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Lessons in Leadership

Conducting Motivational Performance Reviews

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Most performance reviews should be a pleasant and productive experience. After all, this is probably one of the few times that you spend an extended time focusing on a person's job and discussing it with them. The performance review should focus on four primary areas:

  • Past job performance
  • Future plans and expectations
  • Developmental goals
  • Employee needs and concerns.

A.  Employee Questions about Appraisals

Here are some questions that employees often have about appraisals . . .

  • Will it be scheduled in advance? Will there be enough time for a real discussion?

  • Will it be private? With no interruptions?

  • Will it be kept confidential?

  • Do I know what expectations I will be evaluated on? Were they communicated in advance?

  • Have I been given ongoing feedback so that there won't be any surprises?

  • Does my manager know what my job involves?

  • Will the evaluation be honest? Will it be fair and unbiased?

  • Will my manager listen to what I have to say?

  • If my manager has made a mistake, will it be admitted?

  • Will we talk about the things that I do well?

  • Will I be given specific examples of any problems?

  • Will I feel free to discuss the evaluation and my reaction to it?

  • Will we discuss developmental opportunities for me?


BMaking It a Two-Way Conversation

A useful performance review should be a two-way discussion about the employee's job. The following list of questions may give you some useful ideas for encouraging employee participation.

1. Job Responsibilities

  • What do you see as the major responsibilities of your job?
  • Which are most important? Least important? Why?
  • What takes the most time?
  • What do you like best about your job? Least?
  • What would you change about your job?

2. Expectations & Goals

  • What accomplishments are you most pleased about?
  • What has contributed to your success in these areas?
  • In some areas, has it been difficult to reach your objectives?
  • How could I help you with these areas in the future

3. Strengths

  • What do you consider to be your strong points?
  • How do these abilities help you in your job?
  • Are there ways we could use your talents more effectively?

4. Areas for Improvement

  • In what areas do you feel you could do a more effective job?
  • What have you been doing to improve in these areas?
  • How could I be of help to you?

5. Employee Development

  • What abilities would you like to develop or improve?
  • What developmental opportunities would be helpful to you?


C.  A “Road Map” for the Appraisal Meeting

The following guidelines can help you structure a normal appraisal discussion – that is, one dealing with generally acceptable performance, even though some improvement may be needed. If performance is poor enough to require corrective action, however, this approach will not be appropriate.

1. Starting the Discussion

  • Before the meeting:  Consider giving the employee the review form to read in advance.

  • Create a relaxed atmosphere at the beginning of the discussion.

  • If others were part of the appraisal process, indicate how their input was gathered and used.

  • Give the employee an overview of how the discussion will be structured.

For example: “First, I'd like for us to talk about each of the goals that you had for last year and the results that were achieved. Then we can discuss the “performance factors” listed on the form. Finally, I'd like to review your goals for this year and talk about professional development activities."

2. Discussing Job Performance

  • If the employee has not read their review in advance, tell them their overall rating, since that's usually what employees are most concerned about. Indicate that the reasons for the rating will be discussed as you go through the various parts of the appraisal.
  • If the employee did read the review in advance, ask if they had any questions about it. If they have general questions, answer them. If they say they did not understand the rating they got, indicate that the reasons for the rating will be discussed as you go through the various parts of the appraisal. If their questions relate to specific goals or performance factors, make a note of them and indicate that you would like to include their questions in the discussion of each separate area.
  • Talk about one goal, objective, or performance area at a time. Discuss strengths and needs for improvement in each area. This is better than simply giving an overview of the person's strengths and weaknesses, since it relates your comments to specific job performance.
  • Ask for employee input in each area. If a self-appraisal was done, incorporate the employee's comments into your discussion. You may ask them to elaborate on their written remarks.
  • In any area requiring improvement, ask how you can help.

3. Performance Planning

  • Agree on expectations and goals for the upcoming year (or review those that have already been set).
  • Discuss plans for professional development.

4. Summarizing the Discussion

  • Review the employee's strengths and developmental needs.
  • Review any action steps that were agreed upon (for either the employee or yourself).
  • Establish follow-up dates.
  • Express appreciation to the employee (for anything you sincerely do appreciate).

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