Performance reviews are great opportunities to educate staff and inspire them to greater achievements. The evaluator will be most successful if she can put herself in the position of mentor and coach, educating and supporting the person being evaluated—as opposed to disciplinarian and unilateral decision maker.

Effective performance reviews stick to observable facts, tell a consistent story, and are in line with the dialogue the employee has had with his supervisor over time. You never want an employee to walk out of a performance review session thinking, “Why didn’t I know about that problem before?” If one of your direct reports has failed to meet standards, you should have told her immediately and worked together to create a plan of action to correct problems.

When praise is warranted, don’t hesitate to show it, but be sure to keep your eye on the employee’s whole performance over the defined period of time; don’t let outstanding highs or lows color the entire evaluation. Remember, also, that you are rating employees against the organization’s standards of excellence, not against each other.

An engaging way of initiating performance reviews is to ask employees to evaluate themselves. Knowing how closely aligned you are in your perceptions will help you to set the tone of the review to get the best response.

Published in Associations Now, April 2007