The Dreaded Review – Part II                                                                                                      back to articles menu

(See September issue, page 3 for Part I)

Remember our friend Nick, who hated doing Performance Reviews, and his CEO who was trying to convert him? She reminded him that he got his results through his team, and that regular Performance Review – both informal and formal – was an essential part of the management of his teams’ performance, and therefore an essential part of his job. It became clear that he hated them because he didn’t know how to do them, had not been trained, and his own personal experience had been negative. She gave him five questions (Sept issue, inset table, page 3) to give to his team a week before the Reviews were scheduled. We pick up the story after Nick had done that…

"So Nick – how did the team receive those questions?" asked the CEO. "Well a couple of them just glanced at them, and listened dutifully to what I had to say – but I don’t think they believed that anything different would come of it. Most of the others took it on board – two of them asked if I was really looking for honest answers - and we’ll get a range of responses. But I got a bit of a surprise – Glenn, who I thought would be the most cynical, just asked whether or not I was joking, and when he realised I wasn’t, said it was ‘about bloody time someone asked how I felt’ and took off. He’s rung me twice to clarify a couple of things. And I know he’s talking about it with the others. I’m a bit nervous about what he’s going to want to say…"

"Well, last time we met you said you hated Reviews because they never said anything", she said. "If your biggest problem is that your team are talkative in a Review meeting, that’s a good problem to have. So, they’re away thinking about those questions. That means that those who care are going to come along with some answers. For them, you’ve started an ‘improvement process’ and shown you want to do things differently, and better. Now you have to keep the ‘Momentum of Better’ going. That means preparation. Where are you holding your Review meetings?" she asked. "Er, in my office like always" said Nick. "Maybe you should think about that, Nick. When I do our Review – you and I – where do we meet? She asked. "In the conference room". "Why do you think I do that?" she asked. "Well, I always thought it was because your desk is such an unholy mess", said Nick. She laughed. "Fair enough. Believe it or not, I actually know where everything is on that desk and I have a damn good PA, but no, that’s not the reason. It’s because this office is seen by some as my ‘power base’ if you like – and I need a ‘neutral zone’ where we can meet as equals," she said. Nick looked a bit confused. "But we’re not equals – you’re my Boss" he said. "Maybe in the strict hierarchical and organisational structure sense you’re right – but in the Human sense we’re equal, and I want you feeling comfortable and relaxed. So book one of the meeting rooms, or the training room if it’s not being used. Now, have you scheduled actual appointment times?" "Er well, sort of. I’ve told them what day it’ll be," said Nick. "Hmm. Do you think that’s enough, Nick? They need to feel valued and important too you know. Treat them as you would an external client. Tell you what – here’s a check list of things you need to arrange or have ready (see inset table):

Team members notified, given ‘starter questions’ and a copy of the last Review document at least a week prior.

I’ve booked a neutral room.

I’ve issued specific meeting start times.

I’ve allowed sufficient time for a relaxed, unhurried discussion.

I will ensure I am ready at the appointed time – I will not be late.

I’ve allowed 30 minutes private time between meetings.

I have arranged for complete privacy, and no interruptions.

I have read each team member’s previous Review documents.

I have gathered any performance evidence (good or not so good) so I’m working from specific fact, not feelings, or general or vague impressions.

I’ve made initial written comments but am prepared to alter them if appropriate.

I’ve thought about this person’s KPIs and how I feel about any performance gap, and I have some solutions ready to discuss, to address that gap.

I am ready to discuss career planning for each individual.

I have brushed-up on my conversation-management skills (open & closed questions, & restatement).

I am prepared to listen more than talk.

I have their personal file available and all relevant records so the meeting is not interrupted.

Nick looked a bit stunned. "Wow. This is really serious stuff, isn’t it… Nobody ever did all that for me. I wonder what might have happened if they had... I guess I’m lucky – I survived in spite of my previous Bosses", he said.

"Just keep in your mind, Nick, that for some people their career is the single most important thing in their lives after their family – and for some it comes first above all. The Review can have a dramatic effect on their career, and while we know the two should be (and will be) kept separate, it can’t help but have an effect on their income too. So yes, it’s ‘serious stuff’ as you put it. Which is why it’s so important that it is done right, and by ‘right’ I mean professionally, objectively, personally and fairly."

Nick frowned. "Remember we spoke about Honesty last time? Well, honestly, I’m a bit nervous about all this. I mean, there’s so much can go wrong," he said. The CEO smiled. "If you’re worried, that means you care. That’s positive. Tell you what, just book one meeting on the first day, in the morning, and you and I can do a ‘debrief’ in the afternoon. Then I can help you on any specific issues that come up and prepare you for the next one" she said. "Why can’t you sit in on the meeting?" Nick asked. "Think about it for a minute. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel with your own Boss and the CEO in the room. Just a bit overpowered maybe? No, Nick, you’ll be fine on your own. Remember – have a belief in the need for and purpose of the process, treat them as equals, comment only on behaviour and not them personally, and you’ll be fine. Now – let’s make an appointment for you and I to go through S.M.A.R.T. goals setting and win/win negotiation. You’ll see why when we’ve finished!"

(Yes folks, you’ll have to wait for the November Issue to see what happens next…)

Carpe Diem

Steve Punter ANZIM, Dip Bus (PMER), FHRINZ
Staff Training Associates Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand. email:
© Steve Punter 1999 All rights reserved by the author                                                                                                                      back to articles menu