Conducting An Effective Performance Review Part II – Coach


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Conducting An Effective Performance Review Part II – Coach

Are you successfully conducting your performance reviews?

More Videos:  After the Grid – Now What?Leverage the Power of the Performance-Values MatrixDeveloping a Coaching Culture Using Check-InsConducting An Effective Performance Review Part I – Align, Conducting An Effective Performance Review Part III – LeadUsing 360 Degree Feedback to Enhance Your Performance Management ProcessThe Basics of Effective Meetings


Melissa Phillippi, President of Performance Culture, dives into Part 2 of Conducting an Effective Performance Review. This video will help managers conduct the review itself as successfully as possible, transforming the traditional, one-sided review into a forward moving coaching conversation.

Stay tuned as Melissa defines four best practices for conducting an effective performance review.


Welcome to Part 2 of Conducting an Effective Performance Review. Group Discussions have been included again for the benefit of your organization’s learning.  Please consider pausing the video during these discussion topics to allow for group sharing of experiences and thoughts. We recommend having our two associated Manager and Review Coaching Guides handy while watching this video, as they will be referenced throughout.  They are attached to this Learning Topic, and available in your Help Section of the Performance Culture System. It is our goal in this video to help managers conduct the review itself as successfully as possible, transforming the traditional, one-sided review into a forward moving coaching conversation.  

Senior Leaders, you are not off the hook here, and in fact, it is even more critical for you to get this right.  So as the Leader goes, so does the organization. If you are phoning this in because you believe you have too many other important things to do, or because you believe you have this down pat, I challenge you to suspend your judgments and consider the best practices covered in this video.  You set the tone for how your managers will coach and develop their staff, therefore you have a direct impact on this process.

Okay, let’s get started. First, we begin with what a performance review is NOT. It is NOT a Dilbert cartoon, with sub-par, confusing, one-way feedback from Manager to employee. It is also NOT the time for you to unleash what you view as shortcomings of your employee, including that one time 7 months ago when you had to correct him.  Time to move on. It is also NOT merely an administrative task you have to get through and it is NOT a waste of time and money. Lastly, it is NOT the time to ignore the elephant in the room, or skip over true deficiencies in the employee’s performance or behavior because the conversation would be hard or awkward. It is not the time to give 3 (meets expectations), 4 (exceeds, consistently), or certainly 5 star (outstanding) ratings when there is a bonafide deficiency that has not been corrected. Throw all of these ideas about a performance review out, and let’s start with a clean slate.

Best Practice # 1:  Aim to speak less, not more

One of the most helpful tools you have included within the Performance Culture System is our Coaching Guides, found in the Help Section. The Manager Coaching Guide and the Review Coaching Guide are two powerful tools to help increase the chance of a successful outcome to your performance reviews. In these two Guides you’ll notice a lot of language around pausing, and active listening.  For example, note the recommended steps for discussing review results on page 2 of the Review Coaching Guide. Notice step 4: “Pause: allow the employee to process and provide any additional thoughts.” This is because when we’re in charge, we’re often used to doing more of the talking. An effective performance review is one where the employee is talking just as much – if not more – than the manager.  

This is your time to really understand the mindset of your employee, his or her perspective on things, where he or she feels satisfied and where he or she feels things could be better.

Your employees are not your children; while they do need to perform and behave in a way that is in line with company expectations, they alone control the level of how high they perform or behave, because it is their CHOICE.

Bain & Company found that when compared to satisfied employees, INSPIRED employees are over 300% more productive! The sad part is that the majority of employees in many organizations are not even satisfied, creating a huge opportunity cost for what the organization could really accomplish. Therefore, as frustrating as it may be, you cannot force your employees into high productivity.  Your job is hard – you must find a way for them to WANT to do more. And talking at them won’t get you there. Start by listening more, and then actually acting on their really good ideas when appropriate.

Let’s review the definition of active listening:  It is quieting one’s mind while another is speaking; not allowing thoughts of what to say next to enter, but instead allowing only what the other is saying to resonate and provide impact. Only after the person is done speaking should you begin to speak and offer your counter thoughts.

Group Discussion #1:  

  1. How well do you “active listen”?  Do you find that you’re better at it with certain people than others?  Why or why not?

Best Practice #2:  Follow the process

The collective knowledge in our two Coaching Guides comes from years and countless case studies of conducting reviews across numerous industries.  We recommend you at least give our process a try before dismissing it.

Note the order of the steps on page 2 of the Review Coaching Guide.  This is partially based on research from the authors of Thanks for the Feedback.  As humans, if we become aware of the result before hearing the reasoning and/or coaching behind it, we are not as capable of truly hearing the why and how we can grow because the weight of the result is still weighing heavy, commanding the forefront of our thoughts.

Therefore, our recommend process includes the manager reading his or her coaching comments before revealing the star rating, and completing the performance review discussion before revealing the overall Performance-Values Matrix quadrant placement (Star/Potential/Aligned?/Right Fit?).

However, a word of caution here.  In every case you must use discretion and your better judgment.  I once assisted in a review in which the employee was so nervous, she was slightly shaking and could not seem to process what her manager was saying because her anxiety was so high.  I stepped in after the first performance objective was read and told her the punch line: “At the end of this review, you’ll find that you are indeed a Star. And it is because we value you and you’re worth spending the extra time to coach in all areas that we are going through this process.” She immediately and physically calmed down and started to now truly hear what her manager was trying to tell her.

Group Discussion #2:  

  1. How have you historically conducted a performance review?  What were some of the benefits and what were some of the consequences?
  2. Would you be willing to try the recommended process covered in the Review Coaching Guide?  Why or why not?

Best Practice #3:  Rating alignment and interpretation

What are you to do when your employee has scored himself or herself differently than you have? Page 5 of the Review Coaching Guide provides some insight into how to close the gap on ratings. In a situation where an employee has rated himself higher than you plan to, lean on the employee’s comments and ask clarifying questions to understand where he or she is coming from.

This situation is likely the result of one or more of these mishaps:

  1. The employee does not clearly understand the rating definition.  
  2. The employee did not understand the objective and/or the manager’s expectations of the objective.
  3. The objective is poorly written and not specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, or timely enough.

With respect to the first mishap, the employee does not clearly understand the rating definition, this is often remedied by having him or her watch the PCS Training Video E 104: Employee – Self Assessment, where the rating definitions are defined with helpful examples.  

Remind the employee that a 3 star – Meets Expectations – is not a “C” grade, or an average rating.  He or she is doing the job you’ve asked them to do, thank you! However, to truly fulfill the organization’s mission and vision, and for every employee to be able to reach their personal vision, we must collectively aim for better than expected, striving for new heights as we grow and refuse to stay stagnant.

With respect to the second mishap, the employee did not understand the objective and/or the manager’s expectations of the objective, this is easily remedied by introducing an “Alignment Conversation” into your performance management process.  While this is best conducted before the review cycle, it is helpful at any stage, providing clarity of what is expected, often with examples, so the employee no longer has to rely on telepathic communication from his or her manager. Be sure to reference PCS Training Video M 106: Manager – Conducting the Alignment Meeting for a wonderful explanation on how best to conduct this meeting.

Lastly, with respect to the third mishap, the objective is poorly written, simply consider editing the objective to make it more clear, and more measurable.  We have provided sample objectives, or Key Performance Indicators, on our website on the Coaching Tips tab.

Group Discussion #3:  

  1. Have you ever experienced a time when it became clear that you and your employee had different ideas of how a goal was to be met?  What happened? Were you able to correct this, and if so, how?

Best Practice #4:  Be forward-looking

You may have heard the adage that a good performance review is 75% forward-looking and 25% review of past performance.  How do we accomplish this when we’re effectively rating each objective, behavior, and providing a “why” to that rating? By including “next steps” in every rating discussion.  This is also a simple way to gain alignment and clarity on expectations for the future, decreasing the chances of having another mishap we mentioned earlier. What does this look like?  Simply state what “next steps” look like for the employee going forward with regards to this objective or behavior. This is incredibly helpful for the employee’s personal and professional growth.

How would you feel if your manager just gave you a 3 star rating, acknowledging that you met expectations, and then moved on to the next item?  Time out! I don’t know anyone that wakes up in the morning and says, “Today I want to be the best average person I can be today.” If they do, they don’t belong on your team. Therefore, explain how they can achieve a 4 or even 5 star rating going forward.  Consider wording such as “Next steps would be for you to proactively think about new marketing initiatives that would break us into markets we’ve never been before.” And if you expect a higher level of performance to maintain the same rating, be especially certain to reveal this, with a clear roadmap or discussion around how they can achieve this and more.

Group Discussion #4:  

  1. Have you thought about what a 4 or 5 star rating looks like for each of your employees’ objectives and behavior goals?  Provide an example of an objective and explain what the difference between the different star ratings looks like to you.
  2. Do others in the group feel differently about this?  Are their expectations different for the various ratings?  If so, why is this? How does Senior Leadership view a 3, 4, or 5 star performance?
  3. Is there alignment from the top down on these items?  Alignment doesn’t mean total agreement, but a willingness to move in the same direction or take the same approach.  If there are areas of misalignment, what can you do to remedy this?

Your first round of performance reviews trying to incorporate these best practices will be the hardest.  But take heart, they will get easier with time and experience. And remember, Performance Culture is here to help.  Our Coach the Coach program is one of our highest chosen services due to its effectiveness. We can also help Leaders gain alignment and buy-in with our Leadership Alignment Workshops.

Thank you for watching Part 2 of Conducting an Effective Performance Review.  Please join me again for Part 3 where we’ll discuss how we can use all the information we gained during performance reviews to move the needle in our organizations.