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"Make feedback normal. Not a performance review."- Ed Batista

Would you rather have a root canal or sit through a performance review? You probably had to think about that for a moment before answering. Nobody enjoys the traditional performance review model, regardless of which side of the table you happen to be sitting on.

I cannot provide you with a recipe for making the review process thrilling for everyone, but you can improve the process to make it more effective and valuable for your team, and you, by identifying common errors you're probably making and taking steps to correct them.

Don't Sit in Judgment

The traditional process is a one-way street where the boss does all the talking and serves as the judge and jury of the employee's behaviors, successes and failures on the job.

To correct this miserable experience for everyone, make performance reviews a 360-degree system that utilizes self-assessment and peer reviews to paint a full picture for the employee and bring in other opinions besides your own. Think of it as crowdsourcing your reviews. If this isn't feasible, at a minimum, the employee should have a self-evaluation to complete prior to the meeting that can be used to compare against your assessments. This keeps the conversation focused on documented job performance and results rather than the person.

Don't Make Employees Wait

Once-a-year performance reviews are wholly ineffective. What good does it do to ask an employee to remember something they did 11 months prior? In order to have any impact on behavior and performance, reviews must be held regularly, throughout the year when positive and negative results are fresh in everyone's mind. The best time is when you observe the behavior. If you have never read The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, M.D., they use the concepts of One Minute Goals, One Minute Praisings and One Minute Reprimands.

Ongoing performance reviews keep your feedback relevant, and allow you to revisit that feedback sooner, rather than later in order to monitor progress and keep the employee focused on better results. This helps reinforce positive behaviors and outcomes and eliminate negative behaviors and outcomes.

Don't Get Personal

Delivering negative feedback is tricky. Some people handle it well, others, not so much. Employees can take negative feedback as a personal attack, which can cause them to lash out at you, or shut down completely, and the conversation rapidly deteriorates.

Always, always, always focus on the performance, rather than the person. Personality traits may be the root cause of a performance issue, but the minute you make the conversation about personality you run the risk of losing the focus of the meeting. Keep yourself and the employee focused on their results, tasks, processes, and approaches and how to improve those areas.

Don't Talk Money

Performance reviews are about performance, not compensation. When you tie the conversation to money, that's where the employee will focus and your feedback will be lost, even when it's positive. Conduct salary reviews separate from performance reviews so your team can focus on hearing what you say about their work and development without stressing about dollars.

Don't Wing It

Because the traditional approach to performance reviews is so miserable, leaders can put off preparation, hoping to wing it once the meeting starts. You cannot expect an employee to take the conversation seriously if you do not take your preparation seriously.

This mistake can be corrected through adopting regular, ongoing reviews. This lessens the volume of information you have to cover in a single conversation, keeps important issues fresh in your mind (and theirs), and affords you the ability to block off prep time throughout the month, rather than squeezing it all in at the last minute, the last month of the year.

The Value In Re-Evaluating Your Review Process

A subpar performance review process will always lead to subpar results. Poor meetings offer no value to the employee, to you, or to the organization. When you take the time to revamp your approach using these performance review tips, you will help employees stay engaged and motivated, and you can more effectively monitor progress throughout the year.


Larry Hart

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