CEO Magazine: How to conduct a performance review that inspires and engages - Michelle Gibbings

A good performance review is a two-way conversation that is an important part of the relationship between leader and direct report; says Michelle in a recent article she wrote for the CEO Magazine.

The ideal performance review engages and inspires your employee; however, for many people they are a disheartening experience and done so poorly that a number of organisations are getting rid of them entirely.

According to Gallup research only 14% of employees strongly agree their performance reviews inspire them to improve. For many, their performance review leaves them feeling unmotivated and disengaged.

People want feedback, what they don’t like is feedback that appears non-genuine, is irregular and unhelpful because it isn’t backed up with examples, and is poorly planned and delivered.

Warning signs of a tricky performance review

There are five warning signs that are an early indication that the performance review conversation is likely to go off the rails.

  1. No notice – the conversation is ad hoc and the recipient isn’t given enough notice or time to prepare themselves
  2. Dump and run – the leader has a long list of areas for improvement that are reeled off like a shopping list, rather than feedback being provided regularly and ‘in the moment’
  3. Not focused – the leader isn’t prepared for the conversation and so it meanders and goes off topic
  4. One-way traffic – the review is conducted as a one-way dialogue, rather than a conversation where both parties share their ideas and thoughts
  5. Disinterested bystander – the leader isn’t genuinely interested in their direct report’s development and so the conversation lacks connection and interest. This isn’t a time to fake interest

Focus on culture

Research shows that one of the key elements of good work environments is psychological safety. If a team member doesn’t feel psychologically safe, they will withdraw and feel less ready to contribute, impacting their mental health and also their productivity.

This means that the effectiveness of the performance review starts long before it has taken place. The state of your organisational and team culture will flow into the dynamics of the performance conversation.

Get performance review ready

The best conversations are ones where both parties to the conversation come in prepared. You’ve thought about what you want to say and why. Likewise, your direct report has had time to reflect on their areas of progress and improvement.

It’s also critical to be mentally prepared. Go in with a growth mindset where you are really focused on helping the employee be their best.

Challenge yourself

It’s easy to approach a performance conversation with a fixed mindset on your direct report and their performance. Go in with an open heart and mind, where you are willing to listen and reflect. This is a performance conversation, which means it is two-way and you need to be open to their perspective on their work.

It is also far more effective to jointly work through how areas of work can be approached differently. This is because the progress will be greater when they have shaped the solution and are consequently more committed to the outcome.

Finally, challenge yourself to have regular feedback sessions with your direct reports. Feedback that is ‘in the moment’ and timely is really helpful as the direct report is better able to remember what happened and why.

Performance conversations are an important part of the relationship between leader and direct report and they don’t have to be an ineffective process. With some thought, planning and interest they have the potential to add real value.