© One Photo | Dreamstime.com
Performance Review

Ditch the Annual Performance Review, and Watch Engagement Improve

June 2, 2021
Three conversations to guide and develop team members.

Over the years, many organizations have adopted a form of annual performance review that includes scripted questions and rating scales for various measures of job performance. In many ways, these performance reviews are a bureaucratic means of compensating for the lack of leaders or the lack of a leadership development process in the organization.

True leaders do not need a system to force conversations about job performance, expectations or satisfaction. These are a part of the normal interactions between a skilled and effective leader and his/her team members. Leaders often guide and develop the performance of team members through three regular conversations:

  • Effective feedback
  • Constructive check-ins
  • Powerful progress reviews

Of course, there are other conversations that take place between a leader and team member in the normal course of business, such as project reviews, planning sessions and the normal personal conversations that play a part in relationship-building.

Effective leadership is based upon a relationship of mutual trust and respect, built through the everyday interactions that take place. But the following three specific one-to-one conversations are an intentional part of leadership and guiding the performance and development of our team members.

Feedback is the day-to-day series of conversations that nudge performance of team members toward the expected or desired actions and behaviors that are in line with the organization’s culture, values, mission and vision. Feedback requires, first of all, that we notice the actions and behaviors of team members and that we take the time, typically two to five minutes, to discuss them with the person. Feedback itself consists of three essential elements. First, a recognition of a specific action or behavior so that the recipient realizes what we are speaking about. Second, an identification of the impact of the action or behavior so that the recipient understands why we are having this conversation. Third, a communication of expectations for future actions or behaviors in terms of more of or less of the behavior identified. With these three elements, feedback is an important part of guiding the behavior or performance of the team member and developing them into a more productive or effective part of the organization.

The Check-in is the periodic conversation to track performance over the short term. This conversation, typically 30-60 minutes in length, might take place as frequently as daily or as seldom as monthly, depending on the responsibilities and capabilities of the team member and the context in which we are operating. Meeting too frequently can seem like micro-managing; while meeting too seldom can leave people feeling isolated or undervalued. The conversation in the check-in is primarily about tasks or status on assigned responsibilities and priorities and plans for the next day, week, or month. As with much of leadership, coaching is a large part of the check-in, so it is not just an exchange of facts, but building a deeper understanding and guiding the recipient in growth. The conversation might have branches built off of questions such as the following:

  • “Tell me about last week. What progress? What challenges?”
  • “What about this week? What are your plans and priorities? What hurdles or challenges do you face?”
  • “What’s one thing that worked last week and one thing that didn’t? What did you learn?”
  • “What feedback do you have for me? How can I support or encourage you more effectively?”

The Periodic Progress Review is a conversation about the bigger picture, covering both the team member and leader’s views about satisfaction, expectations, attitudes, goals and whatever else appropriate. It might be considered an opportunity to clear the air, develop a deeper understanding, and make sure that you are both on the same page. This conversation should take place at least once a year but, more appropriately perhaps, quarterly or monthly. It might be urgently needed in the face of changing roles, problematic attitudes, or signs of discord or dissatisfaction. This conversation should probably take an hour and might be done over a relaxing lunch. Again, this conversation is largely a coaching session, where the conversation branches out from questions such as the following.

  • “What do you find most challenging about this organization (or the team, or your job responsibilities)?”
  • “What are your strengths and how well are you able to use them in your current role?”
  • “What are your hopes or dreams for the future? How can we help you achieve them?”
  • “What do you see as goals or priorities for the next month, quarter, or year?”
  • “What do you find most irritating about my leadership style or the way that I interact with people? What should I do more of or less of?”

In each of these conversations, we should take the opportunity to connect on a personal level. Each of them has a component of guiding performance and providing development, with feedback more heavily focused on performance and the progress review more heavily focused on development.

Our ability to carry out these conversations effectively is largely a function of the quality of our leadership. Do we care about the people on our team; have we invested in a relationship of trust and respect; have we established a pattern of clear and frequent communication? If so, these conversations should be a natural part of our leader/follower interaction.

Ken Vaughan is president of New Horizon Partners, Inc., a business strategy consulting and leadership coaching and development organization. 

Popular Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!