How many times have you been on the receiving end of ‘the talk’ – the leadership skills performance appraisal ‘talk’, that is?

Well, I have been given this talk every year for as long as I have been in the workforce. Sometimes, ‘the talk’ is effective and based on honest evaluation of expected performance. Other times, it was a less than desirable experience.

This is the time of year when leaders schedule meetings to review performance from the prior year. These meetings should focus on a series of actions that may result in a more effective discussion regarding team member performance.

This article will provide many considerations designed to make ‘the talk’ more effective and less stressful for leaders and team members.

Leadership Skills Rating

Many companies conduct employee-rating reviews. Often called performance appraisals, these meetings are designed to assess what performance objectives were met by the team member throughout the year.

This is necessary, since an employee may positively or negatively impact performance based on demonstrated behaviors.

The result of an employee’s good performance could be increased production, customer growth and an enjoyable work environment. However, poor employee performance may result in just the opposite. One of the tools used to gauge employee performance throughout the year is a performance appraisal.

For such a performance process to be successful, a review of their observations must take place throughout the year.

Evaluation of Performance

Performance appraisals capture expectations that are agreed upon by the employer and team member at the beginning of the year.

This action involves reviewing specific actions that the employee will be responsible for accomplishing. During the meeting, leaders also identify coaching actions that will be a necessary factor in employee goal achievement.

Another component of the meeting involves evaluation of performance from the previous year. During the appraisal meeting, the employer discusses several aspects impacting performance that may determine compensation increases and other awards.

This system only works when clearly defined, measurable goals are set and revisited several times over an outlined time frame. Most time frames include a 12-month evaluation period with meetings held each quarter to ensure all parties involved have full awareness of performance.

Does the Performance Appraisal Process Work?

While the brief description provided above works in theory, the evolution of performance appraisal systems has come full circle due to many concerns brought forward by team members who feel previous reviews were highly subjective and inconsistent.

Many companies have experienced legal issues regarding performance appraisal processes due to lack of fairness, biased, opinionated reviews, and inconsistency in documentation and discussion of observed behaviors.

To reduce the likelihood of unwanted legal issues, it is important that the employer keep a listing of records on the employee’s performance throughout the year.

This will help during follow-up meetings and serve as a guideline for both the employee and employer to identify areas of improvement and skills the employee currently performs based on company objectives.

So How Am I Doing Coach?

To maintain the integrity of the review process, leaders must incorporate specific behaviors that they have observed and share the complete performance appraisal method with team members.

Doing so removes the veil of stress and allows the team member to actively participate in the process throughout the year. This approach in performance reviews also helps answer in questions prior to the year-end meeting thus building trust with the leader.

Scheduling discussions throughout the year to align the employee’s actual performance with his or her performance objectives is an important component of identifying the actions needed to either maintain or improve performance.

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Integrity First

Successful performance appraisals are free from subjectivity, personal attitudes toward an employee, and actions that may potentially violate Title VII.

Subjectivity in performance appraisals is common when the leader fails to set clear guidelines or expectations on competencies or skills that the team member should demonstrate.

Another common gap in the employee evaluation process involves situations where the leader either does not engage in timely address of performance challenges in time to correct inappropriate behavior.

In my observation, I have observed many leaders who chose to overlook performance issues altogether.

Don’t Even Think About Winging It

Inconsistencies found in traditional performance appraisals occur when the leader does not properly document observed behavior and coaching notes.

It is never a good option to “wing it” while capturing information for the performance appraisal.

Keep good notes throughout the year and encourage team members to capture notes during discussions. These discussions may include formal coaching, on the spot coaching, training performance documents, career progression discussions, and letters from clients.

This information is likely biased if no formal notes were taken throughout the year on the employee’s performance. In either case, the process is severely unfair for the employee.

Consider This

One other factor in the success of the performance appraisal system is the ability for leaders to develop employees.

In an effort to maintain a focus on fair treatment and balanced opportunity for all employees, leaders must use multiple styles of leadership.

According to Marlow (1997), leadership is responsible for not only setting appropriate organizational expectations, but also for engaging in the creation of the team vision and individual goal setting.

When leaders become an integral part of the team culture and understand the developmental and organizational needs, they are more capable of assessing a plan of action for improved performance behavior.

One way to achieve an improved level of organizational health is to implement a style of leadership that uses stimulation to promote team creativity to achieve goals. The leader provides an example of how the followers should maintain a productive environment.

Additionally, team members are encouraged to empower themselves by considering individual and collection needs.

This action creates a sense of accountability for both the collective employee group as well as leaders. The attention given from the leader to the employee further promotes a culture of high performance across the organization.

Immediate Benefit

Performance appraisals given by leaders who demonstrate an active role in the team member development offer benefits for the entire organization.

The immediate benefit is personal success for the employee. Both the leader and employee experience growth due to the flexibility to adapt to organizational needs necessary to achieve company goals.

Leaders who are aware of providing a successful performance model for team members to follow may often results in improved performance, motivated team members and a stress-free performance appraisal environment.

How Do You Give Performance Appraisals?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Florida Starks
Dr. Florida E. Starks is an Area Training Manager at Verizon. With more than 22 years in corporate higher education, her primary objective is managing new hire training, continuing education initiatives, employee on boarding, and enterprise change strategy.