As we approach the end of 2019, it's just as important to set resolutions and goals for 2020 as it is to appropriately and fully assess what went well--and what didn't--in 2019. And a priority most business owners have is helping their team identify growth opportunities for the upcoming year.
Here are my tips for giving clear and actionable performance reviews to each of your direct reports this month.
1. Start with the end in mind.
Unless your employee has clear goals that are defined in timing, quality, and scope, you cannot give an effective performance review. If you aren't evaluating your team against an established set of key performance indicators (KPIs) and specifics, then you are setting them--and the business--up to fail.
So, if you are measuring people and giving performance reviews without anything to measure against, stop and set each person's KPIs, goals, and roles first before doing anything else.
2. Base your assessment on multiple points of view.
Often, even extremely well-meaning managers have blind spots in their direct reports' work. So, soliciting feedback from others is key. Establish a policy at your business that asking for input about peers is welcomed and normal--it's not a sign of a performance issue or risk. If you always ask for feedback from the individual's peers and others they work with, it will become a safe and welcoming space to share opportunities for improvement or strengths of which the manager may not be aware.
This does not have to be an arduous task; keep it simple. Try sending a couple of specific, pointed questions via email. One question I suggest adding is: "If you had to choose one thing this individual could do differently to improve their business contributions, what would it be?"
The more you normalize feedback, the more open the whole team will be.
3. Remember: feedback is a gift.
A big piece of the effectiveness of a performance review isn't about the one day that you do it--it's about the overall culture in your business of receiving and giving feedback. Feedback is a gift.
Sharing well-thought-out advice with a colleague, boss, or direct report is something you do with care and with respect--it's a way of helping them continually improve. If your team feels they are being criticized, they will immediately shut down. If they feel they are being assisted in their career growth, they will open up and accept feedback with excitement about having that clarity.
4. Be extremely clear and specific.
In the words of Brene Brown, "Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.'" Ensure that you are specific--not vague--in the feedback you give, and focused on ways to improve. Look forward, not backward.
5. Spend more time--not less.
Here's where I am going to contradict a lot of experts in the area of HR and management who are frequently looking for ways to shave time off the performance management process. I believe the opposite: I think that this is such an important moment that you should devote time to it.
Think specifically about the quarter in question, and the individual at hand in the context of that time period. Try to get past fluffy or high-level observations, and be thorough and thoughtful. And then take the time to share that feedback with the individual, with patience and time for questions.
By keeping these things in mind, your annual performance reviews can be productive, informative, and a step in the right direction for the following new year.