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The triplet: interviews with an employee

The logic levels of an exchange, by Frédérik Barbieux
Cliquer ici pour la version française

It is interesting to see how for a number of subjects the elements to be considered come in threes.

This time it concerns the discussions between an employee and his manager. The later must juggle three balls at the same time, for which agility and especially training is required.

Situation 1
Christian comes out of another meeting with his manager and for the umpteenth time, the exchange has been chaotic for one hour. They dealt only with a third of the subjects to be discussed and Christian is not even sure what actions are next to be implemented. He will manage as best as he can. As always. It is frustrating to be so inefficient!

Situation 2
– « First of all, how are you? »
– « Very good, thank you: I am happy because I was able to present my project idea that I care a lot about to James Carter. »
– « OK. That’s good, but let’s now have a look at the important stuff: your last week’s results. »
Whilst listening to his manager spilling out the numbers, John is thinking about his idea which does not seem to be included in the « important stuffs » … He has got the feeling that he himself is also not « important »…

Situation 3
This is the third time in six months that this happens: during a two hour discussion about one of Simon’s important client account, they spent 90 minutes, with his manager, breaking down the structure of the project and negotiating how to encode it in the information system. The manager’s objections are always the same and Simon must start his explanation all over again to convince him. Of course, they agreed once again and followed all the recommendations made by Simon; it already was the case last time, and also the time before. All this because the manager only glances over the file every two months.

When interviewing employees, a manager often has to take into account three different logic levels of communication to be effective: the process, the relationship and the content. In each of the above situations, at least one of the elements is missing and jeopardizes the success of the interview.

1 The process. The manager is primarily responsible for the proper conduct of the interview and respecting the agenda. When both the organisation and planning of the interview are clearly defined and respected, the quality and the relevance of the exchange are greater.

2 The relationship. For the exchange to be effective, you must take into account the individuals involved, their feelings and the interactions as a result. It is after all two human beings that are communicating. The manager must ensure the quality of the relation that will make the interview pleasant, interesting and effective.

3 The content. If the first two levels – process and relationship – are a matter of form, the operational content of the exchange represents the substance. It is the purpose of the interview. However, the management of the content (or substance) may be shared – or delegated – with the employee who often controls it all or part of it.

For example, during a coaching session, it is often possible to leave the entire content up to the employee to manage it. The manager’s role is to assist him in his reasoning, ensuring that he follows an effective step – the process – and is still in a state of mind facilitating his reasoning – the relationship.

How to maintain control of the process? It is necessary to identify the various types of interviews and for everyone to follow a thread (of rules), used systematically as a routine. After a few interviews always conducted with the same sequence, managers and employees will be in tune in their exchange and this structure will help for the running of the interview. Always make sure that this process is not a constraint for our interlocutors but a guide for the discussion, to manage both the quality of the relationship and the achievement of the expected results.

Say YES to the individual. Whatever the subject of the interview, and even more so if it is to ask the employee to change her behaviour, it is essential to clearly distinguish the difference between the individual on the one hand and on the other, what she does, says and thinks. Do not criticise the employee as a person – who she is – better still, value explicitly what is in her appreciated. An employee will listen more willingly to her manager if she knows that the later recognises her for her own value.

As a manager, if you are clear and honest about what you like in an individual, then you can easily be clearer about what you expect of her, whether to continue what she is doing well or change what she isn’t doing correctly.

Be prepared and keep track of the past. The idea to prepare an interview is quite obvious; to do it for real and systematically is, in fact, less frequent. It is essential that managers and employees are prepared and they know « their current affairs/cases. » This is the condition that will help them to focus on achieving the purpose of the interview during their exchange.

For example, during a periodic activity review, it is more appropriate to analyse past actions and plan future actions, than wasting the time planned for the interview discovering numbers and trying to understand their impact.

To also have accurate and shared notes of past interviews will help to avoid unnecessary repetitions.

It is our turn now to identify the different types of interviews that we carry out and to set, for each of these types, effective common threads and clear objectives (what is the interview for?). Also, before each interview, take care to note what you appreciate in your employee and make sure to let her know.

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