Category: Employee Development

 

The Critical Role of a Manager in the Evolution of Performance Management

Performance management. Evaluations. Ratings. Individual development plans. Career paths. Total rewards. These are more than just buzzwords in the lives of HR professionals. They are an integral part of our day and of the value we create for the business units we serve.

We often discuss the key role managers play in the current evolution of performance management practices we’re seeing in today’s workplaces. However, this one aspect of performance management too often gets overlooked as we move quickly toward execution mode. The role of a manager deserves a pause before we continue to move forward with the performance management conversation. Such a critical pause, in fact, that it is the sole focus of this blog post.

swimmingLet’s say I’m a competitive swimmer. I’ve always excelled at backstroke, but now my coach needs me to compete in butterfly. It’s not completely out of my wheelhouse (I am a swimmer after all), but it’s a learning curve for sure. It’s also a new expectation for my role on the team, and one that I’d want to learn more about and consider if I want to pursue or not. I might rather find another team where I can continue to swim backstroke.

The recent lives of managers in today’s workplaces have been no different. Although always embedded in the role of a leader, the evolution of performance management is intensifying the responsibilities of managers to:

  • Coach
  • Give continuous (and valuable) feedback
  • Motivate and engage
  • Develop individualized learning plans and career paths
  • Communicate more with their ears and less with their mouths (easier said than done)
  • Personalize their approach for each team member

And let’s not forget about documentation and managing risk for the organization. Oh yeah, and knocking their day-to-day operational duties out of the park on top of all that!

The list above has become common language for HR practitioners – we’re staying on top of trends, educating ourselves and building competency in these areas, etc. We “live” in this field. But what about our managers? They come in every day thinking about the deadline for product launch, quarter-end financial processing, client demands, sales quotas, and hopefully (if we’re lucky) how to recruit, develop, engage and retain nothing but the best.

Hence, the pause. We can’t just keep skimming over the importance the role a manager plays in the evolution of performance management. We can’t continue to further this conversation until we get this part of it right. In our experience working with clients on performance management re-designs over the past year, it’s at this point in the game where you’ll either sail successfully through a new strategy or hit a major roadblock.

So what can you do to make sure you thrive and not dive?

  1. Clearly define and communicate expectations.

Whose role will it be to execute the people-centric responsibilities listed above? Most likely, it’s your managers. However, maybe you decide to parse it out to lighten the load. For example, maybe everyday feedback is expected from managers, but more structured coaching comes from another source…possibly a mentoring program. You could even consider offering in-house Career Planning services housed within the HR team (similar to those on a College Campus). Defining who will be responsible for what is your starting point.

You now have to communicate to managers what their role is going to look like under a new performance management strategy. As Simon Sinek says, “start with the why.” What value will this bring to their lives and to the performance outcomes of their teams? How will they be held accountable and what is the incentive? Also make sure you’re sharing that this is only a shift from backstroke to butterfly – not from swimming to soccer. Build their confidence to excel in the newly defined role. They should already have a really good foundation.

  1. Ask if they want it.

This is a step we often leave out. After expectations are set, ask if they’re on board. Share how you will support their development and a realistic timeline for professional growth. Be prepared if someone opts out. How will the organization respond to that? What are their options? I had an acquaintance complain to me the other day that his company is making him “communicate better with his Millennial employees and motivate them to succeed.” He said it in such a snarky way that it was evident he wasn’t up for the job. Are these the folks we want our performance management strategy resting on?

  1. Provide support.

Back to the swimming analogy – I can go from backstroke to butterfly, but it’s going to take some work. Design a learning plan that extends over time and that has the flexibility to be personalized based on the development needs of each individual. Consider using pre-assessments to identify gaps, and then build development plans from there. Be patient. Learning new behaviors and developing new habits take time. Break up your learning strategy into quarters and don’t have them focusing on too much all at once.

Begin with the end in mind. Create your measurement framework up front. What will you need to know in the end to determine if those in these newly defined roles are performing successfully? Design pre, mid and post assessments and touch points to get you there. Include a blend of qualitative and quantitative data collection – both extensive and pulse.

  1. Adjust as needed.

Look at your metrics and be open to continuous improvements and modifications. This could be adjustments to the expectations/role, the learning plan, or even to the people themselves. Be prepared to “clip” what’s not working.

Put the time and investment into this part of your refreshed performance management strategy, and you’ll already be 75% of the way there!

Need to grow future leaders? Mentor AND Advocate!

iStock_000013366033Large

There’s a lot of talk these days about mentoring, and for good reason. Ask yourself this question, “How have I developed my leadership skills and/or gotten to the point I’m at in my career?” I venture to bet at least one primary factor has been either a formal or informal mentor in your life. Someone who has believed in you; recognized your potential; provided you with constructive feedback; opened doors to new opportunities.

When I reflect on this for myself, many great mentors in my life and a few defining moments come to mind. As you read over these, I want you to think about how you can play a similar role in someone’s career at your company.

As a graduate student living in Los Angeles, one of my professors connected me to someone who ended up being my very first client as an independent consultant. She believed in my abilities (enough to attach her name to it), provided the introduction, and spent time and energy checking in and coaching me throughout the project.
I was very young (about 26 or 27), yet involved in senior management team meetings. I would often head into our Executive Director’s office after the meeting and share a few thoughts. I clearly remember him saying to me one morning, “Your input and ideas are fantastic, Maggie. I just need to you to start saying them in the meetings. Don’t come to me afterward. Start speaking up.” It was then I learned two critical lessons – 1.) You don’t always have the luxury of time to think about things thoroughly before formulating a response, and 2.) Having confidence in your thoughts and ideas is sometimes more important than the ideas themselves.
Again, still at a young age, I found myself involved in very high-level meetings to discuss organizational design. I was one of only 5 people in the meetings, and the others were the four men who ran the company. Someone had to invite me to those meetings. And I was grateful he did. I learned a great deal.
A few years later in my career, I had a valued and respected manager tell me during a performance evaluation that I could stand to show a bit more emotion; get jazzed up every now and then. I’m very patient and even-tempered, which are great strengths, but every now and then people need to see what makes me tick – both good and bad. That statement has stuck with me ever since, and in a good way.
Same situation – another performance evaluation. I was told that sometimes we need to “roll with it.” We have to remain flexible in our approach and not get too nailed down to a pre-meditated and potentially overly structured outline or project map. Leave room for agility. You have no idea how much this changed how I approach my work, and most definitely for the better.
I am blessed to have several people in my life who believe in me and let that be known. In fact, I just read a note from someone last week that said, “You will be successful.” When people believe in us like this, it’s amazing what we can accomplish.

 

It is so important to have strong mentors in our lives. Thinking back to the very first question I asked, my answer is most definitely through mentors. I would add, however, that it’s been a mix of both mentoring and advocacy. We need both if we want our careers to progress. Hopefully you saw examples of Mentors and Advocates in the above scenarios.

Sometimes these roles are filled by the same people, and sometimes they’re not. Either way doesn’t really matter, it’s just important that both are present. If you are truly committed to building your next generation of leaders, you must ensure that both mentoring and advocacy are happening inside your organization. Below is a brief description about the roles of each.

The role of a Mentor (To educate and grow)

  • Share your experiences and lessons learned
  • Build desired skill sets through ongoing coaching
  • Raise awareness of both strengths and limitations your mentee might not be privy to (tell them what is often left unsaid – you might be the only one willing to say it)
  • Help the mentee discover her or his passion and strengths

The role of an Advocate (To champion)

  • Provide access to opportunities, experiences, relationships, and resources that the other person might not otherwise have access to
  • Speak out for the continued advancement of the individual
  • Let the individual know you believe in her/his skills and abilities and the impact they can have on the organization’s success
  • Influence the decisions of others in ways that will positively support the individual’s continued growth and visibility

Who can you mentor and/or advocate for inside your organization? Your future success depends on it.

Leading a Virtual Team: Part 4 of 4

Well, we’ve made it to the last post of our 4-part series on “Leading a Virtual Team.” Below are links to the first three posts if you’d like to catch up on the discussion:

Acquire & Develop the “Right” Talent

file9041271767671Having worked between 40%-100% from my home for the past three years, I’ve given a lot of thought to the innate strengths and learned behaviors it takes for the remote worker to succeed. There’s a lot out there aimed at uncovering the much needed competencies of virtual leaders, this blog series included; however, not as much emphasis in recent years has been placed on what each and every team member (not just the “boss”) who works virtually needs to do well in order to thrive in that role.

As the leader of a virtual team, you want to pay keen attention to the “type” of employee you hire, as well as the development opportunities you offer and encourage. The remote lifestyle is definitely not for everyone. I have a few friends who readily admit they would get “NOTHING!” done if they worked from home; too many distractions – television, hobbies, laundry, etc. I’m thinking you probably wouldn’t want them on your virtual team, or if they were on your team, you’d want to offer learning opportunities for them to grow in some of the skill sets I describe below.

There is even talk about a new(ish) term, “Virtual Competence” in today’s workplace. In a March 2014 Cambridge University Press post titled, “Is there such a thing as virtual competence?,” author Bob Dignen explores the exact topic of this blog post – what underlying competencies do remote workers need to excel in to be successful on a virtual team?

I very much agree with what Bob outlines as 5 key skills that comprise “virtual competence,” and you will see similar thoughts in what I’ve shared below. I’ve ended up with my own list of 6, which adds discussion around a few other key behaviors as well.

I encourage you, as a virtual leader, to design interview questions, create learning plans, provide feedback, and structure rewards around the competencies below. And as always, please add your own thoughts/additions to this list in the Comments section.

1. Self-discipline

Gallup’s StrengthsFinder theme of Achiever comes to mind when I think of this one. Achievers cannot go to bed at night until every item on their to-do list is complete. As described by Gallup, Achievers have “…an internal fire burning inside that pushes you to do more, to achieve more.” Watch the video below to learn more about Achievers:

Although intrinsic self-discipline can be hard to “teach,” you can certainly focus learning efforts on skills such as time management and SMART goal setting. You can also model the way as the team’s leader by demonstrating self-discipline in your own practices, as employees often mirror the behaviors of their leaders.

2. Relationship Building

The first post of this series was dedicated entirely to encouraging you to connect and build relationships amongst your virtual team. You want to acquire and build a team that has stellar relationship-building skills. They can’t nurture relationships around the water cooler, so if they have super power strength in this skill set, it will certainly help your cause. Demonstrating mutual respect, networking, valuing diversity, and cooperating with others are all traits you want to acquire and foster. If you have a team member who struggles in this area, it will be far too easy for her or him to “hide” away in the digital world and work in a silo.

3. Emotional Intelligence

When working virtually, we have a tendency to become somewhat robotic and remove the human element from our daily interactions. It’s easy to “yell” at someone via email without the repercussion of seeing them the next day; to not detect and seek to understand the variety of emotions expressed during a conference call; to not change course or style based on the feelings you detect, etc.

This can harm your team’s internal dynamics, as well as the output received by customers, so you want to be proactive in ensuring your virtual team’s EQ is strong.

4. Active Listening

Ever been on one of those conference calls where everyone just talks over each other, or where you’re silent and working on something else because you don’t have the energy to fight for air time? We get on the phone and feel we need to talk, and that our only chance to prove our worth to the team or client is to insert our 1 or 2 thoughtful contributions during each meeting (because we have no other way to prove ourselves and stand out from our home office).

What if your team members, rather, were less self-focused on demonstrating their intelligence and ideas and more outwardly-focused on achieving a deepened understanding of your clients’ needs and colleagues’ points of view? In order to get there, they need to be really good listeners, questioners, and also have the confidence to be comfortable with periods of silence on the other end.

5. Tech-savviness

Just as it’s important for you as the team lead to be tech-savvy, as discussed in Part 3 of this series, it is likewise imperative for your team members to understand and utilize technology with ease. Are they active on social media, do they understand the frameworks behind large digital platforms well enough to identify what’s possible for a front-end user, are they comfortable posting their thoughts and contributions on a team wiki site? These are all things you want to consider when acquiring and developing the talent on your virtual team.

6. Ethics & Integrity

Trust in the workplace is a hot topic right now and has been attributed as a key factor impacting levels of employee engagement. As with the other competencies discussed in this post, trust is harder to build in the digital world than in person. So, it’s an area where your team will need to use a little extra elbow grease – with each other and with your clients. The highest levels of honesty at all times should be the expectation, along with consistent reliability, follow through, and transparent communication. Again, this is an area where you have the unique ability and influence to model the way for your team.

 

Need help building your team’s virtual competence or modifying your hiring practices to ensure you’re bringing on the “right” talent from Day 1? Core would love to help. Just visit our Contact page.

Leading a Virtual Team: Part 2 of 4

Note: This is the second post in a 4-part series on Leading a Virtual Team. I’ve listed links below to the other three posts:

Part 2: Establish a Consistent Leadership Presence

simonI’m relaxing on the couch browsing my evening news feed, while occasionally peeping over at my youngest son (Jacob) who is playing the memory game Simon. I notice he’s not paying much attention, lacks engagement, and is only making it to Rounds 3 or 4 each time.

I put my phone down and lock eyes with him. Without exchanging any words, Jacob knows I’m going to give his next attempt my sole focus. He perks up, smiles and then the colors and beeps begin. He makes it 9 rounds this time! Granted, occasionally he asked me for help during those rounds, but he got there…we got there. During his previous attempts, I was there, but I wasn’t present.

Leadership presence. This is the focus of Part 2 of 4 in our “Leading a Virtual Team” series. As with all topics we are exploring during this series, they apply to all leaders – not just those of virtual teams; however, we are diving into them through the lens of a virtual leader.

What do we need from our leaders in the workplace? Historically, and now thankfully archaically, it was things like very specific direction, punch lists and tracking records, 1x per year reviews, etc. Luckily the workplace environment has evolved, and thus the role of organizational leaders has changed.

Let’s take a look at what your virtual team needs to “feel” from you as their leader and how you can establish a consistent leadership presence for them in these three critical areas.

  1. Vision
  2. Motivation & Recognition
  3. Support

Establishing a strong presence in these areas doesn’t get accomplished through regular conference calls where you punch through to-do lists and share updates. Below are a few things you can try to grow your presence in these three areas for your virtual team. It is then that you will become their valued leader and not just a manager who they have to dial into each week to touch base.

Vision

Regularly remind the team of the future vision. Articulate it in a compelling and inspirational way. I know, hard to do virtually, but entirely possible.

Time to tap into the right side of your brain! Rely on new media – infographics, video, images, audio. Start a virtual Vision Board that you and your team can add to whenever you come across something that speaks to where you are heading; what your ultimate aim is. Pinterest might be a good platform for this (read this article for more info), or you might already be using some type of online community with functionality that would enable you to create this.

You could also start a YouTube channel and/or blog that becomes an inspirational forum, where content is very much future-oriented. Quotes, little nuggets from a recent business trip, a TED Talk you want to share, etc. Just make sure you keep it focused on a consistent message of where you’re heading as a team or organization – to develop a belief in and excitement for the future.

Motivation & Recognition

Each one of your team members has unique motivators. Invest the time to learn what their “carrots” are and dangle them throughout the race. A few motivators and forms of recognition to consider for your virtual team are:

  • Sending hand written thank-you notes to their home (be specific about what behaviors you’re thankful for)
  • Sending gifts that are meaningful to them (hence the need to spend the time learning what they like) – flowers, tickets to a local sporting event in their city, gift cards, spa retreat day, charitable donation on their behalf, etc.
  • If you have a *healthy* competitive environment amongst the team, consider using a leaderboard or other digital gamification techniques for certain projects/initiatives
  • You’re not around to pop your head into their cube and say “nice job” after a presentation, so after you hang up with the client, pick your phone back up and call them to say “nice job.” Or use a team Chat forum to send the same message. Point being – take an extra minute of your day to reach out virtually with a simple pat on the back.
  • Take personal note of your employees’ birthdays and send birthday cake to their home. Make it a tradition to leave a voicemail of a version of Happy Birthday by an artist or music genre that would resonate with that person (click here for an example). It’s the little things. Make sure you send enough birthday cake for the entire family if they live with others.
  • After a long week, send them a note at 3:00 on Friday telling everyone to log off and that happy hour or Friday Night Family Night is on you. Allow them to expense their Friday evening shenanigans to the boss! (within reason of course)
  • Consider offering a Dream Manager program to your employees. This could easily be supported virtually.

Support

Adopt a servant leadership mindset. Your role is to align, develop and engage your team members and ensure their ultimate success with the organization. Implement the following practices to serve as a constant source of support during their tenure:

  • Hold a weekly one-on-one via webcam with each of your direct reports. (I very much believe that using a webcam is critical in building a virtual leadership presence with your team.) Unless an apocalypse is upon us, don’t cancel these weekly touch points or move them around.
  • Always ask, “What can I do to help?” and/or “What do you need from me to be successful this week?” during your discussion.
  • Set aside separate monthly coaching calls (using webcam as well). Focus this time on discussing career development plans, performance feedback, where they want to grow expertise in their field, etc. Distinguish this from your weekly touch points. Make them feel different. If you worked in an office with your team, you might make your coaching sessions feel different by holding them at a local coffee shop. Virtually, you can make them feel different by holding them on a different day of the week and time of day than your regular weekly calls. You can even hold them in the morning from a coffee shop; you’ll just be at two different coffee shops. Point being – do something with the virtual environment that distinguishes these coaching conversations from your regular weekly dialogue. It will enhance the quality of the conversation.

They need to feel your presence in these three areas regularly…not just on “slow” weeks when you happen to have the time to focus on it (this is actually probably the least valuable time for them to feel your presence). Build it into your regular interactions with the team and watch performance BOOM! Jacob’s performance increased by nearly 200%. Imagine the possibilities.

Continue to follow along in this series and add your insights and experiences in the Comments section below. Here are the next two strategies we’ll explore, so stay tuned!

  • Perfect Team Communications
  • Acquire & Develop the “Right” Talent for Virtual Teams

3 Strategies for Responding to the “Growth and Development” Plea

professional growth

A consistent theme amongst many managers I’ve been working with lately is uneasiness with and uncertainty around providing “professional development and growth opportunities” for their team members. Many are overwhelmed and some, let’s be honest, even resentful of this more and more consistent request from their employees.

If you’re in this boat – you’re not alone! Below are three strategies to help managers respond.

#1 – It Takes Two To Tango.

First thing first – the pressure should not solely fall on the manager. In today’s business landscape, managers need to serve in the roles of coach and connector…not lone soldier decision maker and approver. Get your employees engaged with their own request and have them take ownership of it.

Ask them to spend time thinking about what they want their growth at your company to look like and come back with three options to discuss with you. You might need to coach them through those options and also connect them to resources to help make it possible, but continue to have them take ownership of the actual implementation and offer quarterly check points (that they schedule) to touch base on how their action plan is coming along.

You’ll often have a greater understanding of the long-term goals of the organization, so one thing you’ll want to keep in mind as you coach them through their options is how the development plan can add value to key strategic business priorities.

#2 – There are MANY forms of development and MANY career paths to pursue.

Managers and individual contributors are both guilty of thinking that the only possible solution to this “professional growth” plea is a promotion into a management position. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Start thinking of management as a career field – just like any other field such as product development, marketing, sales, training, accounting, etc.

Management is only one career track of many that employees could pursue at your organization, but you may need to help open their eyes to that. At the end of the day, employees just don’t want to feel stagnant. They want to be challenged; they want to grow and learn new things; they want to feel like what they’re doing is adding value to something greater than them. This is a good thing – a positive shift we’ve seen in the workforce over the past several years. We just need to learn how to tap into this energy and drive in a positive and constructive way.

Below are a few examples of other paths and development opportunities outside of management that your employees might be interested in pursuing without even realizing it.

  • Specialized program and/or project management responsibilities
  • Increased client responsibility (larger accounts, new territories, etc.)
  • Subject matter expert team training specialists
  • Research and strategy-related responsibilities
  • Onboarding mentors/buddy roles for new hires
  • Departmental communication and/or marketing “champions”
  • Cross-functional team liaisons
  • Tactical team planners

#3 – Exploring alone is growth.

Once the manager and employee understand that this is a shared responsibility, and once eyes are opened to the various possibilities, then individual exploration needs to occur to determine the most appropriate path. Good news is that this exploration itself is growth! Encourage your employees to become more self-aware and answer questions such as:

  • What are my natural strengths? Am I currently leveraging them? How could I be leveraging them to a greater extent?
  • What are my professional interests and passions? What am I doing when I feel the most fulfilled at work?
  • Am I interested in job shadowing other roles as I explore future possibilities?
  • Do I have a mentor, outside of my direct supervisor, who can help me through this process of self-exploration?

Again, this plea for growth and development is a GOOD thing, so let’s reframe the way we’re approaching it.

What other strategies have you used to address this need? Please share!

70:20:10 – A Model for Organizational & Lifelong Learning

medium_7997543466

You know those handy people who can do just about anything like repair a leaky faucet or hang wall décor without it looking like the Leaning Tower of Pisa? If you’ve ever asked these “chosen ones” how they learned all that random stuff, their response was probably something extremely anti-climactic like, “I don’t know…I just know how.”

Since that response is not helpful, let’s dive into a more analytical explanation for them – a theory known as the 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development (which all of you L&D folks reading this post know plenty about). Typically credited to originating from the Center for Creative Leadership and having been around for more than five decades, this familiar model for workplace learning is also useful to understanding how we learn just about anything in our lives. It states that we learn:

  • 70% of what we know through hands-on experience and practice;
  • 20% of what we know through other people (colleagues, bosses, mentors, social networks, etc.); and
  • 10% of what we know through formal learning (classroom instruction, books, etc.).

At a networking event this past week, I was taken a little off guard when someone randomly asked how I learned my trade. My first instinct was to respond with the same anti-climactic response I mentioned above, “I don’t know. I just know what I know.” After all, how often do we stop to think about how we know the things we apply in our personal and professional lives day after day?

After a brief pause though, I responded with, “Experiences and mentors.” It rolled off my tongue rather quickly, but it was so true. I’ve been fortunate to work on several diverse and dynamic projects and project teams throughout my career.  I’ve also served on volunteer boards, taught courses at universities, and contributed to community programs and events. I’ve likewise been incredibly fortunate to have been both supported and challenged by mentors all along the way. Yes, I have the undergraduate and graduate degrees, and yes I’ve had formalized training…however, it’s the experiences and relationships that have taken that foundational classroom theory and instruction and turned it into a fruitful career.

Check out the brief 4-minute video below where Charles Jennings, Managing Director of Duntroon Associates in the UK, shares some of the research and applicability of the 70:20:10 theory and what it means for organizational learning.

As you watch this video, I challenge you to think of the following:

  • In what areas do you wish to grow? What does your individualized learning plan look like? Make sure you’re thinking beyond the typical register for this training or attend this conference, to things like what experiences can I position myself to gain; what people can I surround myself with; what social networks can I connect with?
  • If you lead a team, organization, or L&D function, ask yourself…How can I align growth opportunities for my team to this 70:20:10 model? What does the environment need to look like? What resources could I share? What connections can I make? What questions can I ask?
  • If you lead trainings, workshops, and other structured learning events, ask yourself…How can I incorporate “real”, hands-on learning into the session? How can I get participants to engage with each other and learn from one another? What post-learning event experiences could help participants immediately apply the classroom instruction?

Need help designing a learning strategy for your workforce? I’d love to partner with you. Just fill out the Contact Form, or connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Enjoy the video and Happy Learning!

photo credit: Neil. Moralee via

Give Your Annual Reviews a Facelift

facelift

I had an amazingly refreshing performance evaluation this year. Yep, you read that right – performance evaluation. Although 90% of performance appraisal processes are inadequate (Salary.com), they can actually be very constructive if executed well.

Nonetheless, performance discussions are dreaded by workers around the world. Many managers find them awkward and would list it as one of their Top 3 most despised tasks.

Well, below are steps you can take as a manager to move the annual performance review onto your list of Top 3 most useful tasks in leading a high-performance team!

Make sure the infrastructure is in place.

smart goalsReviews should be solidly grounded on two critical components – objectives and competencies. Think of this as the framework for your performance discussions. It is very important to note that both need to be recognized and understood by the manager and the employee at the very onset of your relationship.

1.    SMART Objectives

One of the reasons my performance review went so well was because I had Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound objective statements that were produced in partnership with my manager at the beginning of the fiscal year (and that were tweaked throughout the year to meet evolving needs). We were both on the same page early on about what I was expected to contribute to the business.

2.    Competencies

These are the behaviors I am expected to emulate while achieving my objectives, and are things like Innovation, Drive & Accountability, and Customer-Focus. I’m held accountable to deliver on these, just as I am my objectives. Both are important. It shouldn’t just be about what your employees are achieving, but how they go about achieving them.

You should tailor competencies to the values and overall culture of your company, as well as specific roles within the organization. Try to avoid using a canned set that may come with your performance management system, as well as using the same list for every employee.

Drive the process well.

If the infrastructure is in place, it’s now up to you as a manager to make sure you’re delivering the process effectively. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Never – EVER – wait for just one time a year to talk performance.

Although performance reviews need to be documented in most organizations on an annual basis, you should be having these discussions all throughout the year. There should be no surprises during the more formal review. Coach and celebrate “in the moment” at each peak and valley.

Build a relationship filled with trust and demonstrate a sincere interest in your employees’ growth.

My boss said this statement to me during my review, “I open some of your emails and honestly just sigh and then close it for later.” She went on to encourage me to be more concise with my communications. One might think I would have taken offense to this, but I actually very much appreciated her honesty. Why? Two reasons:

  • She cares enough about my development and future success to offer up constructive feedback.
  • It was delivered to me from a person who I trust, respect, and look up to. I may have had a completely different reaction if it came from a boss who had not spent the time developing this type of genuine relationship with me.

No one is perfect – not even you!

If it happens to fit into the conversation, share some areas that you are going to focus on for your own development over the next year. You both could help hold each other accountable.

Seek out multiple perspectives.

Several stakeholders weighed in on my performance evaluation – myself through a self-evaluation; my colleagues through anonymous peer input; and my manager.  Don’t feel like you need to do it all by yourself in a bubble.

Learn from the past, but don’t dwell on the past.

Set aside a large chunk of time to talk about the future. A performance evaluation should not just focus on the past year, but rather should look forward toward the future.

Ask open-ended questions.

Performance discussions need to be two-way communication. You should want to hear from them just as much as they will want to hear from you. Use questions like, “Tell me how you feel about the recent collaboration with such and such team on such and such project.” Or “In what ways would you like to grow both personally and professionally over the next year and how can I support you?”


Do you have some tips to add to the list? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section below. Let’s bury the dreaded performance review and start using them as a tool to add value to your business!

photo credit (surgeon): bitzcelt via photopin cc

photo credit (SMART): plnaugle via photopin cc