It is August and I’m sure many of you are busy working on mid-year reviews. If you are anything like me, you loathe this process, where you are forced to offer feedback confined in a company matrix and spend more time filling out forms and going through long approval processes than actually talking to your employees. I think we’d all be better off without the formal processes and instead putting our energy toward continuous coaching. However, I know as well as anyone that we don’t always have a choice as many companies require this, so for those of you are that are working through this now, here are some suggestions to make this process a little more meaningful for yourself and most importantly, your team.
Don’t list weaknesses for the sake of listing them – I’m not saying that weaknesses should be ignored and if they are critical to the role, then they need to be addressed. However, it is often the case that weaknesses are highlighted in order to fulfil a requirement and often have little to do with the person’s performance or aspirations. If it isn’t impacting, then don’t bother frustrating your employee with the laundry list. NFL quarterback and future hall of famer, Tom Brady, is not very quick on his feet and cannot evade tackles like others, but you won’t see anyone harping on that. You don’t have to be great at all things and as a leader, it is your job to define for your employees those critical areas to focus on and those that can be de-focused.
Don’t offer suggestions without opportunities – As a leader, you must be open to giving your employees an opportunity to act on your suggestions. There is no sense in telling someone they need to work on their executive communication and then not give them an opportunity to present to executives. This happens way too much. Feedback for the sake of feedback that although appears actionable, in reality is not actionable because the leader is not allowing the opportunity. Don’t tell your employees how to drive unless you are willing to put them behind the wheel.
Don’t bother setting goals – In today’s fast paced world, goal setting needs to be a fluid process vs a required input every six to twelve months. All too often, well intentioned goals become out dated which leads to greater frustration. Instead of setting static goals, set a process where you and the employee will ensure that he/she is always working on the most impactful areas. Make goal setting a way of operating and you’ll gain better results as well as a more engaged employee.
Disregard the self-evaluation – If your company requires an employee to fill out a self-evaluation form before you give feedback, you should disregard it completely when writing your feedback. You are doing the whole process a disservice if you are not offering your un-influenced opinion when giving your feedback. Now it is fine to compare afterwards and this can provide the basis of good discussion, but don’t just rewrite or comment on everything the employee wrote. You should be leading this process and the focus of the discussions, not them.
Ask for their opinions – Use this time to elevate your employees to equals. Ask them for their opinions on the business strategy, how a certain initiative is going or perhaps get their thoughts on the team dynamic. Use the review process to not only focus on the job performance but focus on them as professionals. Having open conversations about how they view the world is a great way to help them cultivate their point of view and support their long term professional development. They will be much more appreciative if you ask them their opinions because they want to be heard and they want to know that you actually care about them outside of this job.
As much as I prefer continuous feedback and coaching to formal bi-annual review processes, they do present an opportunity to offer feedback which is always a good thing. Over the years, I have found that these suggestions have made the annual and mid-year review process more productive and have turned a mundane process into a great opportunity to meet with employees and actually increase engagement.