The payoff for training managers to conduct effective performance reviews is immediate and often dramatic. Simple techniques – intuitive and easily learned – lead to reviews that help employees build on their strengths and motivate them to boost performance. Here are four guidelines that can vastly improve any manager’s technique:
1. Put the individual first.
When people feel forced to defend their self esteem, messages don’t get through. Create a safe atmosphere. Be empathetic and lead with the positive. How managers say what they say is actually more important than what they say. The wrong tone can distort the content of the message.
This: I asked Joan for feedback regarding your presentation skills. She said you were prepared and professional, but that your style was a bit formal for that particular audience. Let’s meet so we can work on this.
Not this: I thought you had better presentation skills. Joan’s feedback was that there was something about you that makes clients uncomfortable.
2. Aim for self-evaluation.
When managers create ongoing dialogue year-round, people already know where their performance lapses are and almost always raise them themselves. That means no surprises and no feelings that the manager is being overly critical, which generally raises defensive behavior.
This (immediately after the event): This was the first time you represented the department at the Executive Committee meeting. I noticed that you weren’t very comfortable with the more technical aspects. Tell me why.
Not this (six months later, and in response to a question): The reason you haven’t been asked to represent the department again is that you lack the technical expertise to win credibility.
3. Tolerate discord but be specific.
Creating a safe atmosphere does not mean avoiding disagreement. Just don’t let it get personal. That causes people either to shut down or push back. Emphasize specific behaviors and their consequences. The point of performance- oriented dialogue is to reset direction, not to point out inadequacies.
This: You used a bit of jargon in your presentation. You said that we provide “hosted collaboration software to connect businesses requiring project-based resources.” John Smith didn’t appear to understand. Did you notice how he behaved for the rest of your talk?
Not this: You know you really turned everybody off when you started to use jargon in that presentation.
4. Set objectives, make accountability explicit, and reinforce.
Reviews should be about the future, not the past. Find what’s working and what’s not and apply the lessons learned. Workers should come away knowing how behaviors need to be adjusted and what they should do next time. The best dialogue also will set specific objectives and follow-up dates for monitoring progress.
This: So, we’ve agreed that you’ll spend more time developing the graphics for the next presentation to give them the same impact you create with your text slides. Let’s meet two days before so we can discuss them before you present.
Not this (immediately before the presentation): I hope your graphics are better this time than last time.
Source: Hay Group.
photo credit: Luciano Meirelles
Subscribe to the Leadership Blog
Get the latest research on workplace learning with weekly posts delivered to your inbox