions, the conversation changed. Employees felt empowered and managers learned new things about employee’s goals and interests. Both parties were better able to advocate on the employee’s behalf and focus on developing the employee’s strengths. I frequently encourage my coaching clients who are adjusting to this shift in perspective to stay curious just a little longer during the process. Both the leaders who I work directly with and their teams have grown from adopting this mindset.

In a competitive employment market, a strong focus on talent development will help organizations retain employees. Organizations who do this well will also have people who are ready for new roles as they become available. A reputation for supporting employees’ career growth whether through promotion, lateral moves within the company, or project-based opportunities can set a company apart from its competition, not only for talent but eventually business performance.

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This article was originally published on Medium.com and LinkedIn.