Do you serve as a manager of employees? If so, you may likely conduct one of the most stressful work conversations an employee can have all year: the annual performance evaluation. An appraisal requires one person to evaluate and rate another, which is often uncomfortable for both. Ideally, performance management is more than an annual chat--it's a process. Throughout the year, you're giving your employees valuable, candid, real-time feedback, and your employees are people you know well who understand your expectations. Regardless of the frequency or method, here are five tips to help you make performance reviews less nerve-racking and more productive.
Thanks for your continued readership, and best wishes for your ongoing communication excellence!
Delivering An Effective Performance Review:
Five Tips for a Productive Appraisal
By Darlene Price, Well Said, Inc.
"The growth and development of people
is the highest calling of leadership."
--Harvey S. Firestone
As a boss, what you say to your employees in their performance reviews can either inspire and motivate them to improve performance, or cause them to feel confused, discouraged, even angry. As an effective leader, choose to make the review process a
learning experience and let your main objective be the growth and development of your people. Here are five tips to consider:
1. Ask for their feedback first. To begin the meeting, invite the employee to speak first. Follow the advice of Stephen Covey, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." This allows you to hear their perspective before offering your viewpoint. You'll also discover their level of self-awareness and be able to tailor your feedback accordingly. Begin by asking, "I'd like to start by hearing your thoughts--how do you think you did this past year?" Listen actively and empathically. Take notes if necessary to capture the employee's own words and phrases. During the meeting, repeat his or her language where appropriate.
2. Acknowledge the positives. Next, reinforce the person's strengths. Recognize what he is doing right and give him an opportunity to expound on his achievements. Say, "You mentioned you 'exceeded your productivity targets.' That's great news. Please share some examples and tell me how you did it?" Follow up by adding more positives from your perspective. When possible include specific facts, such as quantifiable or measurable results. For example, "You achieved a 15% reduction in departmental expenses in the first six months compared to the previous year. That's exceptional work--how did you accomplish this result?"
3. Empower employees to coach themselves.
Now comes the hard part--communicating the need for improvement in a helpful way that motivates the employee to change. Again, ask before you tell. First, check for the employee's self-awareness. Ask, "In hindsight, is there anything you could have done differently this past year to optimize results?" Or, "What do you believe are your key areas of opportunity?" Or, "Where do you see your greatest potential for growth and improvement?" If the employee's critique of herself is accurate and aligns with the facts, acknowledge her insight and empower her to coach herself. Ask, "What do you think you could do to change the situation?" Or, "What will you do differently to get a better outcome in the coming year?"
By encouraging the employee to develop her own plan for improvement (versus telling her what to do), you empower her to take ownership of the process, and she will be more motivated to change. After you hear her ideas, add any additional suggestions you may have:
"In addition, may I recommend you take a class offered through our Center for Learning to refresh your skill set in this area."
Communicate areas of opportunity and expectations.
If the employee is unaware of his blind spots or underperformance, be prepared to deliver the facts with tact, respect, and directness. Talk about what you witnessed or experienced, not generalizations or rumor. Communicate how the underperformance impacted you and others. For example,
"Three of your four quarterly reports were over a week late this past year. That impacted our department's ability to present an accurate forecast to senior management. Help me understand why that happened."
Give the employee a chance to explain. Then, communicate your clear expectation for improvement, and ask for a commitment.
"I understand time constraints and end-of-the-quarter work load; however, moving forward I do expect your reports to be submitted by the deadline. May I have your commitment for timely reports in the coming year?"
5. End on a positive note.
Offer to answer any questions the employee may have for you. Remind her you have an open-door policy so that she may contact you with concerns or issues right away. Communicate to your employee that you appreciate her efforts and talent. Say, "Thank you." Encourage her to use the feedback to her benefit, and express your belief in her potential to grow and develop as a professional.
The risks of
delivering an effective performance evaluation are numerous: another year of underperformance, mediocre results, low morale, and possible turnover. On the other hand, when you leverage the performance review to acknowledge your employee's successes, communicate improvement, and coach her to embrace higher standards, everybody wins. Plus, you demonstrate that your highest calling as a leader is the growth and development of your people.
If you would like to learn more about effective communication skills, and presentation proficiency, please read my book
Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results
(available in Hardcover, Kindle, and Audio).
Feel free to contact me directly to schedule an in-house corporate training event for your team. I would be honored to support your presentation and communication success.
Read Darlene's new book,
Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results.
Ranked in the
"Top 30 Business Books for 2013"
by Soundview Executive Book Summaries
Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results
is now available in Chinese!