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My 3 Secret Questions for end of year Performance Management reviews

#businesstips #highperformance #leadership #mentoring #newleaders Apr 04, 2023

Spring is just around the corner. You know what that means in the world of academia? It’s Performance Review Time! Before you think, ‘UGHH!’ I want to remind you that feedback is an important part of building a high-performance culture. Feedback is a crucial tool for personal growth and team success; and yet, it can be one of the most challenging aspects of our work. Fear not! With the right mindset and approach, you can turn feedback into a powerful force for relationship building, improvement and excellence.

Here's my message to leaders on delivering feedback:

Specific Feedback Delivers Quicker Results.

Focus on specific behaviors or actions rather than making broad statements about the person's character or worth. This is a fundamental principle of high-performance coaching, and it's essential for building trust and respect with our colleagues.

Identify the one or two behaviors or actions you want to discuss and describe in detail. For example, instead of saying "You're not a good team player," you might say, "During our last team project, I noticed that you tended to work independently and didn't share your ideas as much as other team members." By being specific, you help the person understand exactly what they need to work on.

Paint the Picture.

Provide concrete examples to help the person understand the behavior or action you're referring to and make the feedback more actionable. Paint the picture by describing what happened, what the impact was, and how it could be improved. “At the banquet, the team was scrambling and anxious in the final days because you did not delegate tasks to folks with deadlines. Everyone left their deliverables to the last days.”

Folks Need to Know you Care.

Sandwich criticism between praise or areas of growth in the past reporting period. We are all more able to digest critical feedback once we feel secure that our efforts are noticed. Be sure to lead with a positive, narrow the call to action to one or two items and end with reassurance. 

Focus on Improvement.

The goal of feedback is to help the person improve their performance, so it's important to focus on specific actions or behaviors that can be changed or improved. “In this next project, I’m going to be looking for you to speak up during brainstorming and to volunteer to help another person with a delegated task. I expect you to share updates of your progress in the Teams chat and to update the Chair on final confirmation and budget.”

Taking risks to change requires a degree of safety and motivation. Employees who hear only complaints will use their efforts to find work elsewhere, or worse, spread sour energy in the team. Make sure your people know you care.

Notice the Wins.

Follow up, and praise the process. After giving feedback, follow up with the person to see how they're doing, and offer support or additional feedback as needed. This helps to demonstrate that you're invested in their success and committed to helping them improve.

Now most leaders think they’re finished here. If you stop your performance management meeting having only provided feedback, you are missing a critical part for your own development as a leader. 

Turn the performance review upside down on its head and invite your subordinates to review your leadership with the same critical lens and eye for improvement. 

This request for feedback begins with three simple questions in my shop:

  1. What 1 thing am I doing, by accident or on purpose, that you love and makes your job easier or inspires you to come to work? I need to know, so I keep doing it.
  2. What 1 thing am I doing, by accident or on purpose, that is disruptive to you or makes it challenging for you to do your job? I need to know, so I can avoid doing it.
  3. What 1 thing are you seeing from another organization that you think we could bring here to make it easier for you to do your job? I need to know for innovation.

I have found that by including these three simple questions in my review process and opening myself up to feedback, I have been able to significantly move the needle in my own leadership skills. In return, my team members are more willing to accept and act on feedback.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog on asking for and receiving feedback and the art of managing up. 

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