By Corporate English Solutions

19 July 2022 - 09:42

Reading time: 5 minutes

To have successful Continuous Performance Management conversations, managers need the right skills. Upskilling them increases both their performance and engagement as well as their direct reports’. We outline five key skills to effectively plan and implement learning solutions.  


You’ve carefully planned, communicated and rolled out your Continuous Performance Management (CPM) programme, but it still fails to reach its goal of better achieving business objectives. Why?

You may have overlooked one essential factor – your managers’ continuous performance management skills and competencies.  

According to McKinsey, 74% of employees linked the effectiveness of their company’s performance management to their managers ability to give feedback and coaching.

By doing a skills audit, you can better identify your managers’ existing capabilities and upskill them through performance management training and coaching. 

Where to begin? We share the 5 key skills your managers need to carry out Continuous Performance Management effectively. This will help you:

  • develop competency matrices
  • carry out skills audits; and
  • implement performance management training and coaching.

Read on to get started.

Skill #1. Communicating a compelling vision

Every successful business strategy requires a strong vision. 

While managers and team leaders are often not responsible for setting the overarching vision, they are instrumental in communicating it and getting buy-in from their teams. However, it is surprising how many managers overlook this in the business of planning and delivering work. 

By communicating the organisation’s vision in a compelling way, managers can gain their teams’ commitment, engage their energies towards key priorities and motivate them, even during challenging times. 

To know if your managers can engage and motivate their teams, conduct a skills audit to test their ability to:

  • identify the “what’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) for each team member
  • use storytelling techniques to increase engagement
  • adapt spoken and written messaging to highlight the WIIFM
  • structure conversations about the vision.

Skill #2. Implementing an agile planning process

Change is inevitable. So, being prepared for it makes good business sense. To increase flexibility, reduce risk and maximise growth opportunities, managers need to adopt agile planning processes.

Many organisations are replacing traditional goal setting with OKRs, “objectives and key results,” a holistic framework that focuses on outcomes rather than processes. It ties objectives closely to quantitative and qualitative metrics. 

This framework allows team members to decide how best to achieve goals. And they take ownership of changing ways of working if results are not achieved. 

By regularly reviewing OKRs and their alignment with organisational priorities, managers and teams will be more responsive to opportunities and threats when they arise. 

To support your managers to use OKRs effectively, audit and develop your managers’ skills in how to:

  • set SMART OKRs
  • link OKRs to the team’s and organisation’s vision and priorities
  • use systems to track OKRs and progress.

 Skill #3. Using effective coaching strategies

A key element to continuous performance management is having regular conversations and coaching. To enable constructive conversations managers, need excellent coaching skills.

“Coaching aims to produce optimal performance and improvement at work. It focuses on specific skills and goals”. Coaching is a facilitative process. The coach responds to the coachee’s need, and the coachee gets support through active listening, thoughtful questioning or concrete guidance.

Effective coaching can:

  • help team members focus on priority skills to develop
  • increase their engagement by feeling their manager is truly interested in their development
  • motivate them to carry out learning, increasing capability and performance quickly. 

But workplace coaching is often confused with mentoring or training, which assume the manager is the expert. When managers take these approaches, it can lead to micromanaging or controlling their teams. 

The first step in building a coaching culture within your organisation is to increase clarity and understanding of what coaching is and what it’s not. Once there is shared understanding, audit and develop your managers’ skills in how to:

  • ask powerful questions
  • show curiosity, positivity and empathy
  • use the principles of Appreciative Inquiry: discover which OKRs are on target, or need new or more challenging OKRs. 

 Skill #4. Applying mindful listening techniques 

During continuous performance management conversations, managers hear many things, but are they really listening?  Mindful listening is defined as “being present in your conversation so others feel heard and perceive your intention to listen and understand them”.

When your managers listen mindfully, they focus on what their team members are expressing without judgment. They manage their desire to speak and respond in a considered and compassionate way. This can make the direct report feel understood and valued, increasing their engagement and motivating them to develop skills and perform better. 

And if your managers have lower English proficiency, they will also benefit from developing skills in listening for key words and signposts (e.g., then, in the future, etc.), and inferring meaning from words and tone. 

To assess your managers’ capacity for mindful listening, audit and develop their skills in:

  • mindfulness techniques
  • observing and understanding non-verbal cues
  • asking questions to understand the overall picture of a situation
  • paraphrasing and using non-verbal communication to show understanding.

Many leading companies like Microsoft, PayPal and Salesforce regularly use employee listening to understand what employees are feeling. Recently Microsoft found that employee complaints about their sales system were not a technical issue but a training one. 

 Skill #5. Giving constructive feedback 

Both managers and direct reports often avoid continuous performance management feedback conversations. Why? They are difficult to give and receive well. And if done badly, feedback conversations can affect trust, rapport and relationships. This may demotivate both managers and team members. 

When given in a sensitive, positive way, constructive feedback can

  • clarify expectations of performance levels 
  • ensure team members’ goals support and work towards the organisation’s strategic objectives
  • improve performance through identifying skills gaps and the learning needed to close them. 

To support your managers’ ability to give better constructive feedback, audit and develop skills in how to:

  • give feedback in different cultural contexts, adapting to how directly they prefer to communicate 
  • start feedback conversations confidently and credibly
  • adapt the structure of feedback conversations for different team members
  • phrase feedback sensitively so that the direct report will accept and find it motivating
  • respond to direct reports who react emotionally and become defensive or aggressive.

 Key takeaways

Doing skills audits of these five essential skills can help you identify gaps and put in place learning initiatives to support your managers. Through building these capabilities and confidence, they will be more likely to engage with the process and carry out continuous performance management effectively. 

Discover how our English and Communication Skills courses and coaching can upskill your managers to deliver effective continuous performance management.

 Find out more here >