Preparing for Performance: 5 Ways to Improve Reviews and Results

two businesswomen talking over coffee

The times are a changin’ and never more dramatically than in the employee performance review model. While the annual or semi-annual performance review is not yet a fossil, the dinosaurs are disappearing as more businesses shift to continuous feedback types of performance reviews.Josh Bersin of Bersin, Deloitte Consulting says that the past two decades have seen a shift from the “competitive evaluation” model (rating people, ranking them, and forcing the distribution to remove those at the bottom) to the “coaching and development” model (focused on helping everyone perform better, embracing a growth mindset and one of abundance). He goes on to say “the paradigm shift means that if we want to set goals, measure progress, and improve performance in our teams, we have to create goals in a more agile way, give people lots of feedback, and coach people to succeed.”

With more frequent check-ins, there is an even greater need for clear communication to establish meaningful goals, increasingly interdependent work within teams with more collaboration, and ongoing input with all parties delivering (and receiving) performance feedback regularly.

A disconnect happens when assumptions rule the day rather than clarity — the employee assumes the manager knows where he is on the project; the manager assumes the employee is on target. Both sides can alleviate ongoing issues by bringing clarity to expectations and the manager, the employee, and the team agree to support and define the specific, measurable behaviors and outcomes.

How can a difficult conversation around performance and expectations be changed into an engaging communication where all parties walk out feeling good?

5 Ways to Improve Performance Reviews

  1. Break goals into milestones and meet weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Whether you are the manager calling the meeting or the direct report, make sure the goals align with longer term performance evaluation measurements.

    Make results more than just the numbers. If you are a sales manager, you will be looking at the numbers consistently. But what about the specific behaviors that led up to those results? Did your direct report establish and meet the quota on cold calls or set and get the number of appointments you agreed upon? Did they convert at a higher rate than the last review session? More specifically, can behaviors be tied to numerical goals? When both sides show an appreciation for the steps it takes to achieve success, everyone leaves feeling the win.
  2. Give and ask for feedback on a regular and consistent basis. Learn to stand out in the crowd by asking for feedback from not only your manager, but also peers, clients, and direct reports. After an important meeting or sales call, circle back and invite feedback from your team saying, “tell me two things you think I did well and two things I can do better next time.” Thank everyone who gives you feedback.

    In fact, one of our clients, CHRO Crystal Williams of FLEETCOR, has so embedded that practice, which we call 2+2, that at the end of every meeting or significant interaction, her team invites conversation around 2 things that went well, 2 things that could be improved next time. It’s now part of the culture!
  3. Be bold. Show your commitment to professional development by requesting a 360-degree feedback assessment. This developmental tool can improve your performance. Make sure you build a plan to constructively leverage the two or three things you want to work on for the next few months — or up to a year — after receiving your report. Don’t forget to thank those who rated you. Sharing with them what you are working to improve is a great way to create support for your development.
  4. Do your homework. Both manager and employee should do their homework when entering a feedback discussion. From the direct report perspective, this means bringing to the review what was a win for a project or over a period of time, what could have gone better, and what they will focus on in the future. From the manager perspective, do your homework and go the extra mile to share all the data with the employee, and where appropriate, your team and leaders. If you feel uncomfortable giving feedback that is less than positive, download our Tough Talk prep sheet to help you prepare for the conversation. 
  5. Being mindful of what it takes to motivate each member of your team requires understanding of who they are as individuals.
    If you are using the same approach with everyone, you are missing how to best motivate the performance of each individual on your team. When all members complete a DiSC profile, the results will help team members approach one another according to their style, create more trust, and communicate in a more positive manner.

Richard Kopelman, CEO of APRIO says, “I am a huge fan of the practical application of the DiSC profile. We use it to prepare for performance reviews and feedback, for understanding the different mindsets and priorities of team members, and in developing our leaders.”

Download Clearwater’s ebook, Tough Talk, to find out more on preparing for performance reviews ( see chapter 1, starting on page 9.)

Contact Clearwater Consulting here or call (404)634-4332 to schedule a conversation on additional ways we help organizations like yours accelerate transformative change for higher performance.