Life-Giving Performance Reviews: Expressing the Middle Issues

All human environments that are worth anything choose to self reflect. Self-reflection always makes us better and always helps us transcend our ingrained bad habits.  Show me somebody who refuses evaluate, and I will see—beyond their foundational nobility—stunted growth.  When I hear of organizations who forget to evaluate their employees, without a good strategy, it makes me more than a little sad. But doing bad reviews are even worse than doing none at all.

Do reviews; but do them in a way that breathes life into the human you employ.

First, set up a rhythm and clear expectations. I schedule six month reviews with every person I lead formally— no matter how big or small their role. I say to all who enter into a formal relationship with me that we will use these reviews to see if our expectations are on course and to share “medium-sized concerns.”

What are medium-sized concerns? “If you have a big problem with me or your job”, I say to those I work with, “tell me yesterday”.  “If you have something small that we need to address.  Tell me today, or maybe tomorrow.”  But those in-between issues, those half-way endearing quirks of your co-worker, can grow much bigger or smaller depending on how you handle them. If you share medium-sized issues too quickly, they  appear larger than they should. Examples: the way you forget to let me know sometimes that our weekly meeting is postponed, the ways that you forget to clean up after yourself in the kitchen, your recalcitrance to anything new.  These all annoy me but not that much. If I said something, it would only get blown out of proportion. That’s why we tend not to share medium issues with one another. And yet we cannot underestimate the medium-sized problems; they don’t go away. They endure. So write them down and save them up for a six-month review session prepared for the safe sharing of medium-sized stuff.

Finally during your well-cherished six-month review, the superior should always ask for their employee to self-review first.  Most people know exactly what issues they carry into their work and are eager to beat you to the punch. Let them. It will save you a lot of heartache.  As the reviewer, your job first is to listen well, take notes, and reflectively listen.  Very often you will find that your list of medium-sized issues gets mostly covered. If your employee cannot self reflect, teach them to and reschedule your meeting for next week. If they come back empty handed, it’s time to let them go.

After your employee successfully self reflects, you may have a few more things to say that your employee may not be able to see about themselves. But what you have now is their own language to help you explain some of your own-medium sized issues with your employee.  Always spring-board off of what they have already shared. There’s nothing better as an employer than to discover that your employee understands their significant issues already. And always invite your employee to review you through your superior. You can let them know that if they have any issues with you that you want them to tell you supervisor. You want to get better yourself. If you have no supervisor, you are dictator. You need a supervisor.

You can find a few good tools online to help you get started reviewing a human in a life-giving way, but the easiest way is to start with a few key questions.

  • What are you loving about your role?
  • What do you find yourself growing weary with?
  • And what do you think about your growth edges?

Be a part of a people who self-reflect regularly. And do it with class.

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