How To Conduct Growth Focused Performance Reviews

Year-end performance reviews could be a little intimidating especially for first time managers. On one side, it may feel daunting to suddenly carry the weight of a judge who will bestow his/her decision on someone’s else performance. On the other side however, performance reviews are in fact an opportunity to initiate or accelerate growth for employees. This is, after all, a key area of responsibility any manager should keep oneself accountable to.

Especially for first time managers, a reminder I always like to go back to is the following: what I think it could be somewhat hurtful by identifying and talking about areas of growth, can in fact be exactly what my team member needed to hear to grow to the next level and be empowered.

Below are a few tips to successfully conduct performance reviews:

  • Start with the goal in mind: Consider those performance reviews as an opportunity to motivate employees and accelerate growth. Some question performance review processes for being useless and more of an administrative burden. While it can indeed be time or resource intensive, if used appropriately, performance reviews can make a huge difference. It can reduce attrition and boost performance via (1) increased motivation, by providing another opportunity to acknowledge wins and strengths; and (2) accelerated growth, by identifying a tailored career/growth plan, which is a catalyst for long term motivation.
  • Set the intention: Be intentional about the whole process, by letting your team know how much you value to spend some quality time to discuss progress, wins, areas of growth and improvements. For instance, I always like to email the team with a schedule of the reviews and a list of questions to think about as they complete the self evaluation. By making a point that this is an important activity for you as a manager, the importance is elevated for your team members as well. Furthermore, an environment of trust is created that helps receive and share feedback. Key questions I like to ask:
    • What do you consider your top achievements this year?
    • What are your biggest lesson learned this year?
    • What motivated you the most/the least this year?
    • Which of your areas of growth, you would like to focus the most next year?
    • Is there something that you think you could be doing better, or our team could be doing better?
    • Any particular aspect of my management that you particularly value? Any aspect that you think I should focus on better?
  • Don’t ignore your gut: It is all right to use your intuition to identify areas of improvement. Think of examples, facts, events that support your assessment. Once something you perceive becomes “objective” via facts and examples, it is likely something you are correctly assessing and it won’t come as a surprise; your team member might have already been trying to work on it, or it’s something that he/she was struggling to put a name on.
  • Deliver feedback in a calm manner: Write down and rehearse sharing the feedback if you feel nervous about the discussion. Something that always helps to ground the discussion in a safe environment is to emphasize that the areas of growth do not negate the contributions to date and future growth.
  • Discuss a plan together: Be prepared to share your thoughts on next steps to address the biggest areas of improvement, invite feedback and identify a growth plan together. Emphasize your trust in a positive outcome.
  • Set up a follow-up: This could be a quarterly or bi-annual touch base to discuss progress. While not mandatory, it is a more realistic process to measure and discuss progress, and adjust or confirm expectations.

As managers and leaders, we are entrusted with defined success metrics but also with team(s) and individuals to help develop. It is a responsibility and an honor to be part of another individual’s professional growth.

More often than not, the biggest growth happens when areas of improvement are identified, discussed and approached constructively. As such, a performance review process is one of the most impactful avenues to empower and grow your teams and team members.

And now, go for transformative and fruitful performance review discussions!

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