Performance Review Mishaps

Like many of you, I’ve been conducting performance reviews these past few months, while many leaders dislike this process, I have to admit it is extremely fulfilling for me. I am passionate about helping other leaders see the fun in performance reviews. This is the first of two posts on the subject. Today, let’s look at my top six picks for performance review mishaps.

Leader not getting personal value.

Usually it’s the leader who dreads the performance review process, not the follower. That’s because the leader sees it as a task with no return value for them. Unlike the follower, who sees it as a meeting dedicated to their performance. Both the leader and the follower should benefit from a review. To accomplish this, the follower should have the opportunity to review the leader.

If your “official PR form” doesn’t allow for leader review opportunities, then add questions to it. Here are my favorite additional questions that I ask on reviews.

  • What three talents or traits do you value most about me and why?
  • What three areas do you feel I should improve on?
  • What decision or action have I executed in a way that disappointed you?
  • If there was one decision or action you’d like for me to make what would it be?
  • What can I do to improve how the team works together?
  • If you were the CEO of the company, what changes or initiatives would you implement?

Seeing the review as a critical conversation.

You may have to give some tough critiques, but don’t think of them as being tough. Think of them as being caring. This person may or may not be a great leader someday because of the things you are willing (or unwilling) to tell them. Leaders hold back fostering greatness in people when they fear being candid. If your follower wants to grow then it’s your duty to first know that and second to help them get there. Use the performance review as a way to serve them.

Poor preparation.

Prepare your thoughts before the review. Put time into your feedback and make sure you write stories to support your higher rankings as well as your lower rankings. Also prepare the person being reviewed. I like to make sure the person knows I’ll be looking for a minimum of two lower grades that will highlight areas of improvement as well as two higher grades that represent their unique areas of giftedness.

Too many direct reports.

Let’s face it, you can’t give quality performance reviews to everybody! If you have more than 7 to 8 direct reports then you need to make sure you are empowering others to sit in and help you with the reviews. Having more than seven direct reports is too many. But that’s another blog post.

Dropping the bomb.

A successful review experience should hold no surprises. If you have an issue with an employee’s performance, don’t wait until the performance review to address it. Coaching conversations with your employees should happen throughout the year. The same is true about recognizing them when they excel.

Not providing clarity.

At the end of your review there should be no question as to where the employee is performing well and where you would like them to improve. Say what you need to say and be clear. Concentrate on being relaxed and have a great conversation.


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