I remember the first time I received an employee performance review. My boss called me into his office, leaned back in his chair, and began reading from some papers he had laid out in front of him.
My Performance Review:
“Shawn, you’ve been doing a pretty good job and you’re fitting in well with the others…” he said, pausing momentarily.
“There are a couple of things I’d like you to work on…”
He then took the next 15-20 minutes to outline a couple of things that he felt I needed to work on. This list included things such as my inability (at the time) to spend time socializing with others. I was shy when I was younger—hard to believe, I know.
He also shared that I needed to work on being patient when he was giving me work instructions. I had a habit (a bad one, apparently) of running off and starting to work on something before I understood exactly what he wanted me to do.
I honestly can’t remember the reasoning behind this last issue, but I recall at the time thinking, “Wow, he’s really grasping at straws here.”
What I’ve learned in the years since is that employee performance reviews are often a very timely exercise to complete and usually even more difficult to deliver. Particularly when they are a very structured process.
Fortunately, they don’t have to be.
What Performance Reviews Have Been:
You see, employee performance reviews are somewhat of an archaic process. They are taken from the early days of the industrial revolution when managers and supervisors were forced to lead dozens of people at once. The only way to give feedback was to treat it like a planned task, or so it seemed at the time.
Trouble is, however, that most often employee performance is judged based on the last thing you did, regardless of whether it was good or bad.
If the last thing you did was good, your review would typically have a positive spin. Do something bad like show up late, make some errors on a report, or speak your mind in a meeting and your review is most likely going to focus heavily on constructive criticism.
Here is a more proactive approach I’ve been using (and coaching others to use) for over ten years. I call this the Proactive Feedback Discussion, or PFD for short.
Proactive Feedback Discussion:
- Make a point of scheduling time to connect with your people once each week. In this scheduled time we are going to visit and/or call each one of your people, with no particular agenda other than to discuss something they did in the past week. Good or bad.
- Use the open-faced sandwich approach.
- Make brief notes about anything you might want to follow up on. Schedule tasks you need to follow up on or make a note on the same day next week to follow up directly with the employee.
That’s it. Simple yet effective.
Most importantly, employees who experience the PFD find it is more of an ongoing discussion, rather than a one-time dialogue.
Best of all, it takes very little time, almost none, to prepare for the dialogue. Just schedule the “connection” time, take a brief glance at your calendar for anything you noted you wanted to discuss, and off you go.
It’s been over twenty-five years now since I received my first performance review. My philosophy on leading teams has evolved during the years to that of building a self-managed team, but one thing remains constant. Employees want consistent and meaningful feedback, not annual or bi-annual sit-downs.
© Shawn Casemore 2019. All Rights Reserved.
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