How To (NOT) Screw-up a Performance Review

Lately I've been thinking about my daughter. It's making me feel anxious. She's in the last months of grade 12 and preparing to make her leap to university this fall. As a parent, I'm concerned... Is she ready?

After some cursory thinking, it seems I'm concerned about her set of life skills. I'm worried not only if they are complete, but if she understands them all... Can she use them effectively?

But at a deeper level, my anxiety grows from questions about my own success as a parent. Have I taught her well, or have I messed up? Am I a screw-up as a parent?

I imagine many conversations with my daughter, and have perhaps too few in reality. In my mental movies, I see myself full of insight and advice. I deliver clear lessons of wisdom to her. She nods her head in agreement.

But I've got that wrong. That movie is about myself, and not my daughter.

The discussion we need to have is like the "performance review" you might have with an employee.

It's not about you. It's about them.

Reviews should be discussions. Both you and the employee should have something to say. It's much more than just you spouting off all your mind-blowing, self-ego-boosting insights. You must draw your employee into the discussion. To do this well, prepare yourself first...

Kevin Eikenberry of the "Leadership Help Button" says to approach a performance review with these important self-preparation steps:
  1. Prepare your list of questions to ask. I suggest you make these questions open-ended, meaning simple yes or no answers won't work. The answers need to be complete sentences, and that will need some complete thinking.
  2. Think about how your employee will likely answer these questions. Anticipate what their feelings, motives and perspectives will be when they answer.
  3. Start your review with these questions and take it from there. You'll engage in a truly thoughtful discussion. It will be employee-focused, talking about their actual performance. It won't be all about your own high-and-mighty wisdom.
To have a heart-to-heart talk with my daughter, I can see I should take these same preparation steps.

Too often in life we just "wing it". Done like that our ego will dominate. Preparation allows us to be self-aware, and far more constructive.

By Kevin Rokosh

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