Shred the Form and Have a Quality Conversation Instead

It’s that time of the year that most of us dread. It requires a lot of time and effort, and from our experience the outcome almost never satisfies us. Yes, it is time for annual Performance Reviews.

Most of us line managers are driven by due dates and forms, issued by HR, rather than our intention to use the performance discussion as a moment to assess, reflect, involve, engage and develop. Research from the Corporate Leadership Council has proven that NOT having a performance appraisal is better then doing it half-heartedly. As with everything in life, you have to do it right or better to not do it at all! So before you embark on this years performance discussions with your team members, make sure that you have your own intentions straightened out. When you are clear on why you want to have a review; not only because ‘the system’ pushes you to, but when you are convinced that helping to improve your employees performance will significantly make your job easier, then you are ready.

For those of you that are ready and can’t wait to have this year’s performance appraisals, here are my insightful hints and tips: 

  1. Relationship of Trust: Professional trust is built day-by-day through consistent, credible support and is the foundation for any constructive interaction with team members.
  2. Continuous Feedback: The most impactful feedback is given within 24 hours of the situation arising. Practice giving feedback (both positive and negative) on a daily basis. Don’t keep people in the dark until the annual review rolls around.
  3. Involve and Engage: Ask direct reports to rate their own performance using copies of the appraisal form. Engage them before and during the session by asking what it is they are looking to get out of their performance discussion. What do they want to achieve from it.
  4. Focus on Strengths: Ensure direct reports meet at least the minimum competency requirement but otherwise focus completely on strengths.
  5. Specific Examples: Make information gathering ongoing. Don’t wait until the week of the appraisal meeting to gather important information about the employee.
  6. How to: Be as specific as possible on how an employee can improve his/her performance. Identifying an issue is easy, finding solutions and suggesting a better approach is much more difficult.
  7. Role Model: Indicate how and where you, as a boss, can and are willing to help your employee in improving his/her performance.
  8. Future Oriented: Don’t dwell too much on the past. Make discussions about the future.
  9. Development Actions: Be creative in identifying development opportunities. Specific job experiences are the most impactful learning opportunities, formal training are the least effective.
  10. Place and Time: If possible, meet in neutral territory. This will create an environment of equality and will help establish open communication. Avoid sitting behind a desk – a desk symbolizes authority. Free up your agenda for an uninterrupted conversation.
  11. Process: Don’t let the form dictate the discussion. It is all about the quality of the conversation.

Good luck in having a quality conversation about your team members’ performance, expectations and growth opportunities. As long as there is an environment of open communication and understanding then your performance review should be extremely effective.

I would love to hear from your personal experience about what makes your performance reviews effective.

-Paul Keijzer