For some reason, I have always hated the traditional annual review that I was required to perform for all of my team members early in my career. I disliked it so much, that I decided that I would never use it in my own company when the time came. So I don't.  Instead, the approach below allows me to bullet-point the key conversation points I want to have with my team members. This format isn't limited to just an annual review. You can conduct this conversation after an assignment, prior to a promotion or change in role, or even quarterly. However you decide to use it, I suggest you write it out first, then discuss it with your team members.

The Key Team Member Review Format:

  1. The 3-5 Core Deliverables of the Role—This is not a task list. The focus is on the bigger impact areas that the role makes on the department or business. For smaller companies, these typically fall into revenues, costs, customer satisfaction, or operational performance.
  2. The 3-5 Biggest Achievements—This is a personal evaluation of what the person did that made a difference. That difference should be measurable.
  3. The 3-5 Personal Characteristics You Most Apprciate—There are intangible but important elements of how someone performs that makes their work better. Sense of humor, efficiency, cost-consciousness, loyalty, and directness are all examples of characteristics I have used in assessing this category.
  4. The 3-5 Goals for the the Company or Department—Anchoring the goals of the company in the review discussion opens up a chance to discuss contributions that the person can make. Sometimes those contributions are in a support role instead of a direct role. Everyone wants to know that they are important and this gives you a chance to connect the dots.
  5. The 3-5 Biggest Challenges Anticipated for the Next Period—Great brainstorming discussions come from this section. Often, I name what I consider to be the biggest challenges only to find out from the person being reviewed that I have missed something entirely. Working through these challenges is a great strategy and planning opportunity.
  6. The 3-5 Biggest Contributions the Person Can Make—"What do you want me to do?" This is the question most employees want to know from their boss. It lets them know how they can make a difference, make the boss happy, and not get in trouble. Coming to a shared understanding with the person being reviewed is a huge step to achieving the company goals.

Disclaimer: Some organizations are very particular about their review system, particularly when it is linked to compensation. If you have an HR or Personnel Department, they may be reluctant to try a new review process. It's probably best to have a discussion with them beforehand about which process works best for your business.

I just performed two of these reviews as part of our preparations for 2013 and they led to great conversations. This approach gives me a chance to let my key team members know what a huge impact they make, how much I value them, and what we need to focus on for the coming year.