This week we are excited to welcome guest blogger, Peggy Pedwano. Ms. Pedwano is a Regional Manager at Halogen Software, a world leader in Talent Management.
Performance reviews are something that managers and leaders often dread. So much so that many stop doing them all together.
But that can cause problems in and of itself. Because without formal performance reviews, many employees don’t get the direction, feedback, development and recognition they need to be engaged and to succeed.
So how do we as managers and leaders turn performance reviews into something practical and valuable for everyone? I think the answer lies in our focus and intent.
If we view performance reviews primarily as a tool for rating and ranking employees, as did Microsoft, then who can blame people for dreading them. Who among us likes to be judged?
If we instead view performance reviews primarily as a coaching and development tool, a tool for dialogue, we open ourselves up to their benefits.
Here are some tips for how to turn performance reviews into a positive experience for all.
Open up an ongoing two-way dialogue. Each of us is different, and we have different skills, experiences and perspectives. A dialogue helps us deepen our understanding of each other and share perspectives. It enriches both parties.
When we approach performance reviews as something we do to our staff, rather than something we do with our staff, we often miss the opportunity to gain from their perspective. And we miss the opportunity to ask about how we can improve, or help.
Talk about expectations. Performance reviews are a great time to talk about expectations. What needs to be accomplished? How do you expect the work to be done and when? How can the employee handle challenges they’re facing? What kind of support do you expect from each other?
When we both talk about our expectations, we can learn where we’re in sync and where we have disconnects. If our expectations aren’t shared, it’s important to know that early on so we can adjust.
Ask “why?” Often as managers and leaders, we forget to ask “why?” “Why did you make this decision?” “Why did you act this way?” Asking “why” gives us additional information, helps us to see the other’s perspective, shows us a different way of doing things. And knowing “why” can change our judgment about a person, situation or action.
Invite some introspection and self-knowledge. For any of us to grow, it’s important to stop and reflect on who we are, how we’ve grown or changed, what we need to change or improve, and what we can do to keep growing or changing. It’s this introspection and self-knowledge that motivates all learning and change.
So rather than tell our employees what we think of their performance, we should ask them what they think of their performance. What did they do well? What knowledge, skills or experience do they think they need to acquire? How would they now handle a challenge differently? What key skills can they leverage going forward? What are they most proud of? What did they struggle with the most? (And don’t forget to ask “why?”)
We should really be there to help them discover how to be their best selves, not to tell them who we think that should be.
Look for “teachable moments.” At performance review time, and really throughout the year, we should be on the lookout for teachable moments – those times when our employees seem to struggle or fail. Teachable moments are usually occasions where people are looking for coaching, guidance or help. So at these times, if they’re open to it, we can dialogue about what’s going on, what their expectations are, what their perspective is. And we can share our observations and thoughts in a way that is helpful to them. They’re not times for an “I’m right and you’re wrong” approach. Rather they’re about exploration and discovery, helping the employee to learn from their present circumstances.
Coach. I once read that the difference between a coach and a teacher is the fact that a coach is always on your side, wanting you to win, helping you to be your best. A teacher is there to impart their knowledge. So be a coach for your employees. Always help them to be the best they can be, not the best you can be.
Support development. Performance reviews should primarily be about development – in all its forms. Actively look for ways to support your employee’s development. Use stretch goals or assignments. Let them shadow you or someone else. Let them attend courses, seminars, conferences, webinars. Share books, magazines and online publications. Share what you’ve learned and are learning. Use your performance review meetings to discuss learning needs and learning opportunities. Document learning goals. And revisit progress.
Accentuate the positive. Take the time during your formal performance review meetings and ongoing dialogues to accentuate or highlight the positive. Ask your employee to share with you their successes, the things they’re proud of, their accomplishments. And tell your employee everything you think they’re doing right. Share with them where you think they excel. What you think they’re good at. And help them discover the root causes of their successes, and replicate those things elsewhere.
Take a positive approach to performance management. Rather than focus on once a year reviews where you rate and rank your employees, use the opportunity to formalize the positive dialogue you’ve been having all year long about expectations, performance and development. Use your performance reviews as a tool to support each other’s success. Lead the way, and you’ll find they become an activity you and your employees value rather than dread.
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