Am I the only manager who has struggled with performance reviews? I remember one particularly dramatic mess up: my first annual review for Koby Menachemi, who at the time was our CTO and VP R&D. Koby is a remarkable person. He has exceptional personal qualities. He was totally dedicated to Seeking Alpha (he slept in the office for weeks to get a major release out on time), had built a superb team, and had achieved a ton for the company. Yet my annual review succeeded in thoroughly demotivating him. Aaaaagh!
Mess ups like that clarified for me what I should not try to achieve with a performance review:
- Not for setting goals – goal setting and tracking is too important to be left to a periodic review.
- Not for reporting on progress – people should have clear metrics which they track themselves, so their achievements should be obvious without a review.
- Not for warning about underperformance – if someone is underperforming, you should tell them immediately and not wait for a review.
- Not for discussion of a person’s weaknesses and how to fix them – people can rarely fix their key weaknesses, so focusing on them is demoralizing.
So with the reviews I’m about to do now, I have different goals:
- Listen. Ask broader questions than you get to ask in the course of a normal day’s work.
- Congratulate. Step back, view the big picture, and congratulate someone for what they’ve achieved.
- Focus. Once someone has chosen which company to work for, only one thing determines their success. In a review discussion, can you find ways to increase that?
Based on those goals, here are the questions I just asked people to answer before writing a review of them and sitting down to discuss.