Deborah Sweeney
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MyCorporation.com CEO

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to giving a performance review. Many reviews may appear to be structured the same, from meeting face-to-face to filling out a form sharing areas you’d like to improve upon, but they’re not meant to be canned experiences. We encourage employees to shine during performance reviews, so individuals conducting the reviews need to bring their A-game as well. Make your next round of performance reviews beneficial for all involved by using the following techniques.

1. First, connect with the team personally.

You could start a review with dry, workplace-only discussion. Or, you could begin with a little informal improv asking how each team member is doing and what’s new and interesting in their lives. (Can you guess which strategy I employ for reviews? Always the second option!)

Katie Horgan McConnell, co-founder of Giving Assistant, also employs the same approach during performance reviews. Prior to the review starting, she’ll share a story with her team members about her life. This helps lighten the mood for everyone.

“We do get into work, but those first few minutes are for both of us to be human,” Horgan McConnell says.

While these initial minutes may be few, they’re not fleeting by any means. Using this time to connect shows that leaders treat their employees like people. Instead of leading with what you want, you’re able to lead with what they want — and this establishes a strong framework for performance reviews.

2. Let employees lead the conversation.

Career coach Emily Eliza Moyer says employers have already done the legwork in providing the review’s structure. Now, it’s time to let employees lead the conversation. Employees have likely thought through some items they’d like to discuss prior to meeting together. Give them the chance to start the conversation with their agenda items instead of taking the lead.

“Performance reviews are a time for your employee to do their own reflection and demonstrate their own leadership,” Moyer says.

Allow your employee the chance to highlight their own accomplishments and growth. Once they’re done speaking, Moyer says leaders may share their feedback if the employee hasn’t covered what you wanted to share.

3. Ask them to give you feedback.

This can be a little intimidating to actually act out on, depending on the relationship you have with your direct report. However, it’s important to encourage employees to provide their leaders with feedback. The key is that it needs to be positive and constructive. 

4. Create a growth plan together. 

Your employee has shared some of their accomplishments with you. They’ve also revealed which areas they want to explore or aspects of their job they’d like to improve upon. Where can they go from there to reach their goals? Moyer encourages leaders to create growth plans alongside their team members — including all-star employees.

“Every person has something to learn,” Moyer says. “By making a growth plan with your employee, you demonstrate that you’re invested in their learning and that you care about them.” 

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