If you want to create a culture of development within your organization, then find ways to increase each individual’s ownership for their development. One way to do this is to separate the performance and development conversations and give the individual the responsibility to drive the development discussion and its outcomes.

In most organizations performance “management” (a term I don’t love) is usually a top-down process where the goals of the organization are translated into functional or departmental goals and then broken down into individual objectives. Progress on these objectives is reviewed periodically, with the manager usually having the final word on determining the results achieved, the associated performance ratings and the commensurate recognition. In other words, the manager drives the performance process, as shown in Figure 1 below.

Usually as part of the performance conversation, a few minutes will be spent on a list of strengths and what the employee needs to develop or improve upon, with an emphasis on the current role.

When and how should we discuss the employee’s longer-term career goals? The answer is simple: in a separate conversation. While there is a close link between performance and development, the focus of each is distinct enough to warrant its own conversation (see Figure 1 below).

Figure 1

Figure 1

Listed below are four reasons to separate the development conversations from the performance conversation.

To allow different ownership for the development discussion

As shown in Figure 1, the career development discussion should be driven by the employee. What does this mean? The employee should set the agenda, schedule the meeting and lead the conversation. The manager should listen, ask pertinent questions, offer support and keep an open mind when discussing future opportunities and options. This is a significant shift from the manager’s role in the performance discussion.

To focus the discussion

The focus of the development conversation should be on the employee’s career goals (both shorter and longer term), interests, motivations and exploration of potential opportunities within the organization. The manager should reflect on the organization’s future needs and what these opportunities may require from a preparation standpoint. This is a very different conversation from discussing current performance relative to stated goals.

To clarify accountability

By owning the development discussion, the employee feels empowered to clarify and ask for the help needed from his/her manager to move forward and implement the agreed-upon actions. The manager’s role is to support the process, but not take responsibility for ensuring progress on the employee’s goals.

To provide some time and space

To ensure mutual coherence, a bit of time may be needed to consider the effects of the performance and development conversations on each other. By separating the conversations, one can step back and evaluate the impact of the feedback from the performance conversation on longer-term development actions and career opportunities. Additionally, thought can be given as to how a person’s longer-term career goals can be supported by setting learning objectives for immediate projects or other assignments that build one’s capacity towards future career goals.

In summary, the performance and development conversations should be separate but linked by helping the employee to be effective in today’s role while building his/her capacity to achieve future ambitions.

Paul Terry is principal at Paul Terry Consulting Group, a firm that specializes in helping people navigate their careers by increasing their capacity to align their skills and interests with the business needs. Visit www.paulterryconsultnggroup.com for more information.