Crucial Conversations are discussions between two or more people where the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong (see the book “Crucial Conversations” by Patterson and Grenny).   Conversations around behavior and performance are the most crucial of discussions in the workplace, yet are too often avoided, done ineffectively or inconsistently applied between employees.

If you are a manager that would like to have better crucial conversations with your direct reports, then read on.  You can become a better manager, and have more engaged and better performing employees by implementing The Quarterly Conversation™.


How to have crucial performance conversations with employees every 90 days

Vital to the success of periodic supervisor-direct report conversations is the framework.  For companies running on EOS ®, we recommend the Quarterly Conversation™ and the 5-5-5™ as the basis for how supervisors and their direct reports can have the right conversations every 90 days.  This approach is based on the belief that employees should receive consistent feedback around three critical areas:

  • Behavior – relative to Core Values
  • Accountabilities – the 3 to 7 roles & responsibilities of their job as defined by the Accountability Chart
  • Quarterly priorities – the 5 or so most important goals they must get done this quarter in light of company and departmental Rocks


Why every 90 days?

  • The cadence of having a same page crucial performance conversation every 90 days balances the tension between having these conversations too frequently (monthly) or too infrequently (annually)
  • The first of Gallup’s 12 employee engagement questions is “I know what is expected of me at work”. The 90-day cadence ensures employees in companies that practice the Quarterly Conversation™ know what is expected and how they are doing relative to those expectations
  • Cascades the concept of the 90-Day World™ from high level organizational vision and goals all the way down to individual employees


What the Quarterly Conversation™ is not

  • A formal performance review – the Annual Performance review is a separate process (see page 126 of the book “How To Be A Great Boss”)
  • Overly documented – taking notes is ok, but do so informally
  • Dreaded – quarterly conversations when done right should be welcomed by both the supervisor and their direct report


What the Quarterly Conversation™ is

  • A course correction opportunity – to get on and stay on the same page
  • A coaching opportunity – everyone needs feedback to get better
  • A development opportunity – the direct report will have great management practices modeled to them and they are now ready to better manage their direct reports by practicing quarterly conversations with those that report to them


The 5-5-5™ as the basis of the Quarterly Conversation™  

Approaches to managing people are often unnecessarily complicated.  For our clients running on EOS®, we simplify everything including how they manage employees by applying the 5-5-5™: most organization have around 5 Core Values, 5 essential roles & responsibilities each person is accountable for, and around 5 Rocks or quarterly priorities.


Begin the Quarterly Conversation™ by checking in personally, as this helps transition into the more substantive professional conversation.

Core Values

These are the irrefutable behaviors for what makes a “Right Person” in your business.  Remind your direct report of the company’s Core Values and allow them to self-assess themselves against each Core Value and then provide your feedback on their behavior over the last 90 days relative to each Core Value.

Roles and Responsibilities

Having created high level organizational design clarity through the Accountability Chart, the Quarterly Conversation™ is an opportunity to remind each direct report what they are uniquely accountable for and how they are doing relative to those essential roles and responsibilities of their job.  Provide praise and recognition where they are doing great; provide specific examples where they are not living up to expectations.


Companies running on EOS® set Quarterly company Rocks and departmental Rocks, and eventually cascade Rock setting down to individual employees.  Having your direct reports set individual Rocks helps assess if they are prioritizing their time and effort in a given quarter to work on areas outside of their day-to-day responsibilities that will lead to longer term benefit.

Additional Questions

To help the conversations go deeper, use the following questions as appropriate in each of the sections of the Quarterly Conversation™

  • What’s working?
  • What’s not working?
  • What would you have done differently?
  • What will you do better next time?
  • How can I better support you?


So What?

  • Consider how well are you and the other supervisors in your company are keeping the circles connected with direct reports
  • Determine if instituting the EOS® Quarterly Conversation™ approach would lead to higher employee engagement and productivity


Next Steps

  • Read “How To Be A Great Boss” by Wickman and Boer
  • Read “Crucial Conversations” by Patterson and Grenny
  • Visit and schedule a call with Tom Barrett to discuss how implementing EOS® would allow you to get what you want from your business.

About The Author

Tom Barrett is a Nashville-based Certified EOS Implementer™ and focuses on implementing EOS® with growth minded entrepreneurial businesses helping them to Clarify, Simplify & Achieve their Vision.


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