Managers, It is that time of year again where you start putting together the required annual performance reviews of your direct reports. Over the next few weeks and months, you will have meaningful conversations with those you serve. So, how do you get the most out of your team and improve your personal management and leadership in the process? I’m glad you asked!
My first question to you is, “Why wait to perform performance reviews?” Just because company policy calls them annual and semi-annual reviews don’t mean you can’t provide steady and continuous feedback to team members year round. If you save all your feedback for 6 month or yearly chunks then you are missing on the value that time relevant feedback can offer. The short version; when you catch people doing something right tell them right away. If you see something wrong then put on your coach/mentor hat and help correct the issue immediately.
Ask one question for yourself!
Second, I want you to ask one question for yourself. “What feedback do you have for me?” This question, no matter what, will tell you a lot about your leadership and management. If your team members don’t feel comfortable answering the question then you have not created the environment for them to feel safe in talking with you. If you want honest feedback you have to promote an environment where that can happen without fear of repercussions. I’ll get into that more in a minute.
Now, if you do get feedback that is even better. You know you have a healthy environment for conversation so now you need to listen to the information being relayed. And, I mean, really listen. If your team is opening up to you it is obviously important so actively and consciously listen to that they are saying. Good or bad, this is feedback you need. Participate in the discussion and ask clarifying questions if needed but never, and I mean never, lose your temper if it is negative feedback. Belligerence is one thing, but negative feedback is critical and should be allowed to happen for your own growth and to keep communication flowing. If you only tolerate positive comments then communication will stop very quickly.
Okay, you have your feedback so now what?
Follow up with your team, not individuals but the whole team. If you didn’t receive any feedback find out why they don’t feel comfortable providing it and encourage them to do so. Ask the question again, “Now that we are all here, do you have any feedback for me? I want to grow as a manager and leader so I need your perspective to help gauge how well I’m doing. If I have issues, let me know, I want to fix them but can’t if I am unaware what they are. There will be no repercussions, only effort to improve.” Then, mean it! Again, never lose your temper with negative feedback. You asked for it and now you are hearing it. In fact, the best response you can give in the moment is to just say, Thank you.” Ask clarifying questions but be courteous. Modelling acceptance of bad feedback is the only way to get honest feedback.
Now, if you already received feedback during individual reviews it is a good idea to gather your team and discuss that feedback. Show them that you listened and are appreciative. Most of all, show them you are correcting any deficiencies yourself. This is critical because you are setting the example that you want them to follow with the feedback you give them. If you take corrective action they are more likely to as well. If you ignore feedback then they are more likely to ignore it, too.
Executed properly. performance reviews can be great periods of growth for both you as the manager/leader and your team. Execute them poorly and both will continue to suffer. As you move forward through the process ask yourself these questions to prepare:
Have I fostered a culture that promotes open and honest feedback?
Am I ready to hear open and honest feedback, especially feedback I may not like to hear?
Am I ready to take action on the feedback, positive or negative?