If I hear this one more time I might lose it.
Manager: “One of my employees has been making a lot of mistakes. He seems disengaged. I’m not sure what’s happening.”
Me: “Have you talked to him?”
Manager: “No. Performance appraisals are coming up, so I’ll just wait to give the feedback until then.”
Me: “When are performance appraisals?”
Manager: “In six weeks.”
Most people hoard feedback. We wait for the right time, aka when we’re comfortable. That time will never come. The right time to give feedback is when something happens or shortly thereafter. Practice the 24-hour rule and the one-week guideline. Give feedback when you’re not upset, but soon after the event occurs, so people remember what you’re talking about.
Most employees feel as if they’re treated unfairly during some portion of a performance appraisal. Employees receive feedback they’ve not previously heard or receive feedback that is unbalanced – overly positive or negative, or the feedback is so vague, employees aren’t sure what to do more, better, or differently.
Effective performance appraisals are a quick summary of all the performance conversations you’ve had during the year and planning for next year. To have an appraisal meeting that’s a summary of past conversations managers need to meet with their employees regularly and give feedback every time they meet. Giving feedback regularly throughout the year is the most effective management suggestion I can make.
Meet regularly with your employees. If you never meet one-on-one with employees, start meeting monthly. If you meet monthly, meet twice a month. If you meet twice a month, consider meeting weekly for 10 to 30 minutes.
Below is a one-on-one meeting agenda, which the direct report leads:
- What is the employee working on that’s going well?
- What is the employee working on that is not going great, but she doesn’t want your help?
- What is the employee working on this isn’t going great and she wants your help?
- Give each other feedback: What went well since you last met? What could be improved?
** Give and receive feedback on the work and on your relationship. This will be hard the first few times you do it but will become easier with each successive conversation.
Ask your employee to create a meeting agenda. Take notes during the meeting and keep your notes. The summary of these meetings becomes your annual performance appraisal.
Regardless of whether or not you’re meeting regularly throughout the year, you can only give small pieces of feedback during the appraisal meeting. Discuss three SPECIFIC things the employee did well during the year and three things she should do next year. People can’t focus on more.
Consider how each of your employees should impact your department and your organization’s annual goals. In that context, determine the most important things each employee did to contribute to those goals this past year and what she should have done more, better, or differently? That’s your appraisal. Not more and not less.
During performance appraisals, force yourself to focus on and present ONLY the most important behaviors and outcomes, and your employees will bring the same focus to the ensuing year.