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Communicate to Manage Performance: No Band-Aids NeededPerformance reviews have become structured, dictated, and oftentimes the grading system given to them is so sterilized to avoid legal vulnerabilities that they are no longer helpful for either the manager or employee. Your organization likely has developed its own method, forms, and review cycle, which you may embrace or simply tolerate.

All criticisms aside, performance reviews are an important part of leading others and regardless of the structure imposed upon them, can become a useful tool for employee development. Make sure your performance reviews do not require triage by following the keys below, supplemented with practical insights by Kevin Eikenberry and Guy Harris, authors of From Bud to Boss (Jossey Bass, 2011).

1. Make it ongoing and avoid surprises.

Why are performance reviews typically saved for one annual meeting? This cycle is likely eleven months too late to address particular performance problems or provide employees with the development tools they need. ‘Whether formal or informal (and a good rule of thumb is that there should be some of each), you should think about your feedback and coaching as a process and not as an event.’  What’s the bottom line? If you have been giving ongoing feedback, there shouldn’t be any surprises in the annual review, unless something had changed since the most recent conversation. ‘Make it your goal that there are no surprises.’

2. Make it a Conversation and see ownership take hold!

Avoid the typically one-way exchange by engaging the employee that is being reviewed. Are your performance reviews usually just a list of feedback that you give them? Rethink how you approach it next time. ‘If it is all about the other person’s performance, why wouldn’t that person be doing at least half of the talking?’ When people are sharing their ideas and are involved in a conversation about their performance, they can’t help but own the outcome.’

3. See the form as an outcome versus a purpose.

Regardless of the system your organization has adopted, remind yourself that this process is not about the form. Within the context of ongoing feedback and coaching, avoiding surprises, and fostering a two-way exchange, you will already have all the information you need for the form. ‘Your form may be unwieldy or elegant. And it doesn’t matter. It isn’t about the form.’

Employee Development Systems, Inc. (EDSI) has been resolving employee development, leadership, generational, professional presence, and personal effectiveness issues for over 30 years, and she is ready to tackle any question you have. 

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