The Art and Science of a Productive Performance Review

(Parts 4 & 5 of “5 Keys to Improving Team Productivity”)

Performance Review Blog ImageWhich performance review does your company give: Fifty minutes of focus on mistakes, weaknesses, and how to fix them, with a few minutes of praise for accomplishments? Or, fresh and timely feedback on accomplishments, a strengths-based focus on goals for the future, and constructive criticism on addressing legitimate liabilities?

No doubt about it, the performance review is an art and a science, and not everyone has mastered that.

This week I will wrap up on “Five Keys to Improving Team Productivity” with our final two keys, “Providing Timely Feedback” and “Review and Revise”. Without effective feedback and without the important step of revising practices, progress on team productivity will be slow at best.

Let’s review two different styles of performance review. With the first style, the focus is on:

  • Negative feedback
  • Catching employees doing wrong
  • Punishment
  • “Fixing” weaknesses

Examples of actual performance review scenarios that depict the first style include:
“Justine” was reviewed against several Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that her boss never communicated. Her boss took further steps to discipline her, including withholding bonus, despite the achievement of other agreed upon goals.

“Jim” was told by his manager that only one person on the team could be awarded a “1” ranking or “Consistently Exceeds” and the top allowable raise of 6%. The boss decided to give herself the top ranking and top allowable raise, leaving a 2% raise for everyone else.

Now that everyone is motivated–to find a job somewhere else, that is–let’s look at the ingredients of a productive performance review.

  1. Make it timely: Set a timeline and stick to it
  2. Keep it constructive: Is your feedback actionable? Did you “save up” a grievance from months ago, or deal with immediately while it was fresh in everyone’s minds?
  3. Stay fair and transparent: Avoid playing favorites. Share what information that you can with the whole team. For example, new product launches, strategic initiatives, and changes to the business that affect your team.
  4. Focus on solutions: If a behavior is causing an issue, focus on the behavior and the ways it negatively affects the company. Without attacking the individual, brainstorm ways that she or he can improve. Involve them in the solution.
  5. Praise Publicly, Discipline Privately: Don’t create or tolerate a toxic environment where yelling, name-calling, bullying, or shaming are allowed to thrive. Acknowledge wins and hold people accountable.

Here’s a final idea. This takes time but has big payoffs:

  • Have everyone on your team take the Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment
  • Align roles and responsibilities according to their strengths where possible
  • Pair up team members with complementary strengths. For instance, have someone analytical work with someone strategic, or pair someone achievement oriented with someone who is deliberative.

Using the five performance review steps above, you can create a continuous and productive feedback loop, set realistic goals, implement regular communication, and establish a common language with your team.