How to Review a Human Part 4 of 4: Give the Review Away

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One of the most important elements of any review conversation is what happens afterwards. Whether it was a conversation about compensation or caring, a difficult conversation or a celebratory one, most reviews die the moment they’re over.

It’s partly because of the setup: an over-engineered process and a lack of preparation and compassion around the message delivery. And then there’s another reason.

The typical review lacks the most important step: moving the conversation to a place where the individual has taken personal ownership and accountability around the messages.

A review that doesn’t lead to positive behavioral change is a waste of time. Similar to any other goal — be it around fitness, finances, or relationships — positive behavioral change happens over time and through sustained effort. In the context of people leadership, even if your employee agrees with the performance messages, that change will only occur because of one factor: who owns the need for change?

Below is a list of questions you can ask to spark personal accountability. They focus on shifting the review conversation to a dialogue. Now additional clarity and new insights can emerge around what specifically needs to change and what that change will look like. The tactics for how they’re going to do it come last.

The most effective way to accomplish this, much like the  pre-flight check-in, is to break up the performance message delivery from the follow-up conversation. As you’re wrapping up the performance review conversation, start the the process of handing it over, counterintuitively, by not ending the conversation. Here’s how:

Before your next one-on-one, ask the individual to rewrite their review using their own words. Here are five questions you can invite them consider:

  1. What do I agree with? Why?

  2. What do I disagree with? Why?

  3. What do I think is missing from the report in terms of context or other relevant factors that influenced my performance?

  4. What’s the thing I most need to work on? Is this something I was aware of before this conversation? How would staying at the same level on this issue impact me professionally and personally?

  5. What is my plan to make a meaningful step forward on this growth theme in the next 90 days?

In part one of the series, we focused on your role as a leader. It’s important to remember that you played a key role in their performance. How you show up to the review conversation is an extension of that responsibility. In parts two and three we explored how to frame the conversation with someone who is struggling or doing “okay”, as well as with your top performers.

And today we’ve talked about how to let that review conversation keep working after it’s over, by making sure you transition ownership to the only person in the world who can do anything with it — your team member.

Getting your review conversations right takes effort, time and attention. By investing your energy in the process and using it to drive personal growth on your team, you’ll be doing something far more important for the organization and far more valuable for your career:  becoming the leader your team is waiting for.

Jonathan Raymond