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Article: Leadership & Employee Performance - Build a Bon Fire with The Annual Reviews Related Resources

Leadership & Employee Performance - Build a Bon Fire with The Annual Reviews
By Rick Johnson

First of all, if all you ever do is an annual performance review for your employees, they are worthless. Put every last one of them in a big pile and burn them. The scenario of annual performance reviews often goes like this;

“I have nine reviews I have to get done by the end of the month. I feel more pressure about completing the review than I feel an obligation to the employees to let them know how they are really doing. How I can help them.”

Additionally, since you only do one review a year, chances are you base your judgment about the employee’s performance on the last two months or so. If the employee happened to have done something wrong during that two month period, they get a poor review. Conversely, if they did everything right in those two months, they get a good review. A good review even if they performed very poorly throughout most of the year. Is that really justice?

Some critics promote the theory that annual reviews are worthless and should be abolished altogether. However, that really isn’t an option. Performance reviews are and have been a corner stone for managing performance. It is about accountability, right? In reality, performance reviews don’t hold people accountable, managers do. However, employees must understand what the employers expectations are of them. This can not be accomplished in a once a year meeting.

The purpose of a performance review is not to build a case for termination. Nor is its purpose to write a hallmark moment about how wonderful the employee is. The purpose of a performance review is to let the employee know where they stand. How they are doing. To determine what the company can do to help them become the best at what they do. To recognize their contributions and also to help them recognize their weaknesses and where they may need additional training and development. You can not accomplish those objectives if you are forced to complete multiple reviews under pressure. You can not accomplish those objectives if you only think about the last several months of the employee’s performance.

As managers, as leaders, we owe it to our employees to help them develop their talents. It’s good for them, it’s good for us and it is good for the company. We need to make an individual commitment to every one of our direct reports that we will spend a minimum of thirty minutes per month discussing their performance. What they are doing well and what they need to work on. A simple three by five card noting our discussion thrown into their file provides tremendous insight when it comes time to do their annual review. (e-mail for a sample card form) We now have twelve individual documented discussions to refer to when completing their review. It also will show their progress. How they follow direction. What kind of support, training, mentoring or coaching that has taken place over the course of a year?

Reviews will never be 100% accurate and 100 % honest. It’s a good idea to review the reviews especially if they only occur annually. This should be done by Human Resources. Another concept for making reviews more accurate is the utilization of 360 degree reviews. This includes having employees reviewed by their boss, their peers and subordinates if applicable. Keeping reviews as objective as possible with definitive key performance measurements also reduces the human factor. Yes, performance reviews will probably never go away. We must not lose sight of the fact that the more critical aspect of leadership, coaching and mentoring is the actual setting and understanding of expectations.

Why are performance reviews important?

Performance reviews are important because employees want to be held accountable. Employees want to know how they are doing. Employees can not strive for excellence if they do not know where they stand. Performance reviews can guide an employee’s progress. They can identify the employee’s career path and they can identify area’s of performance that need improvement and create a plan with input from the employee to correct the problems. In order for employees to improve and maintain their job performance and skills, it is necessary to periodically review their performance and provide appropriate feedback, coaching and mentoring..

The starting point of any coaching process is setting goals and expectations and then observing behavior and providing specific performance feedback. That is what a performance review is all about. When you are reviewing performance, there is a process that you should follow.

When reviewing performance it is necessary to observe your employee’s behaviors throughout the year. A monthly coaching discussion will keep the employee informed and will allow you to make an objective assessment of the employees performance and progress.

Here are a few tips to observing performance:

Performance observance can happen in numerous different ways depending upon the employees job function. Outside sales is easy. A Ride Along by the Sales Manager creates a great opportunity to observe performance. Other observation techniques include:

• Spending a day a month actually working in the warehouse

• In Basket e-mail training (The employee is asked to handle every e-mail you receive in a day and make a decision as to what action should be taken)

• Reviewing specific metric KPI’s (key performance indicators)

• Working side by side with the employee by assigning a special project

Evaluate--------Tips on Performance Reviews

• Be fair and objective by assessing job performance against pre-determined job-related performance standards.

• Involve the employee in the development of the action plan.

• Include specific and measurable goals with action plans on how to reach them. Set time frames to review accomplished goals, identify possible obstacles and identify ways to overcome them.

• Encourage feedback from your employee.

• Review a summary of your feedback by beginning with the employee’s strengths and then tactfully move into the weaknesses.

• End the review by summarizing the action plan for improvements, so your employee clearly understands what’s expected of him or her. End on a positive note and set a date for the next review.

The outcome of this review should come as no surprise to the employee, if you are continually reviewing, evaluating, and providing feedback.

Conducting the Review:

Create a self review. Have your EMPLOYEE rate themselves by filling out a Performance Evaluation prior to their review. Tell them to provide specific examples to back up their ratings. Review their evaluation before you meet. This will provide for a more interactive meeting. Always focus on a positive before you discuss a negative. Keep the review as objective as possible utilizing facts and data. Follow your company review form precisely. It is organized in the fashion it is in for a reason. Do not speculate; make assumptions or offer opinions as to cause. Do ask a lot of questions. Focus on the differences between the self review and your review of the employee. Create a continuous follow up schedule.

Remember, employees are your most precious asset. Respect them, train them, coach and mentor them, trust them and they will create competitive advantage for your company. Dr. Rick Johnson ( is the founder of CEO Strategist LLC. an experienced based firm specializing in leadership and the creation of competitive advantage. CEO Strategist LLC. works in an advisory capacity with distributor executives in board representation, executive coaching, team coaching and education and training to make the changes necessary to create or maintain competitive advantage. You can contact them by calling 352-750-0868, or visit for more information. CEO Strategist – experts in Strategic Leadership in Wholesale Distribution.

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