Hello SOTGC community,
I hope you all are surviving the arctic blasts, polar vortices, snow rollers, ice storms, biblical-like droughts (that’s what I’m experiencing in Nor Cal) or whatever you have going on where you live. 2014 is definitely coming in like a lion…even though it is the Year of the Horse!
Like many of you, I’ve been hunkered down, surfing the Web. I recently came across an interesting story in the Washington Post about a study done by psychologists at Kansas State University, Eastern Kentucky University and Texas A&M.
These researchers looked at performance reviews and whether or not people like them. Guess what…nobody likes them! My first thought? “Yay, it’s not just me.” My second thought? #Duh.
The part of the study that was most interesting, relates to the finding that even people who want continuous improvement and are self-motivators do not like performance reviews.
But what was lacking in the study (at least what I could see as I didn’t buy the full text) is what do we do with this confirmation that nobody likes performance reviews? The report says they can actually be pretty demotivating so how do we minimize/avoid that? It would be nice to know what does work as there are times when we really do need to provide feedback, either through a formal review process or at a specific moment in time.
So, without the answer provided to me, I came up with some tips of my own. Please let me know if you agree and/or if you have other suggestions!
- Invest your time – Really spend time reflecting and being thoughtful on performance evaluations that you give to others. Since this process is so painful, lets be courteous enough to our employee by really being thoughtful.
- Start with the “good news” – The study said that even positive news can be perceived as negative by those on the receiving end. I personally haven’t experienced that but I usually begin a review with “Lets talk about all the great work you’ve done this quarter/half year/year.”
- Areas for improvement – I’m fortunate that 95% of the people I’ve managed have been good eggs. So sometimes it is difficult to find areas of improvement that aren’t petty or picky. What I like to do is look at the company’s core values or ways of being. In other words, what does the company look for in a good employee and what will help the employee build a lasting career with the company. Since I’m always in the communications group, one that pops up from time-to-time is increasing business acumen. Now, do I want my team to have MBAs? Of course not. But, they do need to have a deep understanding about how the business works and be able to speak it. Especially for comms people, if you know how the business works, that’s how you are of most help in a communications function. You can’t just focus on your own discipline.
- Make it a conversation – Nobody likes to be talked at. We are all adults, not 5-year olds. You definitely don’t want to be in a position where you perceived as scolding your employee. I start the review by saying, “Let’s talk about your performance over the year, what worked, what could have worked better, how you feel about the team, your position, the company, our working relationship. I want this to be a two-way conversation because as your manager, I want to make sure I am improving and learning as we go.” I’ve found this helps to relax the person and makes it about us, not just him/her.
- Talk to other people – Before you begin writing the review, talk to other people for feedback and input. I cannot stand receiving questionnaires or emails that say “send me three things Johnny does well and three things he needs to stop or improve upon.” Uggg, that is awful. Pick up the phone. Or set up a 15 or 30 minute “coffee break.” Anything except a bloody email. You will get so much more nuance and great information from people by talking with them. Do this with peers, direct reports, cross-functional partners, your boss. I like to have my employee submit a list of whom they want me to talk to but I also like to add a few more to make sure it is a great cross section.
- Not all feedback is equal – When asking for feedback on an employee from others, you will occasionally come across a total hater. If what they are saying is inconsistent with what others are saying, toss it out. Why upset your employee with negative feedback that you don’t think is valid!
- Keep it confidential…sometimes – If there is an area of opportunity that I need to discuss with an employee, and I have similar feedback from other sources, I do not say who that negative feedback specifically came from. Not nice. I will, however, share the name of someone who provided glowing feedback, if it seems appropriate.
- Put yourself in their shoes – As you are preparing for the review (and please rehearse what you are going to say), think about what it would be like to hear these words and this feedback directed to you. If it would make you cry, you should probably find another way to say it!
- Be honest – When I worked at Starbucks, one of the key pillars was to treat everyone with respect and dignity. I still take that with me today. If you have a real issue with an employee, skirting around it or avoiding it to “be nice” (what I think really is because they are scared to say it) is not okay. That is not treating the employee with respect and dignity.
- Self-evaluations – Ask your employee to provide you with a self-evaluation prior to the performance review. This will give you a great sense of how self aware the person is and where, if any, the gaps between how you think they are doing versus how they think they are doing.
Hope that is helpful. And again, I’d love to hear your thoughts (haha…I just asked for feedback)!
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