Finding Your Groove in Giving Performance Reviews
“It’s that time again. Ugh.” In a recent coaching call, one of my clients expressed a familiar dissatisfaction. It was performance review time, and he had several performance reviews to prepare. He was concerned that he was going to spend a lot of time preparing and giving the reviews, but that it was not going to truly provide value or motivate his direct reports to grow in the way he needed them to. With certain reports, he had a prior history of unproductive or tense performance reviews.
As I listened to my client, I realized that his block was the result of a narrow conception of what a performance review should be — focused on specific projects, deliverables and results, rather than the person. When we started talking more freely about a few of his direct reports, with very little prompting he began to summarize some of their behavioral areas for improvement. When he had finished, I simply told him “Well, that is what you need to tell them in their performance review.” There was a pause and then, “You’re right!” he said, brightening. “Thank you, that was so useful!”
As an Executive Coach and Director of our 360 Feedback Department, I often hear our clients talk about performance review time with some degree of ambivalence – particularly when they are giving the reviews. I have realized that this may, in part, be due to how we typically approach performance reviews.
While it is valuable and necessary to receive feedback on deliverables and tangible results, performance reviews can also be an opportunity to engage in deeper discussions about some of the intangible behaviors and personality traits impeding the person from being as effective as possible. When we give this type of feedback with a real intention for the other person’s growth, it can be truly meaningful and inspiring for them — and ultimately lead to a deeper connection between you and them.
In preparation for giving performance reviews, here are some questions/tips we have found useful:
– What is my intention for this review? For this person?
– What is my vision of how the organization needs them to evolve?
– What behaviors and personality traits are getting in their way? What are concrete examples of these “areas for improvement”?
– What are my fears in giving them this feedback?
– What are my goals in giving them this feedback?
If the conversation goes well (and I hope it does), it can also be useful to ask them what support they would like from you if/when you notice the behaviors reoccurring. And don’t forget about our 360º Feedback service — it’s a great complement for performance reviews and a powerful tool for developing your reports!