Once upon a time, many companies seemed to believe that yearly or twice-yearly job reviews kept employees motivated and productive. Few companies believe that today.

In search of something better, they created manager/employee touch-base meetings to replace those old reviews. Have these meetings turned out to be as good as everyone expected? Sometimes, but not always.

A supervisor usually pulls up a document that was created in the last touch-base and says, “Here are the to-dos we talked about last time. Have you done this? Have you done that?” The final, killer question is, “Why not?”

If you conduct touch-bases in this way, you are sending the message that you, the manager, know everything and that your supervisee must prove him- or herself. Your employee leaves the room feeling blamed, pressured and even threatened.

There are simple, highly effective ways to turn touch-base meetings into opportunities for mentoring, coaching and positive motivation. The strategy is to reverse the process so you’re letting your employee take responsibility, rather than catching them at what they’re doing wrong.

1. Replace “Let’s see howyoure doing on your to do list?” with “What do you feel good about accomplishing since we last talked?

If you follow this advice, you will begin by focusing on positive changes and accomplishments. Next, give them reinforcement for what they’ve accomplished, and let them feel proud of their achievements. Move on to any items that are still undone, and discuss them in a positive and upbeat way. This structure drains the blame from your meeting and creates positive, motivational conversations.

2. Let the employee set his or her own priorities.

As a supervisor, there will be times when you need to make firm assignments, but as much as you can, allow your employee to set his or her own priorities. That builds a sense of ownership and enthusiasm.

After the steps I recommend above, ask your employee how they’re doing on their action plan (a better name than “to-do list”) to see if they’ve missed anything. Then, ask them if there is anything they would like to add to the list. You can follow up with motivational questions like, “Why do you think this is important?” and, “How do you plan to tackle it?” If there’s something you would like them to put on their list that they didn’t already think of, now is the time to mention it. Most of the time, they are likely to have thought of it in the first place.

3. Ask, “Are there areas where you need some help?”

With this question, you can coach and assist employees. Your offer prevents them from feeling bad about something they haven’t finished and helps them feel comfortable about getting the help they need. Be sure to listen for underlying reasons they might not be tackling certain tasks. The issue could be time; perhaps others could help? Or it could be that they lack some piece of technology that would help them or the services of a consultant.

The bottom line is that by offering help, you are helping someone not to feel guilty about not doing something. Under the old system of job reviews, people often felt guilty, which led them to mislead or try to divert blame from themselves. That is unhelpful. Having a frank and honest discussion is much better.

4. To add still more encouragement…

Observe the “five-to-one” rule when meeting with supervisees who could benefit from an extra dose of positive inspiration. For every one thing you say that could be interpreted as criticism, say five things that are encouraging.

To sum it up…

When you adopt the approaches I recommend in this blog, you make the touch-base a positive experience for encouragement, coaching and honest discussion. It is no longer an inquisition. In essence, you’re reversing the process by having employees take responsibility for their own action plans. Because you are now a mentor and coach, you will create a very strong and positive work bond.