The Art of Performance Reviews

This week I participated in three performance reviews with 3 out 5 of my staff.  They made for a jam-packed and splendid week of learning.

Before I continue, a little context. Last June, I was asked to supervise my work team.  My boss left for another job and left a gap.  However, due to budgetary constraints, this would be an unofficial, temporary role.  There would be no raise in pay for my new and expanded responsibilities, no new office, and no new fancy job title that I could hang on my old cubicle wall.  I was told that “no” was a perfectly acceptable answer.

I said “yes.”  My logic was that obtaining supervision experience is a valuable currency.  You need it to be promoted to a supervision position and it’s tricky to get unless you actually are a supervisor (a chicken and egg paradox).  Also, hiring decision makers are biased towards experience that is recent, and within the organization they work for.  This role would give me both, and a chance to demonstrate to my managers that I had the ability to fill the position, for when it was officially offered.  I also looked at the role as an awesome learning opportunity to fortify my communication and leadership practice.

Skipping to the present.  At the beginning of the week my manager reminded me that I was expected to have a 6-month performance review conversation with each of my staff by the end of the month.  I asked him some questions about what these conversations should look like.  Afterwards, I  reflected on my knowledge of the subject and what effective performance reviews should be.

By the time of my first  review of the week, I had a piece of paper decorated with a few post-it, one for each category of the items I wanted to cover (work goals, learning goals, personal goals etc).  I also had a few notes sketched down, including a few key questions.  However, preparation was in no way thorough.

The conversation went well and I thought I was on the right track with the graphic organizing I had done so I spent the morning developing the following Performance Review Conversation Template. I gave to each of my staff ahead of time and explained what it was, how it worked, and for their permission to give it a try to help structure and organize our upcoming conversations.

I would love it if you could have a look and tell me what you think.  It might be tricky to figure out without explanation so I expect some good clarification questions.

I also welcome your improvement suggestions; this piece of “art” is a work in progress as is my overall ability to host these conversations as a supervisor.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Comment below, tweet me @gsjonuk, or email me at

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2 Responses to The Art of Performance Reviews

  1. I like the overall format. Something about a nicely coloured document immediately shouts “Greg” to me. 🙂

    I found it intriguing that for each section you put the organization view first, ahead of the employees, which is an interesting decision. It might be more constructive in terms of setting the tone/parameters of each section. However, it might be perceived as putting the organization ahead of the employee.

    I know that in sales sometimes it is productive to let the customer talk first so you can learn their vocabulary and speak their language. The flow would then be the employee talking, then you talking, then the two of you working together on each 360 eval.

    Beyond that there are minor superficial things – i.e. “Anything Else” doesn’t need two capitals, you use pipes to delmit the first “Anything missing” and then not again, etc. None of this is major, particularly given that this is a dialogue document, but if you were going to share this internally you might want to give it a little bit of attention. Otherwise I wouldn’t bother.

    I think the concept of this blog post and the content is fascinating – I’m always game for feedback when it is publicly requested. 🙂

  2. gsjonuk says:

    Awesome comments Mike. You are right there that putting the organization first might cause a disengaging impact. I will have to give this some thought. I was influenced by the tight time-line I gave myself to produce this document and give it to my staff with some lead time to use it to prepare for our conversations. Also, out of in an effort to expedite things, I offered my expectations first, then asked my report if I missed anything. Normally I would have liked to have this emerge from them; however, I did this strategically to save time for the meat of the conversation.

    Thanks for your feedback Mike, I really appreciate that you took the time to read it and offer your thoughts.

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