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Conducting an effective performance review

Performance ReviewWant to know what makes an effective performance review? The annual performance review (or performance appraisal) is still an excellent way to deliver constructive feedback to your employees. For many managers, conducting a review is mostly seen as a box ticking exercise and so it’s usually hugely undervalued as an effective method of motivating and engaging your staff. Whilst it certainly can be a difficult conversation to have, especially if you have negative feedback to deliver, when done right the performance review can have a hugely positive effect on the success of your team.

That’s why we asked our expert trainer Jay Rhoderick for his tips on how to conduct a performance review effectively:

How do I prepare for the performance review?

Make sure to enter the conversation having done your homework on the employee, and on the recent narrative of that employees work highs and lows, especially within the context of the company’s work as whole.

Sit and think about what sort of leader you are, how do you like to manage your vision, and do an honest personal inventory on your own personality, thinking and communication process. Then consider all of these things for your reviewee, especially understanding how he or she communicates and if there are any unique or challenging ways they express themselves.

Particularly, you should consider how tone, point of view and placement inform what they need to hear and how.

Tone: How do they like to receive feedback?
Point of view: How do you think they will see it impacting their business outlook at the company?
Placement: How does his or her rank, seniority, background, strategic placement, etc. within the company suggest how personally he or she takes feedback or how seriously they receive it so as to usefully apply it?

Finally, you need to provision yourself with carefully chosen, specific stories of when the employee has or has not embodied whatever skills or behaviours you are focusing on in the review. It must be practical, and you should aim to leave your ego at the door, so as to come across as collaboratively as possible.

How do I manage giving positive or negative feedback at a performance review?

In short, you’ve got to be honest and direct. Start with the good news and praise, give specific, realistic highlights of what is excellent. That’s crucial for establishing trust. But don’t do it all by telling. Rather, the most productive reviews start and end with lots of open questions getting your employee to drop in with his or her assessments from the very outset.

Request honesty and clear-headedness and aim to deliver the same when it’s your turn to offer your thoughts after they do, not as the correct version but as your own authentic point of view.

It can be helpful to include a personal story of when you’ve struggled and what you did about it. Continue to ask for their perspective and input especially as to solutions, asks and improvements.

End the conversation on an up note, with a clear and simple plan of accountable actions you devise together, a commitment to continued support and ideally a laugh or two.

Here are some useful tips on giving negative feedback…

• Keep it honest but supportive
• Lots of eye contact
• Keep filler language or excuse making to the minimum
• Give a rational description of the problems practical impact

Being effective in a performance review – how do I manage their responses?

Encourage them to give full answers and try to validate their concerns and possible complaints as worthy of being heard. Keep clear boundaries that this is a professional, not personal conversation.

Set clear ground rules beforehand on the format of the discussion, remain open to questions, ask lots of open questions, show respect, maintain confidentiality and trust, and look for moments to coach, in addition to appraising.

What’s not super helpful is pretending that there are no emotions involved. If they are upset or excited, whether they show it fully or not, be mindful of these emotions and respect them.

Crucially, having structure helps to de-personalize things to a degree and generating a solid action and further development plan anchors the conversation in what is useful and practical.

Powerful coping strategies for stress in the wellbeing bundleResisting the urge to tell and teach, and embracing instead the philosophy of ask and coach also helps ground responses in the realm of accountability.

If you’re interested in taking your learning further, our having difficult conversations training course is available as a classroom training course or as part of our eLearning leadership bundle.

Become an inspiring, influential & respected leader. This collection of courses focuses on all aspects of leadership from managing difficult conversations, to delivering feedback and developing a leadership style that suits you. These courses will help you to become an all-round excellent leader.

Other courses available in this bundle include:

  • Resilience
  • The Inspirational Leader
  • Thinking on your feet
  • Women’s Leadership
  • Coaching & Mentoring
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Delegating & Time Management
  • Delivering Compelling Feedback
  • Executive Presence
  • Leading with Impact & Presence
  • Having Difficult Conversations
  • Running Effective Meetings