If your business is anything like my business, you are probably going through a raft of budget meetings, planning meetings and performance reviews. The mere mention of the latter can be enough to send normally rational and calm people into a lather of sweat as they start to think of all the negative topics that could be covered. Management tend to fear them as well; firstly they take a great deal of time to prepare and deliver properly and giving feedback is difficult for anybody. So it raises the question; are performance reviews worth the effort?

Well, let me go on the record in saying that I strongly believe that any internal meeting is a total waste of time if you have no agenda or no real goal. There is nothing worse than sitting in a meeting where nothing is going to be achieved – I personally hate being in meetings like that and I really hate paying for them. However, there is a place for performance reviews if they are executed correctly. Below are some of my tips for getting the best out of them:

  • A performance review is a discussion. It is not an opportunity to lecture, waffle or pontificate. It should always involve conversation and it is the responsibility of the manager to ensure that the conversation stays on track
  • Preparation is the key. Give all parties time to prepare so that you can illicit valid communication. Don’t shock anybody as you will not get a productive conversation. Ensure that, as the manager, you are well prepared and focused so that you let your team member feel as though their performance is important
  • The future is more important than the past. Performance planning and goal setting is very important and time needs to be allocated. For some reason, team members tend to shy away from goal setting and planning but when trying to build a culture of accountability, this is paramount
  • There should be no shocks for anybody. My old manager told me many years ago that if either he and I left a performance review with either of us being shocked in any way, he had not done his job well. Effective leaders continuously connect with their team members and they are well aware of what their team members are working on and how they are tracking. Feedback is regularly shared throughout the employee life and this allows time in the performance discussion to be spent on higher value/higher return activities such as planning and goal setting
  • Performance discussions should be based on valid data as opposed to “he said/she said” discussions. Team members should be encouraged to keep a work or project log so that they can also track their performance and share their validated achievements with their manager
  • Keep the tone of the discussion positive and professional. Emotion charged conversations will not achieve anything at all other than give you a headache and a management issue. Keep calm at all times and stay in control. Being well prepared gives you the best opportunity to do this
  • Don’t be afraid to change things up a bit. This will most likely be the most controversial of my recommendations however for me it is essential when you are performing performance reviews on long term and senior staff. This relationship can become stale and sometimes you can feel like you are going through the motions. My direct team will probably chuckle at this but I always like to change the format a little and get people thinking a little laterally (they are probably not laughing as much as rolling their eyes). It is like a racehorse trainer with an older horse; sometimes you just need a change in routine to get them switched on (sorry guys).

So, there you go; some Brad McMahon hints for effective performance reviews. As I said, I still believe that they have a role to play in management however they are of little or no value of they are done poorly. Be prepared, continuously connect and converse rather than lecture – this will help you get the best bang for your buck.

Brad McMahon – Managing Director

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