The Performance Review

How to get the most value from this regular meeting without too much ego getting in the way!

We all hate being judged and this dislike often fuels unproductive behaviour and a lot of wasted energy in the performance review process. This short article explores how to avoid this waste of time and energy, and gives some pointers on how to get the best from your regular Performance Review meetings.

Performance Reviews are a chance to take a ‘time-out’ to reflect on current performance and assess this reality against your, and your bosses, aspirations for yourself and your area of responsibility. The primary aim is to develop ideas on how to close any gap that exists between these two perspectives. Remembering this gap is important in order to generate the need and momentum for improvement to take place. At its best the Performance Review should be a health-check designed to ensure this delta remains useful and has not become so large it is de-motivational, or so small it is worthless.

Things to think about

In order to get the most value from this regular health-check then some important characteristics are needed in the way this meeting is approached and conducted:

  1. Realism – the ability to measure current reality in an unambiguous way and express this succinctly, without embellishment or excuses. You need to be able to communicate the ‘state of now’ in a factual manner without too much emotion or clutter. This is a key requirement. Resist the temptation to develop arguments over different versions of reality that we want to use as ‘the truth’. This is a complete waste of time, as we all know there are always at least 3 versions of ‘the truth’; 1. Your view; 2. Your bosses view; and 3. Actual reality! My advice is go with the version that shows current performance in the worst light as this creates the biggest gap, (remembering the purpose of the review is to develop ideas on how to close the gap this will give you the biggest opportunity).
  2. Curiosity – the mind-set you should use to approach the review. ‘Why?’ is the most powerful question to ask, as long as it is asked with neutral, or even supportive tonality. The reasons the gap between reality and aspiration exists are likely to be multi-faceted, complex and even connected, otherwise the gap would have been closed by now. So, remain curious so you can develop your understanding and be prepared to challenge any simplistic answer that initially springs to mind until you have a better grasp of the real root cause.
  3. Creativity – the skill to deploy in order to develop pragmatic, impactful ideas for action. The Performance Review should be a co-creation event in which you and your boss develop ideas that can begin to bridge the gap between current reality and desired performance. All too often performance review meetings can degrade into unproductive ‘excuse making and challenge’ sessions, make sure you avoid this waste of time.
  4. Matching & Pacing – Keep in mind your respective personality profiles throughout the meeting. If you are a ‘Blue’ you will want to enter the process fully armed with data and evidence to back up your view of reality. If your boss is a ‘Red’ this will be an utter waste of time. Go in with headlines and summary details only and keep the evidence that gives you comfort in reserve and use only if required and asked for. Conversely, if you are a ‘Green’ then watch out and ensure that you do not attach too much emotion to your perspective. Remain detached and resilient to challenge, remembering the aim of the meeting is to develop new ideas for action. ‘Yellows’ remember this is not a chat with a friend, remain professional and do your prep! If you are a Red too then remember this is not a competition! Etc, etc.

The outcome you are both aiming for is to refresh and revitalise any performance improvement efforts. Your boss requires reassurance you have your ‘finger on the pulse’ of current reality and wants confidence in your ability to drive improvement forward. You require your boss to recognise your efforts to date, provide support, advice and take decisions in order to clear the way for you to drive performance improvement forward.

It may not seem like it at times, but you are both after the same outcome, to improve performance. This is why it is called a ‘Performance Review’!