As 2020 ends, many organizations are getting ready to conduct their annual performance reviews. When completed, performance reviews can show employees their strong suits, what they can improve on, how they can accomplish company goals, and what to expect in the future. Directors and managers who utilize performance reviews can effectively recognize high performing employees, improve on weaknesses, build communication, foster employee growth, and accomplish company goals in the process. 1. Start with Smart Goals SMART goals should be: Specific Be specific about what you want or don’t want to achieve. (Using what you want is best, though not always possible.) The result should be tangible and measurable. “Hold regular meetings” is pretty ambiguous; “Hold 20 meetings per month (one per person) with my direct reports” is specific. Measurable Being able to track measurable progress helps you and your team stay focused, motivated, responsible for all deadlines, and excited when you achieve your goal. Our minds respond much better to eager, positive language than to negative language. Attainable Keeping your goals realistic and attainable is necessary for success. Work out your abilities muscle but don’t pull it! When your goal is achievable, you can quickly identify other opportunities that have slipped through the cracks in the past and attain those as well. Relevant Make sure that your goal is relevant to not only your team but the company as well. Reaching out for support or assistance in times of need can help you retain control overachieving your goals. Time-Based Give yourself a deadline for achieving the goal. Even better, split the plan into small parts and give yourself a deadline for each item. Focusing on completing daily tasks can bring you closer to meeting your long-term goals. 2. Foster Constructive Conversations Communication is what drives a performance review to its destination. Using some of these inquiry techniques can help you and your employee navigate through the interview smoothly: Ask an open question, such as: “Can you describe that more clearly?” “Would you give me a specific example of what you mean?” “What do you think we should do?” You’ll soon recognize that if you ask too many of these questions, your conversation partner will feel like they are under interrogation, so use them carefully. As well, avoid asking questions that start with “Why?” Pause. Many of us feel uncomfortable when silence overtakes a conversation, and we will fill the silence by expanding on what was said previously. Use reflective or mirroring questions. For example, if the employee says, “I just don’t feel challenged by my work anymore,” you may respond by just reflecting them, “Challenged?” Then pause. Usually, the other person will provide you with an expanded answer without asking more questions or interrogating. These kinds of statements also serve to focus or clarify and summarize without interrupting the conversation flow. They demonstrate your intent to understand the speaker’s thoughts and feelings. Paraphrase what has just been said in your own words. “So, if I understand you correctly, you…” This technique shows that you want to understand your conversation partner and that you want to be accurate. It also allows the sender to hear back what they have said from someone else’s perspective. Summary questions are a helpful way of inquiry and winding up the conversation at the same time. “You have spoken to your colleague about his foul language in the office, you have tried to ignore it, and you remain concerned about the impact his swearing has on our visitors and staff. None of these techniques have worked to reduce the amount of swearing, and now you are asking me to intervene. Have I got it right?” Summary statements or paraphrases sum up what has been said and show that you have listened and absorbed what’s being said. Please don’t use them to take over the dialogue. 3. Body language in your employees Understanding Non-Verbal Signals When we meet, what should we be watching for from our employees? Rejection of our comments Anger on the face and in their posture Lack of understanding or comprehension (such as furrowed brows, pursed lips) What are some non-verbal signals we must be careful not to communicate to employees? Boredom Anger (our own flushed face or the way we put things on our desk will all convey our own mood) Arrogance 4. Establish Next Steps for Continued Success Critical Steps for Feedback Discussion Throughout the review, it is imperative to remember that you want to help your employee improve based on the feedback. Some key steps to think about when giving your feedback is that you: Focus on the performance, not the employee. Ask the employee how they can solve the problem. Use inquiry techniques and active listening to help identify solutions. Agree on an action plan and gain commitment. Agree on a follow-up date and time. Express your confidence in the employee.