How To Give A Great Performance Review

We’re nearing the end of the year – the time many companies are starting their annual performance review process. For this reason, I want to delve into the topic of giving a great review.

The most important thing you need to know is that performance discussions should be a conversation that’s happening all year long. No one should walk into their review at the end of the year and feel surprised at the outcome. The review is when you’ll discuss the year as a whole, highs, and lows, and how that factors into their raise or bonuses. But you should always be having regular one-on-one meetings with each of your direct reports – whether that’s monthly, weekly, or quarterly.

The toughest – but the most rewarding conversations managers can have, is giving constructive feedback to your employees. Many managers are so afraid of having the difficult conversations, that they do a disservice to their employees by avoiding them. You want to be direct about what went poorly, without being cruel. You don’t want your direct reports to walk out of conversations with you feeling deflated. Even if you have an uncomfortable conversation, your employees should feel inspired to improve. They should be equipped with the tools they’ll need to succeed in moving forward. And be sure to get their buy-in by asking them to come up with a plan to prevent these problems from arising again in the future. Since this may be a tough conversation, you might need to follow up again in a week or so to see how they’ve retained the feedback you gave them.

Don’t neglect your high performers during this process. Just because people are excelling on your team doesn’t mean they don’t need feedback as the low performers do. They just need a different kind of feedback. Whereas low performers will require a lot of constructive criticism, high performers need positive feedback that reinforces good behaviors. Your goal is to get these employees to continue – or even improve on – their high output.

So tell them specifically what they’re doing right and how they’re hitting it out of the park. Call out their strengths as you see them. And then, because all reviews should be a conversation, ask them for their opinion to ensure the two of you are aligned on how you see their performance. Perhaps they felt really low about their ability to pitch clients, while you feel they’re really strong. In this instance, your job is to build up their confidence to the point that they see what you see in them. And you want to encourage them to continue to build. Ask, “How can we keep building this momentum you’ve developed?” And even though this performance review is focused on the past year, you’ll want to check in on their goals for the coming year.

Regardless of who you’re talking to, you need to come in prepared before the conversation. Take some time before your meeting to think through the key points you want to discuss – or even jot them down as bullet points. And for the tough conversations, practice them before they happen. With these tips, your reviews this year can go much more smoothly than in the past.