I have written about and talked about the need to reinvent Annual Performance Reviews pretty often, and I’m not alone in doing so. Still, the discussion rages on, and there continues to be much talk and not enough action when it comes to improving the processes associated with them. Annual Performance Reviews remain a staple of workplaces everywhere.

My latest short and sweet advice has been this: If you have to do them, and for some valid reason can’t reinvent them, at the very least make the best out of them. Do your due diligence, be honest and be consistent with the process so it has integrity, but dispense with it as quickly and as expeditiously as you can, making the experience as positive as possible for the person reviewed. Frame the discussion forward and not backward.

By “expeditious” I don’t mean you cut corners and disrespect the person you are reviewing; I mean for you to make quick work of the archaic, sacred cow, can’t remember why we even do this parts of the annual review process which leave you tongue-tied, simply annoy everyone and have little to no redeeming quality: Stop belaboring the motions you don’t believe in and aren’t equipped to handle well.

However, the reality is that you still will hate to do them, and you will probably still hate receiving them, unless you add some value to the process.

Second, it is only in adding value to the process elsewhere, at the right time, and in managing well, that you truly can achieve the “expeditious” and “positive experience” part of my advice.

Plain and simple, when you are a manager, you have to work on reviewing and taking action with the performance of those you manage virtually every single day, and not just annually or semi-annually. Folks, that’s what management is, and it’s your whole job.

What you’ve got to do, is turn annual performance reviews into everyday performance reviews.

Let’s consider a few of your opportunities:

    First the Daily 5 Minutes: Bar none, THE single best management practice I know of.
    Every single time someone makes a mistake, because for you, mistakes provide opportunities for learning and coaching.
    Every time you assemble a project team, by conducting interviews of those who want to be part of the gig, and setting some inspiring goals with them.
    With every debrief after a project, change initiative, or mission comes to fruition — or fails, so you can talk about how to “fail forward.”
    When you mentor with personal and professional mission statements. Said another, less formal way, having right-timed discussions in the vein of “Tell me again why you here, and what lights your fire when you’re here. Let’s do more of that!”
    Once each year, you can interview your “old timers” just as you do candidates for hire. Their lives have changed, and their dreams probably have too; how current are you on their news?
    With counseling and discipline as soon as it’s called for, because you are always on the alert for the damage which can be caused with tacit approval.
    With management by walking around and following through to the nth degree, because you are determined that no one will ever say you don’t honor your word and walk your talk. Hence, you walk into opportunities for on-the-spot performance coaching all the time, and you seize them.
    Every time you share with employees how a customer feels, what a customer expects, and how a customer dreams, because customers continually talk to you about your staff and how they impress them (or don’t).
    Every time you hold a meeting because your meetings are about rigorous, “this stuff counts” engaging dialogue, where whole-team performance is talked about all the time because everyone wants excellence.
    Every time you catch someone doing something right, and you start cheering and celebrating about it, because you want to call attention to the great wins you need repeated by everyone.
    Every time you shift roles, recast, and experiment with new energy applied to processes starting to slide into complacency and mediocrity, because those things aren’t gonna happen; not on your watch. You know what your people are good at, and when they’re in their strengths zone, and that’s where you work with them— always.

Lots and lots of everyday opportunities abound. I’m sure you can think of more.

Consider this: If you coached an employee about some part of their performance for just 5 minutes every single week, you’d be giving them the equivalent of a 4 and a half hour annual performance review. And the one you have to officially turn into the HR office at annual review time? You and that employee would be so in sync, and their performance will be so off the charts, it will take you all of 15 minutes tops.

Article References:
Adding Value to Performance Reviews
5 Questions for your Performance Appraisals
The Daily 5 Minutes

Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog. She is also the founder and head coach of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership.

Rosa’s Previous Thursday Column was: The Leader as Kipuka (Create your Kipuka, Part II).

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