How to Do a GREAT Performance Review

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

- Albert Einstein

A key ingredient in being a good Middle is to have trust with all of your Teamers. They must trust you and you must trust them. The Performance Review is perhaps the highest level of trust. You will tell your Teamers about their performance, they will share their opinions about their performance and then you will come to agreement and consensus.

Everyone knows what a Performance Review is but few know what it can be. I’ve had good, great and really bad Performance Reviews over my years and once you’ve had a really great one you will realize the difference it can make as a reward for your Teamers. Perhaps you are wondering, “How can a Performance Review be thought of as a reward?” The simple truth is that people really want to know how they are doing with their efforts and if they don’t care, you should really encourage them to find another opportunity elsewhere.

It is critical to involve each Teamer in the process of doing an interactive Performance Review.

Now my guess is that you have done Performance Reviews before, but I would humbly suggest that you consider using the following process the next time you need to do one. I feel that a really great Performance Review process (never call it an “appraisal” that sounds too “judgmental”) has these six steps:

  • Develop a Performance Review Form for each of your Job Descriptions.
  • Have your Teamer develop their “Summary of Accomplishments.”
  • You and your Teamer do a “draft” of their Performance Review Form.
  • Meet to compare the drafts of the Performance Review Form.
  • Make changes as necessary and gain overall agreement on the review.
  • Copies of forms to all and do it again next year!

We’ll cover each of these steps in the following sections.

“When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.”

- William Arthur Ward

Step 1 - The Performance Review Form

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”

- Yogi Berra

In your Performance Review Form you need to define the performance areas to address in the review. You need to cover at least these topics:

  • Job Knowledge
  • Quality of work
  • Quantity of work
  • Timeliness of Work Completed
  • Performance on Objectives
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Development of Subordinates (if appropriate)

Some Organizations may require other performance topics but I’ve stuck with these “magnificent seven” unless directed otherwise. And of course most Organizations will have a “scale system” to use in rating or ranking folks. You know, a “AAA” or a “1” indicates that you “walk on water” while a “C” or a “5” means that you are on a 90-day review cycle in hopes of improvement before termination.  I understand that you will have to use your Organization’s form and rating system, but I encourage you to expand on each of these topics to include the Job Success Talents (covered in earlier blog). This helps to fine tune the review and agree upon desired skills, performance and improvements. Get your Teamers to co-develop each Performance Review Form for each Job Description in your team.  

The following presents a list of Job Success Talents for each performance category that I co-wrote (my thanks to Teamer Tracey!) for the Performance Review Form for an Instruction Design Engineer (AKA a training course developer).

Job Knowledge

  • Research/Analysis
  • Innovation/Creativity
  • Problem Solving
  • Written Communications
  • Oral Communications
  • Listening
  • Oral Presentation Skills
  • Hardware Skills
  • Software Skills
  • Self-Organization
  • Decision Making
  • Planning/Organization
  • Negotiation
  • Leadership

 Quality of Work

  • Attention to Detail
  • Stress Tolerance
  • Work Standards

 Quantity of Work

  • Energy
  • Job Motivation
  • Initiative

Timeliness of Work Completed

  • Planning
  • Scheduling

Performance on Objectives

  • Adaptability
  • Tenacity
  • Resilience

Interpersonal Relations

  • Controlled Demeanor
  • Sensitivity
  • Communications Skills
  • Meeting Skills

Development of Subordinates

  • Leadership Skills
  • Team Building

This level of detail in defining the skills and talents for each Performance Review category builds an agreement on the expectations between you and your Teamer. The Performance Review should pin point areas of strength and areas for improvement and rate their overall performance for each Job Success Talent.

“Form and function are a unity, two sides of one coin. In order to enhance function, appropriate form must exist or be created.”

 – Ida Pauline Rolf

Step 2 - The Summary of Accomplishments

“Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.”

- Daniel J. Boorstin

The first actual step in the Performance Review process is to have your Teamer collect and write down their accomplishments for the period for the review. Projects completed, the latest status on projects in progress, training completed and ideas and suggestions made. Make this Summary of Accomplishments document reflects your team’s specialties and discipline and the Teamer’s overall role in the team and the Organization. I always encouraged my Teamers to keep a log of these things throughout the period so that they didn’t have a “panic” effort in trying to remember all of their accomplishments when the time for their Performance Review came around. 

Have your Teamer send you a copy of their Summary of Accomplishments so that you have sufficient time to review and comment on the content. Perhaps you will remember something that they may have forgotten. Schedule a meeting with your Teamer to review, agree and disagree, modify and approve the overall content of the Summary of Accomplishments before you move to the next step of doing “draft” Performance Reviews based upon those accomplishments.

“Study the past if you would define the future.”

- Confucius

Step 3 - Do “Drafts” of the Performance Review Form

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.”

- Bernice Johnson Reagon

After agreeing on the overall content of the Summary of Accomplishments ask that your Teamer do a “draft” of their Performance Review Form based upon their Summary of  Accomplishments and their feelings on their overall performance.

But first, you need to ensure that you and your Teamer are on the “same page” as far as what each performance rating really means. For example, with the Performance Review Form described earlier with the ratings from “AAA” down to “C” each rating had the following meanings:

  • First, let’s start in the “middle.” The A rating is for performance that fully meets the expectations for the position and is in the “good to very good” range.
  • The AA rating is for performance that exceeds the expectations for the position and is in the “very good to outstanding” range.
  • The AAA rating is for performance that is truly exceptional and seldom if ever achieved.
  • The B rating is for performance that approaches the expectations for the position. Please note that it is most important to let your Teamer know if their performance is improving towards meeting the expectations or has been declining during the period.
  • Lastly, the C rating is for performance that is far below the expectations for the position and usually would result in some sort of disciplinary process in hopes of serious performance improvement.

Whatever ratings scale and performance system that you use, make sure that you and your Teamer understand and agree to them before you start this step in the process.  

You also need to do a “draft” of their Performance Review Form for comparison. Share these drafts with one another so that each of you have sufficient time to review and comment on each other’s ratings and then set up a special meeting to compare and review these Performance Reviews in detail.

You will be surprised how frequently their ratings will actually match yours. This process and meeting (maybe two meetings) allows you to focus on the areas of difference of opinion and try to reconcile them to achieve overall consensus and agreement on the Performance Review.

“It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help.”

- Judith Martin

Step 4 - The Performance Review Meeting

“When we are dreaming alone it is only a dream. When we are dreaming with others, it is the beginning of reality.”

- Dom Helder Camara

Set aside a special time for a meeting with your Teamer to review and compare the two “drafts” of the Performance Review Form. Again, make sure to share copies of these “drafts” before the meeting so that both of you have time to review them and make comments and suggested changes. Make sure that your Teamers understand that “nothing is cast in concrete” with these draft reviews. Compare both sets of the ratings and then agree on the final ratings.

Again, I think that you will be surprised at how often your performance ratings will agree. Focus on and discuss the differences in your “draft” ratings. Ask your Teamer for their ideas and reasoning for ratings that don’t agree. Ask for examples of performance that would justify a rating higher than the one(s) you supplied on your “draft” review form. If you flat out disagree on a rating, I almost always went with their rating and made sure that they understood that we would closely monitor performance in that specific review category as a regular agenda item during One-on-One sessions.

Also, set aside time during this meeting to talk with your Teamer and address these specific questions:

  • What did the Teamer feel that they did particularly well during the period?
  • What did the Teamer do that they really liked doing? Perhaps it was project management or a special presentation or a chance to work directly with customers. Spend time with each of your Teamers to find out what things they really liked doing.
  • Also work with your Teamers to find out what they want to do more of and what they want to do less of during the upcoming period. You may not be able to completely meet their needs, but it is well worth the time to investigate their wants and to try to do what you can to satisfy them.

“If men would consider not so much wherein they differ, as wherein they agree, there would be far less of uncharitableness and angry feeling in the world.”

- Joseph Addison

Step 5 - Define the Goals for the Next Review Period

“Goals. There’s no telling what you can do when you get inspired by them. There’s no telling what you can do when you believe in them. There’s no telling what will happen when you act upon them.”

- Jim Rohn

Now is the time to address any areas for improvement or training needs for your Teamer. Reserve a “spot” on our Performance Review Form to cover at least these items:

  • Include any specific areas for performance improvement; that is any specific Job Success Talent that needs to be addressed and how.
  • Include any upcoming projects that the Teamer will be working on to set goals.
  • Also include any special projects that you will need their help with during the period.
  • Include specific training opportunities that will address areas for improvement. Encourage your Teamers to actively look for future training opportunities.

Make sure that your Teamer participates in setting all of these goals for their next Performance Review. It’s critical to get their buy-in on their goals and opportunities.

“Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.”

- Kurt Vonnegut

Step 6 - Performance Review Agreements

“Life is really simple, but men insist on making it complicated.”

- Confucius

Once you have worked through all of the Performance Review categories develop a “final” version for sharing with Human Resources, a copy for your Teamer and one for your files and the review cycle is done for another year. I always tried to do a Performance Review for each Teamer every year. It’s lots of work, but I think Teamers really appreciated it.

“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”

- Aristotle

In closing I want to add one very critical suggestion for you to consider when doing a Performance Review that is not actually part of the six-step process that I’ve just covered. Never ever, ever discuss salary during any of these Performance Review steps!!! The Performance Review must be just that, a time to review and understand the overall performance of a Teamer, not salary dollars and expectations. First, agree on the performance of the Teamer and then “plug” that into the salary review process which is usually based on the Teamer’s anniversary date. You will need to have the Performance Review done at least a month before their anniversary date. Using each Teamer’s anniversary date will help you set us a Performance Review schedule for each month during the year.