How Performance Reviews Lead to Winning


In a work environment, it’s not uncommon for anyone with even a thimbleful of confidence and a drop of self-esteem to believe that they are doing everything or darn near everything perfectly right.

These people don’t feel the need for criticism or input on how they are doing. They can include business owners, CEOs, managers at every level and title, as well as frontline employees.

Even people who don’t know what they are doing often put on the airs of showing that they know what they are doing.

This is exactly why every employee needs to have a review of their performance from time to time. Every company has a different terminology so I’ll call it a performance review.

These are a strange thing in many businesses. Employees need reviews, but don’t want to have them. Managers and supervisors know that they must complete this assignment for each employee but put off doing it because it’s not easy to have a difficult conversation with an underperforming subordinate.

It’s just as uncomfortable to give an employee an outstanding review and then not be able to answer the inevitable follow-up questions about getting a salary increase, a bonus, a promotion or other information about the employee’s future in the organization.

All this gets worse with the passage of time as the tenure of the employee and the length of time between reviews grow.

Fear plays a large role. When I performed a review, I did my best to make certain that the employee knew what they were responsible for and met with them regularly to coach them to achieve their goals.

No surprises

I always thought it was best to make certain that none of those that worked for me were surprised in their annual review.

My objective was to take the fear out of the process for those that worked for me.

I say this because I didn’t like being surprised by my bosses when they were doing their reviews of me. I made an assumption that those that worked for me wouldn’t care for it either.

To avoid surprises, and to reduce the fear factor, I conducted on-going dialog with each employee to improve the review process, make it less stressful and the tough conversations, if I had to have them, easier to conduct.

During my time in corporate America, I received, fairly regularly, performance reviews. Some were conducted well, some were not done well at all, but the intent was always the same: to provide an evaluation as to how I was doing against my specific areas of responsibilities and long-term and short-term objectives and to provide me with a clear path for improvement going forward.

On the other hand, I usually had the same response to these conversations and the related documents generated by the human resource department: one part shock, a dash of denial, a pinch or so of anger, and a hint of grudging agreement.

After some time passed, I accepted what was written about me, and the shock, denial, and anger more or less dissipated into acceptance of what was said about my performance.

I calmed down and took in stride what I needed to work on to become a better employee, leader and team player.

No excuses

There are a lot of reasons for not having performance reviews on a regular, scheduled basis with every employee. Every one of those reasons is simply an excuse.

People working want to know the score: How am I doing, how can I improve and what more can I do to contribute?

Regularly held performance reviews provide clarity to the employee and strengthen the role of the manager.

More importantly, by conducting reviews, as the owner, you know what your team consists of and is capable of doing. From that you can decide if you can win with your current team, or need to make changes so your company will win.

Ken Keller is a syndicated business columnist focused on the leadership needs of small and midsize closely held companies. Contact him at [email protected]. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of this media outlet.

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