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5 Coaching Conversations: Role and Relationship Orientation

5 Coaching Conversations: Role and Relationship Orientation

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 8, Episode 13
  • Discover Gallup's approach to performance management and the first of 5 Coaching Conversations between managers and employees that can build trust and foster engagement.
  • Interested in learning more on this topic? Read more about how to improve teamwork in the workplace.

Paul Walters, Workplace Consultant at Gallup, was our guest on a recent Called to Coach. In Part 1 of a 5-part series, Paul shared about Gallup's approach to performance management. That approach involves investing in people as individuals, including the first of 5 Coaching Conversations managers should have with their employees -- the Role and Relationship Orientation -- in order to build trust, help them connect with their team's and organization's mission, and foster workplace engagement.

Access Part 2 of 5 Coaching Conversations, and Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 of this 5-part series.

Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio and video are posted above.

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Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison and live from the Gallup Studios here in Omaha, Nebraska, this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on March 13, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:19

Called to Coach is a resource for those who want to help others discover and use their strengths. We have Gallup experts and independent strengths coaches share tactics, insights and strategies to help coaches maximize the talent of individuals, teams and organizations around the world. If you are listening live, love to have you join us in our chat room. There's a link right above me here on our live page that's available there. Go to YouTube, sign in and we'd love to have your questions in chat. If you're listening after the fact and have questions about anything right now -- I mean, we're taking anything -- send us an email: Don't forget, you can subscribe on YouTube as well. If you're listening live, there's a subscribe button, right actually below Paul over on this side. And subscribe, and every time we go live, you'll get a notification. A really cool way to kind of stay up with what's going on. If you're one of the cool kids and you're listening to podcasts -- Paul, I'm sure you've found podcasts helpful these days.

Paul Walters 1:05

Oh, I listen to them all the time.

Jim Collison 1:07

You can find ours any podcast app, search "Gallup Webcasts," and they will get you there as well. Paul Walters is our host today. Paul's a Senior Workplace Consultant -- no, you're a Workplace Consultant or ... I'm gonna give you -- I give you the title.

Paul Walters 1:18

Maybe a promotion. I like it!

Jim Collison 1:20

Senior -- there we go -- Senior Workplace Consultant; we'll act like it today. Paul, great to have you on Called to Coach, and welcome!

Paul Walters 1:25

Happy to be here, Jim. Thanks for having me on. There's no one I'd rather talk to you on a Friday than you.

Jim Collison 1:30

Well, thank you! Well, I'm looking forward to the next 3 sessions that we're -- today that we're going to record, and the other two that'll be available. If you're listening to this as a podcast, all five should probably be there by now. But it's this idea of these, these coaching conversations. And we've done a bunch of work around this with some of our books and some of our materials. And the goal today really is, is to kind of think through these conversations and get some clues -- never more important than in a world today where we have a mix of remote; we have a mix of in-house workers, factory workers, right? I mean, it doesn't matter, right? These conversations have to happen in some form or fashion. Why don't you get us started as we think about this and establish kind of these, these expectations?

Paul Walters 2:11

Yeah. So I think this is, as you said, Jim, this is one of a 5-part series. And today we'll cover, we'll be covering the first, as you said, the first three, and this is Part 1. So really, the overarching thing here is we know that performance management systems are archaic and don't really work, requiring companies to make a shift in what that looks like, really from performance management to what we call performance development.

Paul Walters 2:41

So today, what I plan on talking to you and talking to you all about in Part 1, is, one, helping to establish, like, where did these come from? Where did performance reviews come from? What does the traditional performance management system look like? Why is it a problem? Then we'll talk about Gallup's approach to performance management, and that shift from performance management to development. And then that'll get us right into that first conversation that we have, which is really, really establishing your expectations with your employees -- what we call a role and relationship orientation conversation. So that's what we're going to be working on for Part 1. And with that, should I just jump right in, Jim?

Jim Collison 3:21

Yeah, let's do it. Let's not --

Paul Walters 3:22

All right. Well, I think it's helpful. I don't actually have Context high. But I always find it interesting to figure out where did these systems come from that we've created in our existing workforce. So when you think about the background of performance reviews or performance management systems, it actually dates back to the third century in China. I believe it was the Wei dynasty that used it to actually evaluate performance of their civil servants. So this has been around for a very long time. What we found then is that in the -- during World War II, it became more adopted by the military. And the point of it in the military was to evaluate performance of their soldiers. But it really actually had sort of a negative tinge to it because it was evaluating the performance of, of soldiers who they wanted to sort of walk out the door; who they wanted to discharge for low performance. So it was used in World War I for, for that.

Paul Walters 4:22

Then we saw it after World War II become more widely used in the 1960s and '70s. So what we saw, Jim, is companies became bigger in the '60s and '70s, larger workforces. And so what companies were struggling with is, How do we measure performance? How do we decide who our high performers are? Who do we promote? And how do we create a standardized approach around that? And so that's really when it took off.

Paul Walters 4:52

Now, so that's sort of the history and background and to date, a lot of companies are still using a traditional performance management system and structure to evaluate the performance of their people and to determine should we promote them? How should we pay them? That type of thing. So that's the background of where it's come from and where it is today.

Paul Walters 5:12

There is some problems, there are some problems with that form of performance management or the way of evaluating your people. So let's talk a little bit about why we it's problematic to continue to evaluate your people that way in today's environment. So right now, what we found is that workplaces are far more dynamic than what they used to be. We've got matrixed environments. We have remote employees. We've got people who are working all over the place with lots of different people all over the world. People's jobs look very different than what they used to be. So while I'm on the same team as, you know, a lot of other people, and we do have some overlap in what we do, we still have differences in the work that we do and how we approach our work. Therefore, the standard approach to managing or reviewing performance just doesn't work anymore.

Paul Walters 6:11

The other issue -- there are a couple other issues we see with it as well -- is reviews tend to be subjective, biased. When you tie pay to some of these performance reviews, we have a lot of unintended consequences. And truthfully, the whole point of performance reviews is to improve performance. What we're finding, Jim, and everybody else listening, is that traditional performance reviews do not actually get people to perform better. And if your whole point is to improve someone's performance through a performance review, you're not accomplishing that. Then you start to have to ask yourself, Well, why are we doing a performance for you in this fashion?

Paul Walters 6:50

A few other things that we found: some psychological obstacles, we call them, to performance reviews. One of them is called infrequent feedback. So what tends to happen is that when, let's say, Jim, I'm your boss. In a traditional performance management review structure, I probably have meetings with you here and there. But I'm going to do your review every 6 months or once a year. So what happens is you come into my office; we're going to have your review. And, and before you come into your office, I'm looking at your performance review metrics that I need to evaluate you on. And I'm thinking about, well shoot, I don't really remember Jim's performance from the last 12 months, but I remember his performance from the last couple weeks or the last month. So that's what I'm going to evaluate him on. So we call that the "recency effect."

Paul Walters 7:42

So, so, for example, let's say you were a high performer, Jim, for 11 months out of the year, but the last month, maybe you were sick or you had some family issues, and so your performance was sort of subpar or mediocre. I'm going to probably rate you lower than what you've deserved to be reviewed or rated on because I'm thinking about the last month versus the last 11 months of your performance. So that, that infrequent feedback tends to be a big challenge. And people can feel that psychologically.

Paul Walters 8:11

Another thing is -- an obstacle is what we call "manager bias." So managers tend to think that they're pretty objective and they're pretty good at evaluating performance. But we actually see that that's oftentimes not the case. Everybody comes to the table with biases, and managers do the same. In fact, one study found that about 61% of the variance in someone's review was related directly to the manager. And so, when the managers can't accurately give feedback to someone based on their performance, that's a problem.

Paul Walters 8:49

Another issue is what we call "adverse reactions to evaluations and feedback." That's really around people don't view these as fair and accurate. That's one. And the other thing is people can actually go into what we call -- you all are probably familiar with this -- the "fight or flight" mode. So when I go into a performance review, when you start giving me feedback, my first reaction is either I'm going to combat and debate you on the way you've reviewed me to tell you why you're wrong. Or I don't want to be a part of this conversation; I just want to leave. So we see that happen a lot.

Paul Walters 9:27

And the last one that we talk about is the pay incentives. So we're not saying that you should never tie performance to pay. But you have to be really careful about how you do that. There are times when, if people don't feel like these are fair and accurate and you're tying someone's pay to it, it automatically raises the bar and elevates their emotional reactions to how you evaluate them, which can obviously be be problematic. You also have things that are called "force ratings or rankings." So let's say, again, I'm gonna, I'm gonna pick on you, Jim. Let's say you are a excellent performer, high level, the top performer, but you're on a team of top performers. And I can only -- as a manager, I can only give 5% of my team a raise or a high grade to rate you as excellent. Any other team, you would probably be the top 5% easily, but because you're on a team of high performers, you get put into sort of that mediocre or average level, which obviously then creates more problems and frustrations around these performance reviews.

Paul Walters 10:37

So again, all these things, the, the, the, the biases, the unintended consequences of pay, the subjectivity to them, really causes problems. And I've got some sad statistics that I'm gonna throw out there at you: is that 29% -- only 29% of employees strongly agree that the performance reviews they receive are fair, right? So you got 30% of the workforce that thinks that their reviews are actually fair, and 26% strongly agree that they're accurate. So fewer think that they're actually accurate. Only 2 in 10 employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work. And only 14% of employees strongly agree that performance reviews they receive inspire them to improve. So again, when we're thinking about, we want -- the point of these things is to inspire people to go out there and be better. I always think anytime a manager has a touchpoint with their employee, that employee either becomes more engaged or less engaged. And what we're finding is with these performance reviews, they're leaving less engaged, less motivated, less inspired to do the work, which is the opposite, unintended effect of what we're trying to accomplish there.

Jim Collison 11:50

Yeah. And in some cases, it's the only conversation, or one of the few conversations we're having, right? Because it's mandatory in a lot of organizations because they've been coached, OK, you got to have this one; like this one has to happen. It may be one of the few, so it's disengaging them. And they're not getting anything to make up for it. Right.

Paul Walters 12:08

Yeah. Yeah. And, and we want managers talking to people more frequently. And if your only point of contact with your manager is this negative experience, it doesn't bode well for your level of engagement with a company or your performance going forward.

Paul Walters 12:23

So how about we talk about, then, our approach to performance management and some of the things that, that we recommend that you go in the direction that you go? So again, I mentioned, our, our view of this is, we really need to transition from a place of performance management to what we call performance development. And there's some differences there. So when I think about performance development, performance development is really about investing in your people in a way that they're, they're constantly feeling like they're being developed; that they're having opportunities to learn and grow; all of that. So to do that, there's, there's a couple buckets that we sort of think of this, or -- "buckets" is a technical term at Gallup; maybe the better word I should use is a "framework" in which we should think about these in.

Paul Walters 13:09

So there's 3 components of this framework that we think about this performance development in. One of them is what we call "Establish Expectations." And we'll talk about that one more in depth today. So being clear about how do you establish expectations with your people, so they're clear on what they need to be doing every single day. The second component of that framework is what we call "Continually Coach." And that we're going to cover in Part 2. Essentially, the "Continually Coach" part -- to get a high-level summary of it -- is just transitioning from this place of being a boss to being a coach; having frequent conversations with your people; providing them development opportunities, that type of thing.

Paul Walters 13:46

And then the third component of this framework is what we call "Create Accountability." And that's where your more traditional performance review might fall into, though how we talk about performance reviews are a little bit different in our framework, based on our research, than you would see in your typical performance review. So those that's really the frameworks: We Establish Expectations, Continually Coach and Create Accountability. Now within that framework, and you can almost think of it as a circle or a pie with three pieces to those pies: Establish Expectations, Continually Coach and Create Accountability.

Paul Walters 14:19

Within that framework are really 5 Conversations. Let me give you a quick high-level overview of those 5 Conversations, at least what they are. Within that "Establish Expectations" piece of the pie, there's a conversation called Role and Relationship Orientation. That's the conversation that we're going to talk about today. Within that "Continually Coach" part of the pie, there are 3 Conversations. Those conversations are the Quick Connect, which we'll cover in Part 2; the Check-In, which we'll be covering in Part 3; and the Developmental Coaching, which will be covered in Part [4]. The third part of that framework is -- that, that pie -- is the "Create Accountability" component. And under that is that 5th conversation, which we call the Progress Review. And that's what we'll, we'll talk about in Part 5 of the series here.

Paul Walters 15:08

But we're gonna start with that, first Establishing Expectations, and then what that Role and Relationship Orientation conversation looks like. So, I'll start out by throwing some more statistics at you that I think are pretty sad. So when, when we ask people, "Do you know what's expected of you at work?" About 50%, five-zero percent, of the workforce cannot strongly agree that they know what's expected them at work. But it's interesting, you know, all this was -- I was working with a client in Arizona about a year ago, and I had a group of managers I was working with. I said, "Raise your hand if you feel like your people clearly know what's expected of them every day." Everybody in the room raised their hand, but again, that 50% -- our research shows differently. I think oftentimes, it's, "Well, they have a job description, right? That's good enough. That's the know what to do. They've, they're good to go."

Paul Walters 16:02

But, but that's obviously not enough. And what we find is 41% of employees, only 41% of employees can strongly agree that their job description actually aligns with the work that they do. But those that can strongly agree with that statement are 2.5 times more likely than other employees to be engaged. So it's not uncommon to see that misalignment between someone's job description and what their actually work are. But understanding also that a job description is only a component, one component, of helping to establish expectations for someone at work.

Paul Walters 16:35

So how do you establish expectations? We have that in 3 buckets too. We try to put things in -- I keep saying -- buckets, or frameworks, to make it easier for you understand. So the framework around that for establishing expectations are "clear, collaborative and aligned." So we'll talk about what "clear" means. When we say we are Establishing Expectations, you want it to be clear. You want it to be clear what an employee's expectations are every single day. That means you help them set priorities. That means the, the goals that they're trying to achieve are objective, measurable; that their duties every single day are clearly defined. And, and that the person feels like they can see and accurately track their performance along the way.

Paul Walters 17:27

And, in fact, when we think about helping employees prioritize, what we found is that when we look at our millennial research, that millennials more than any other generation actually need help and crave help around prioritizing their work. While I think all generations need help, and probably want some, some help in prioritizing their work, it's the millennial generation -- probably because they don't have as much experience as other generations in prioritizing their work, so they need some help around that. So that's what we mean by, by "clear."

Paul Walters 17:55

When we talk about "collaborative," that means it's not me, as the manager, going to my people and saying, "Here are your goals for the year. Good luck!" It's sitting down with them and, in partnership with them, we're going to set those goals. So we're going to talk about, Hey, what do we need to accomplish this year? What's your priorities? What do you want to work on? Let's develop these goals together. If they have buy-in to that process, if they are a part of that goal-setting, it not only makes the goals clearer, or their work more clear, but it also is motivating to them. Because now I have a stake in the game; I have greater ownership over this, if I can be a part of the process.

Paul Walters 18:41

You know, what we find is that only 30% of employees strongly agree that their manager actually helps them in that goal-setting. But when employees can do that, we -- they're 4 times more likely to be engaged than other employees. So again, being clear on expectations, and then collaboratively setting goals with your people.

Paul Walters 19:00

The last one we have in "Establishing Expectations" is what we call "Aligned." "Aligned means there needs to be an alignment between what that individual does every day and their team goals and the institution's goals. So that I can see what I'm doing every day contributes to our mission as an organization, our mission as a team. And the manager's role is really help -- is to help that person make that connection between their daily activities and the overall mission, purpose of the company and the goals of the company and the team.

Paul Walters 19:36

So, I would also add in another component to this too, is helping whatever that employee's personal missions and goals are -- like who they are and their mission and purpose in life -- helping them see how their mission and purpose as an individual actually aligns with the team's and organization's mission and purpose as well. If you can help make that additional connection, again, it gets me more excited, more passionate about the work that I'm doing. So again, Clear, Collaborative and Aligned.

Paul Walters 20:10

That brings us to the actual conversation that we're here to talk about, which is what Gallup calls the Role and Relationship Orientation conversation. So, again, we've got the "Establish Expectations"; the conversation that fits into that is what we call the Role and Relationship Orientation conversation. You'll note that we don't say this is a job-description orientation, or just a role orientation. We very intentionally have "Relationship Orientation" in there as well. Because it is insufficient to sit down and just have a conversation with them about, "Here's your job description. Here's the printer. Here's your laptop. This is the restroom. If you need anything at all, Jim's right there; have a conversation with him." It's much more than that. It's about taking time to get to know the person on a personal level, helping them feel cared about. Start to build trust with that person. Learn about their strengths. Help them understand what excellence in the role looks like.

Paul Walters 21:15

You're looking at what their engagement needs are; how do they like to be engaged? What are their goals and aspirations, their motivations, helping to, again, do those expectations with them around that are Clear, Collaborative and Aligned. It's much more than just that surface level: "Here's what you need to do; go and do it." It's being very intentional about creating that relationship with them. Because that's crucial. I think of -- I'm going to call out one of our managers at Gallup, Benjamin, I remember when we had a new person join our team, and she came from D.C. to our office, to our Summit, our Workplace Summit in Omaha. And I remember just, he spent a lot of time with her; walking around with her, having lunch with her, that type of thing. They weren't just talking shop; it was helping her feel cared about and welcomed to the organization; getting to know them on a personal level. And I think oftentimes, as, as managers or leaders, we so quickly go to, we need somebody in this role because we're, we're running thin. So I'm going to grab somebody with a pulse; I'm going to put them in a role; get them up to speed as fast as humanly possible. And then I'm going to check out, let them go do their thing. They're good to go. I don't have much more time to spend with them, because I'm super busy myself. So that's sort of the purpose behind it.

Paul Walters 22:38

Now, how often should this happen? Obviously, when you have somebody new onboard, they should go through, go through something like this. Even when somebody changes roles within a company, they should go through something like this. We actually say even once a year, once a year, even though the person's in the same role, having a conversation with them to realign expectations, to make sure that, that relationship is there. That's why it's really important. So really, again, it's meant to build trust, authentically connecting with each person to understand their talents, expecta -- expectations, needs and motivations. So that's, again, that's really the, the Role and Relationship Orientation conversation.

Jim Collison 23:18

Yeah, no, it's great, Paul. I think it gives us a good baseline for -- surprisingly, you know, Q1, right. Do I know what's expected of me at work? We've asked over 55 million people that question, so that's not a stat, that's not a, you know, a stat we take lightly. A lot of people have, have answered that. And it is, it is amazing to me, how many can't -- can say, I mean, they've been working there for whatever number of years. "I don't know why I'm here." Like, I don't know what the expectation is right?

Jim Collison 23:47

There was a conversation in chat about, you know, my role and responsibilities here at Gallup has changed and morphed over the last 4 or 5 years. My manager has had this conversation with me every single time there's been a major change in it. So anytime I am removing something or adding something to the responsibilities, we have this, we have this conversation.

Jim Collison 24:06

A couple reminders before we wrap here, and Paul, I'll give you one more shot at this. Some folks were asking about, where can they get more information on this? So it's in the manager book, so It's the Manager. It's chapter 21. The 5 Coaching Conversations are there. And then -- there was one other comment. Oh, Steve had said, Download the Re-Engineering Performance Management [report]. It's there in great detail as well

Paul Walters 24:31

Yeah, that's exactly right.

Jim Collison 24:33

We did a podcast with Ben Wigert -- Mike McDonald and I -- last fall, where we talked about this and went in depth as well. So if you -- that's available through our YouTube channel, if you want to do that. Paul, any final thoughts before we wrap it?

Paul Walters 24:48

No, I think we're good. I love those extra resources. Certainly dive into those, because we got a lot of extra things out there that can amplify what we covered and talked about today. And I'll be excited to join you again for Part 2, Jim.

Jim Collison 25:00

Looking forward to it as well. We'll remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources we have available for you, just, kind of they're all located -- one central location, go to While you're there, sign up for the CliftonStrengths Community Newsletter. Just kind of stay up to date on everything that's going on. If we have new things we want to share with you, it's a great way to get it through the newsletter. If you have any questions, you can send us an email: If you want to join us for future webcasts, go to our Eventbrite page: and follow us there. You'll get a notification every time we do something new. Love to have you in our Facebook group: And on LinkedIn, find us by searching "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches." You don't have to be a trained coach to be in the group. We'd just love to have you; ask for the invite, I will let you in. We look forward to more of these. If this is your very first one, maybe, and your in the podcast channel. Maybe [Part] 2 is right there. Just keep going. With that we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Paul Walters' Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Strategic, Communication, Arranger, Competition and Woo.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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