Quality feedback brings success

Quality feedback brings success

Establishing performance expectations and providing feedback along the way will enable you to have a value-adding performance review at year-end.

Performance reviews are among the most dreaded events on the business calendar. For many it’s little more than an imposed process that causes stress and, at times, conflicts. Running performance reviews is among the most challenging aspects of being a leader for many of the managers

Done well, however, performance reviews are an essential tool to influence the success and engagement of the people on your team. Good reviews focus equally on an individual’s success and how they can continue to learn and grow—they involve recognition, reward, development and engagement.

Establishing performance expectations early in an individual’s employment is critical to your ability to leverage their potential and hold them accountable, and the value of the performance review process to you and your team is unquestionably influenced by the quality of your planning and ongoing communications throughout the year.

Establishing expectations

Establish clear expectations from the beginning. Ensure clarity of the outcomes you expect someone to achieve, as well as how you expect them to go about it and the behaviours you want them to consistently demonstrate.

Objectives should be SMART-specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and achievable within set time constraints. Here are some tips on setting objectives based on the acronym:

  1. Specific

Identify particular results or outcomes that must be achieved, and avoid vague statements that provide limited insight into what actually needs to be accomplished. Clearly articulate what success looks like – describe desirable and outstanding levels of performance for each objective set.

  1. Measurable

Agree the measures of success that will be taken into consideration when determining standards reached. Include relevant quantitative measures such as number achieved, cost incurred, rate or ratio, but also consider observations or feedback such as quality of work or client satisfaction.

  1. Achievable

Set challenging yet feasible objectives that bring out the best in people – they are more likely to strive to achieve standards they believe are reasonably within their capabilities and resources. Avoid impossible objectives that drain your team’s spirit and create stress, if they believe your expectations are unreasonable they’re likely to become resistant or resigned to failure.

  1. Relevant

Focus people on achieving goals aligned to an inspiring vision of your business’s future and the strategic objectives that will get you there. Ensure every member appreciates the consequences of their contribution and performance to success in not only their own role but also the business as a whole.

  1. Time-bound

Agree time frames by which objectives must be achieved. Determine they need to be achieved by a certain time each day, or within a specific time period. Focusing on time is an important parameter that helps people to plan and prioritise.

Clearly articulate what success looks like.

Giving feedback

Setting expectations is just the first step toward success. The feedback you provide along the way will enable you to have a constructive, value-adding performance review at year-end.

Provide guidance and constructive feedback that helps people stay on track to reach the standard you have set.

  1. Be courageous

Never back away from your responsibility to provide honest feedback. While constructive feedback can be difficult to deliver, it’s a manager’s job to help their team succeed by giving them honest insight to how they are performing. Don’t allow fear of tough conversations undermine your commitment to giving accurate feedback about outcomes, capability or behaviour.

  1. Don’t take people by surprise

Never raise something for the first time in a performance review. People should have confidence that if something needs to change you will tell them along the way, and it’s unfair to hold them accountable for something they didn’t know needed to be done differently. If you don’t communicate throughout the year, the performance review will be challenging.

  1. Be respectful

Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, regardless of how they’re performing. The way you communicate affects how people think, feel, behave and perform. You need them to listen to, and act on, your advice, and they’re unlikely to do so if there isn’t mutual trust between you.

  1. Tailor your approach

Understand the capability and character of everyone in your team, and communicate in ways most likely to positively influence each person. Never compromise on giving feedback and holding people accountable, but understand the personalities you are dealing with and adapt.

Karen Gately, Founder of Ryan Gately

This article first appeared in issue 11 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine