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New Year’s Resolution for 2019: Replace Job Reviews with Something Better

Evan Hackel

Do you like to give job reviews to the people you supervise? From their side of the equation, do the employees you supervise like them?

And an even bigger question. Do the reviews that you give result in better motivation or performance?

The problem is that after reviews, employees usually come away feeling that they have been blamed for things they have not gotten done. And just as often, they are surprised to learn in reviews that they have been underperforming in ways they never knew about. Nobody likes to learn that their performance has fallen short. But the problem can be resolved if you stop giving traditional reviews and start doing something more effective. And the start of a new year is a great time to make that change in the way you manage.

Frequent Touch-Base Meetings Are the Solution

What is wrong with the traditional job reviews that you have probably been conducting for years? Most are unmotivating because in them, a supervisor usually pulls up a document that was created in the last job review and says, “Here are the to-dos we defined last time. Have you done this . . . have you done that?” And then the next killer question is, “Why not?”

If you conduct reviews like that, you are sending the message that you, the manager, know everything and that your supervisee must prove him or herself. You know better, and your worker feels stifled. He or she leaves the session feeling blamed, pressured and maybe even threatened.

Yet there are simple, highly effective ways to turn touch-base meetings into opportunities for mentoring, coaching, and positive motivation.

  • Start with a simple question. A question like “Has it been a good few weeks since we last talked?” or, “Have you been enjoying work lately?” kicks off a give-and-take conversation that allows you to then talk about anything in a safe way. Questions like those also offer you a chance to get a general feel for how things are going for your employee.
  • Replace “Let’s see how you’re doing on your to do list” with “What have you accomplished that you feel good about?” If you follow this advice, you will start out focusing on positive changes and accomplishments that your employee has made. Next, give positive reinforcement for what they’ve gotten done and let them feel proud of their achievements. Then move on to any items that are still undone, which you can now discuss in a positive way. This change drains the blame from your meeting and encourages positive, motivational conversations.
  • Ask, “Are there areas where you need help?” This is where you can coach and assist employees. Your offer of help prevents them from feeling bad about something that is undone and lets them feel comfortable about getting help. Be sure to listen for underlying reasons why your employee might not be tackling certain tasks. The issue could be that they don’t have enough time to do everything – perhaps others in the organization could help? It could be that they lack some piece of technology that would help them. Under the old system of job reviews, people would often feel shamed and want to mislead or try to divert blame from themselves. That is very unhelpful. Having a positive and honest discussion, much better.
  • Let employees set their own “to-dos” and priorities. As a supervisor, there will be times when you need to make firm assignments. But as much as you can, allow employees to set their own priorities. That builds a sense of ownership and enthusiasm.
  • Observe the “five to one” rule when meeting with supervisees who could benefit from an extra dose of positive inspiration. How does it work? For each thing you say that could be interpreted as criticism, say five things that are positive and encouraging.

Also ask if they have anything they would like to add to their to-do lists. You can follow up with questions like, “Why do you think this is important?” and, “How do you plan to tackle it?”  If there’s something you would like them to put on their list that they didn’t already think of, now’s the time to mention it. Most of the time, they are likely to have thought of that idea before you mentioned it. In essence, you are allowing them to lead themselves.

Today’s post is adapted from concepts in my book Ingaging Leadership: 21 Steps to Elevate Your Business. A new and enlarged edition will be published soon by Motivational Press. If you would like to know when it is available, be sure to visit this blog often.