Reviews & Appraisals

How do I prepare for my appraisal?
How do I respond to negative feedback?

How do I give good feedback?

Jay Rhoderick
Jay Rhoderick is a communications coach who has honed interpersonal and messaging skills with managers and executives at all levels in the financial, tech, branding, media and health sectors.



With lots of companies embarking on their reviews over the coming months our February spotlight offers some useful advice from Jay Rhoderick on how to prepare for a review whether you are a reviewer or reviewee.

Click here to read more about our Having Difficult Conversations course. If you are interested in organising a course or having some 1:1 coaching on this subject please contact our global logistics team, their contact details are below.


As a Reviewee

JAY:

I make sure to go into the conversation having done my homework on myself, on the reviewer, and on my recent accomplishments and (importantly!) challenges at work.

I have to think about the following: –

  • what sort of worker I am?
  • how do I like to be managed?
  • how do I prefer to be critiqued?


I do an honest personal inventory on my own …

  • professional goals
  • collaborative style
  • personality
  • outlook
  • thinking/organizational process


I have to consider all these same things for my supervisor especially understanding how she communicates and if there are any unique or challenging ways that she expresses herself. Particularly, I should consider how straightforward and direct my reviewer may be, versus how subtle they may usually be. This is so I can “read” him or her as clearly as possible in the conversation.

Finally, I need to carefully and patiently look back over my recent history and start practicing telling myself specific stories out loud of successes and challenges, being as specific and clear as possible.

 

JAY:

As described above, the first step is to think about and do a non-clinical analysis of their personalities.

Ask yourself…

  • Do they prefer to do most of the talking?
  • Do they prefer to take lots of pauses before or during speaking?
  • Do they prefer to ask (or be asked) “closed” (yes/no) versus “open” questions?
  • Are they conversational in tone or more formal and interrogative?
  • Do they like to tell and hear stories?
  • How personal do they get in discussing their own work and lives?

Once I’ve considered this, and considered what history and rapport I may already have, or what allies I’ll have on the other side of the table, I usually set about trying my best to “match their energy” in the room by

  • lots of eye contact
  • ask questions
  • tell stories
  • speak less formally or more so depending on the tone they’ve set
  • give them room to relax by being as relaxed as possible myself

I give myself permission to ask them for clarification if I need it, to be truthful and candid, and to embrace discussing mistakes as a natural part of the review.

The more relaxed and open I am, the more I can match the reviewers’ tone and energy in a collaborative way, the more ownership I’ll have of this important conversation.

 

JAY:

Unless the negative feedback is disrespectful or abusive, I try to receive negative feedback as a developmental gift. Not as a nagging reminder that I’m not perfect or infallible (which is not emotionally intelligent thinking in any case), but as a natural guide along the continuum of professional development. Rather than expecting or even desiring “brutal” feedback, I try to receive areas for improvement with optimism and place value on praise I receive. It’s an opportunity.

Negative feedback is not more valid or “serious” than positive feedback. I tend to grow in myself what has attention paid to it. If I am doing well, and my reviewer tells me so, then that best practice will tend to deepen and grow but only if I take in the good feedback as maturely and openly as I do the tougher feedback.

For me, it’s often harder to hear and accept the praise. Far from being virtuous modesty, this holds the danger of preventing me from growing. Beating myself up or hearing only the negative stuff in the review will likewise immobilize me and damage my morale, making overcoming the challenges far less likely. I’ve found that an open, optimistic attitude begets stronger reviews down the line, as well as greater respect from my reviewers during and after the conversation.

 

As a Reviewer

JAY:

I make sure to enter the conversation having done my homework on myself, on the employee, and on the recent narrative of that employee’s work highs and lows, especially within the context of the firm’s work as a whole.

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

Particularly, I 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 I think they will see it impacting their business outlook at the firm?
  • 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, I need to provision myself with carefully chosen, specific stories of when the employee has (or has not) embodied whatever skills or behaviours we are focusing on in the review. It must be practical, and I aim to leave my ego at the door, so as to come across as collaboratively as possible.

 

JAY:

In short, we’ve got to be honest and direct.

Typically, I start with good news, praise and specific, realistic highlights of what is excellent. That’s crucial for establishing trust. But I don’t do it all by telling. Rather, my most productive reviews start and end with me asking lots of open questions getting my employee to “ante in” with his or her assessments from the very outset.

I demand honesty and clearheadedness and aim to deliver the same when it’s my turn to offer my thoughts after they do not as the correct version, but as my own authentic point of view.

I try to include a personal story of when I’ve struggled and what I did about it. I continue to ask for their perspective and input especially as to solutions asks and improvement.

I end the conversation on an up note, with a clear and simple plan of accountable action we devise together, a commitment to continued support, and ideally, a laugh or two.


Jay’s useful tips on giving negative feedback…

  • keep it honest but supportive
  • lots of eye contact
  • minimum use of filler language or excuse-making
  • rational description of the problem’s practical impact


 

JAY:

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

We 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 my pretending that there are no emotions involved. If they are upset or excited, whether they show it fully or not, I have to remember it’s there and to respect it.

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.

Resisting the urge to tell and teach, and embracing instead the philosophy of “ask and coach” also helps ground responses in the realm of accountability.

 

Reviews & Appraisals Videos

Watch these short bite sized videos of Jay giving advice on demonstrating listening, beginning a difficult conversation and how to navigate emotional intelligence through self awareness.

Reviews & Appraisals Resources

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