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There is a popular misconception that supervisors need to hold a lengthy “performance appraisal” meeting once a year with each of their people. When this practice is followed, both participants approach the annual meeting with a great deal of stress, tension and apprehension — call it dread.
A far better approach is for supervisors to meet with each of their associates for a much shorter “performance review” four times a year. Properly conducted, such quarterly meetings can be much more focused and successful in keeping the individual associate and your TEAM on track on a current basis.
Here are some recommendations for supervisors holding effective performance reviews:
- Give the associate three days notice of your intention of having a “performance review get-together”. Pick a time for the meeting during the workday when the two of you can meet without any interruptions.
- Use the first performance review meeting to jointly discuss and reach agreement on the associate’s annual goals in the four most important areas of his or her job, such as financial, operations (or process oriented), customer support and internal people relationships. Put these goals in some form of quarterly roadmap for “what needs to be done”. Keep these goals simple and limited in number.
- Explain that it is OK for both of you to take notes at these meetings and that you’ll be preparing a written summary each time of what was agreed and discussed for both of you to review within several days following the meeting.
- Concentrate all of your attention on what is being said and have both of you shut off any phones or PDA’s during the meeting.
- Do your homework prior to each subsequent quarterly meeting on the extent to which the associate has made progress on the goals and other subjects discussed at the last performance review meeting. Identify any new issues of consequence that need to be raised.
- Keep the meetings focused on what is really important within the associate’s control. Start by covering what the associate has accomplished over the last quarter or is doing well by saying, “I’m pleased with the way you have … since our last performance review meeting.” Next, ask the associate to describe the progress made since your last meeting regarding his or her previously agreed-upon goals. Then say, “Everyone has strengths and ‘key development needs’ [as opposed to using the term weaknesses]. What are the one or two areas where you think you most need to improve your performance?” Listen carefully to the associate’s answer and then either agree or add, “Here’s my take on where you need to improve — … ”
- Raise any serious problems or performance issues openly and honestly. You need to give feedback that is the “unvarnished truth” to minimize any chances of misunderstandings. Always provide the associate, however, with an opportunity to give his or her side of the story. Mutually agree on an action plan for dealing with any such problems or issues, including the dates for completion or a follow-up meeting.
- Always include as one of your questions, “What have you done since our prior performance review meeting to help the other people on our TEAM or in the organization?” Express your strong support for any action taken in this regard.
- Make your last questions, “Is there anything I’m doing that is impeding your effectiveness?” and “How can I do a better job of supporting you in your work and as part of our TEAM?”
- At one or two of the quarterly review meetings held each year, ask, “Where do you see yourself going in our organization over the next one to three years?” Try to ensure that the associate’s expectations are feasible and not unrealistic. Discuss what steps and special training will put the associate in a better position to be promoted.
- Try to keep the meetings to no more than 15 to 30 minutes and end them on a strong positive note.
Following each performance review meeting, sit down and document all material points covered, especially those relating to the agreed-upon goals as well as any serious performance issues discussed. Give a copy of this write-up to the associate. Refer to these notes prior to your next performance review meeting with that associate. When you are promoted, give a copy of these write-ups to your successor so he or she will be current on the performance of everyone in your department or work group.
Recognize that the main purpose of performance reviews is to encourage your TEAM members to leverage their strengths and work together to achieve top performance. While you can nudge people to overcome or minimize their weaknesses, no one is perfect including yourself.