Summary of Performance Conversations

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Performance Conversations book summary

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The traditional performance review has few remaining adherents. According to longtime chief human resources officer Christopher D. Lee, organizations should replace such reviews with regular, one-to-one feedback sessions between frontline managers and their reports. Lee explains why these conversations are critical to employee engagement, retention and company performance. Moreover, he writes, managers must learn to act as coaches rather than bosses, which means asking the right questions to learn what’s working, what’s not and how to help employees grow.

About the Author

William & Mary University’s chief human resources officer Dr. Christopher D. Lee has spent the better part of the past three decades as a Chief Human Resources Officer. He also teaches HR at the University of Richmond.


Managers should have six-to-twelve, 30-minute performance conversations with employees every year. 

Employees and managers – millennials in particular – despise traditional performance reviews and will leave organizations that insist on using them. This remnant of 20th-century management has no place in the fast-paced, work-from-anywhere world of modern business.

Rather than wait a year, or even six months, to review a person’s performance and then assign a pointless rating, managers should adopt the “Performance Conversations” approach. These conversations address performance (as the name implies) from a coaching perspective. They emphasize servant leadership – managers working in partnership with their reports to achieve performance goals.

Good manager coaches express concern for both the employee and his or her performance. Short (30-minute), regular (6-12 times per year), well-planned, structured and scheduled meetings between team members and manager-coaches develop closer relationships and greater trust. In these semi-formal sessions, managers make their reports feel appreciated and supported, ...

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