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Performance Review!

“It’s hard to believe that he beat 1,000,000 other sperms to the egg”

How many times has this thought flashed across your mind, as you sat down to provide your annual feedback to your team member? I certainly was reminded about it, when a friend asked me tips on how to provide effective feedback to your team. After quickly noting it down in my scratch-book and filing it away for future uses and impressing others with my smart comebacks, I sat down to think about the top 5 ways in which feedback can be provided effectively to anyone. So, here goes…

#5 – Define goals at the beginning of each task

The starting point for providing effective feedback goes much before the time when you will be sitting down with the recipient of the feedback. Feedback is always against a baseline. The recipient needs to be aware of what he or she was expected to do. Only then will the feedback be useful with respect to whether he or she did a good job, in your opinion. Imagine a situation where you have to sit down with your team member and with a heavy heart, tell him that he did a shoddy job of “preparing the user manual for the business valuation model that you had created”. But you will certainly be at a loss of words, when he comes back and tells you that his understanding of the task at hand was to “evaluate the model from a user’s point of view”. Can’t blame him, if at the end of the task, there was no sign of a user manual, right?

#4 – Be direct

One of the major irritants of any feedback session is when your manager is not being forthright with you. You walk into the room expecting a promotion and a pay hike, and the manager tells you that ‘in view of the continuing stress on the business fundamentals of the company and the economy as a whole, in spite of the path-breaking work that you did in delivering the software on time, I have to tell you that the we are going to take a rain-check, at this point of time, on your elevation to the next title as well as increasing your monthly compensation’! How does it make you feel? Wouldn’t it have been far better if he had been direct with you and said ‘We screwed up. You did a good job, but we can’t promote you this year!’

#3 – Provide actionable comments

The purpose of the feedback session is for the recipient to understand what he / she could have done better. If that is not being achieved through the feedback session, then the whole process is a complete failure. If I am told that my communication skills need to improve, I wouldn’t know where to begin to address the problem. However, if I am told that my power-point decks need to have a storyline following the pyramid principle, with clearly defined situation, complexity and action points to address the problem, it will be much more easier for me to understand what I need to work on!

#2 – Listen to what they have to say too!

There is always another side to every story. You need to give the recipient an opportunity to defend his / her performance. There could have been mitigating circumstances that explain his / her performance. Although the fact remains that the desired results were not achieved, let them know that you will give adequate consideration to the efforts made by them to achieve results. That is a great motivator and will encourage your team to do their best the next time.

#1 – Always define a plan for improvement and follow-up on it!

At the end of the performance review, you will need to identify the areas for improvement and how the person can address those areas. If you have been providing the same feedback every year without any improvement, maybe the fault is that there was never any stress on addressing those issues. You need to work with the recipient to help / him address those areas. If it is communication skills that are lacking, setup a training plan with them – define milestones for them for a period and then follow-up on their progress!

A performance review is a great way to sit down with your team and help them improve their performance. Only a high performing team can help you reach the corner office, after all!

What are your thoughts? What else will you recommend as part of providing an effective feedback?

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