performance review

How To Conduct The Best Performance Review Of Your Life

By Jennie Yang

Performance reviews are rarely something either employee or manager is excited for. But that may be because they’re not doing them right. At 15Five instead of traditional performance reviews, we do something called the Best-Self Review®, and we do it quarterly. For us, learning is the goal – it’s not an evaluation or the time where people  “prove” themselves. 

The benefits of the Best-Self Review are numerous, but there are several things you, as a manager, can do to make even traditional performance reviews better. 

It starts with how you show up

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to show up with authentic caring, compassion, and empathy. This starts with considering your employee and the conversations itself. Should the conversation be private? When is the right time to make sure there’s enough time and mental space to talk? Meaningful conversations take time. 

Starting the conversation with a verbal reminder that the intention of the review is to help your direct report grow as a person and an employee also helps to set the stage. Going into your meeting with all of these intentions will help your employee feel seen, heard and valued, and create the foundation of a psychologically safe environment. 

Create a psychologically safe environment

To encourage growth, people need to feel like they can make mistakes without being punished. When people feel psychological safety studies show they are more able to take moderate risks, speak their mind, and be creative, which also happen to be the types of behaviors that lead to breakthroughs. Creating psychological safety in a performance review conversation begins with you asking questions and listening intentionally. 

Give meaningful feedback 

Feedback is not always positive, but if it’s focused on development, it can be considered constructive. We believe everyone has the opportunity and potential to be the best version of themselves. Development-focused feedback helps people transform into just that. 

Before you go into your review, know what you want to discuss. Consider observations, data, and examples from the past period, and understand what you want to accomplish. What behaviors are you hoping will stop, start, and/or continue?

Ask yourself how this conversation can build on what makes this person great. Ultimately, your review should help your employee feel stronger, happier, and more aware.

Keep in mind that employees who get the opportunity to continually develop are twice as likely as those on the other end of the scale to say they will spend their career with their company.

Don’t forget recognition

Performance reviews, especially when only done periodically, can become a time that managers only focus on what’s broken. But consider this, according to Gallup, employees who don’t feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they’ll quit in the next year. 

Recognition is a powerful tool. High performing organizations are far more supportive and complementary than low performing organizations. Before going into your conversation have several examples of things your employee did well, times when they showed growth, and/or really utilized their strengths. 

Gamefiy growth

When thinking about areas your employee could improve, consider keeping your development asks to three or fewer. Keeping your ideas on improvement succinct makes it more likely your employee will remember them. And they will likely see your comments as a challenge to improve rather than an effort to flatten their ego. 

Growth doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t happen without the help and buy-in of your team. But changing the way you conduct performance reviews can have an immediate impact on how your team works together. 

If you are interested in learning more about helping your employees become their best selves, visit our Best-Self Academy. We have several free courses designed to help managers. 

Jennie Yang is a leadership coach and facilitator who believes that when you adopt a personal growth mindset and invest in your own development, you will uncover your purpose and unlock your own potential. As Director of Talent Transformation at 15Five, Jennie helps enable 15Five’s mission to create highly engaged, high-performing organizations by helping people become their best selves. Follow her on Twitter @jenniemaeyang.

Image credit: shutterstock


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