I just spoke with some professionals who shared their anxiety and dread for upcoming performance reviews. These were people whose performance will be reviewed; those conducting the reviews were equally fretful.

Why all the gloom? Answer: who likes talking about personal and professional shortcomings?



The savvy leaders reading this will laugh: the performance reviews they participate in are small affairs; they have established communication with those above and below them where information flows fully, freely, and is two-way. Therefore, the performance review becomes merely an activity to satisfy HR.



What does this mean for the rest of us? Build and nurture communication year-round with those we see in our performance reviews — above or below — so that performance reviews become physicals, and not autopsies (figuratively speaking, of course).

Also, in your upcoming performance review, here’s a challenge: drop the word “but.” “You’ve done a nice job here, but,” is outdated, caustic, and reflects someone who hasn’t stretched their own leadership skills.

Instead, use a clear statement that discloses two things:

1. What’s important (Example: “It’s vital that you further develop your communication skills…”)

2. Why it’s important (Example: “…because this will impact all your project leadership work.”)

That’s it. In one sentence, address the need. And then do something exceptional leaders do: honor the person you’re in the room with. How? Ask them for their thoughts.  (Example: “What plans do you have to move forward in your communications with others? What do you think will be the greatest rewards by improving in this area?”)

People are smarter than we give them credit for. What do you think?

What is the difference between what “might be” and what “can be”? You decide.


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