I continually hear from employees that their performance evaluation wasn't a valuable developmental experience. I always ask, "Did you learn what you do well and should continue doing? And did you find out at least one thing you could be doing that would help you be more effective?" Only about 10% of the people I ask will answer “yes” to that question.
Formal reviews don't always reveal the most important information
Part of the problem is that most managers will avoid discussing performance issues that are related to behavior. It's more comfortable to talk about tangible job responsibilities, skills and goals. There may be a critical issue that is never brought up because the manager is afraid of your reaction or may lack the ability to translate it into the right words.
When it comes right down to it you should be walking away with at least one clearly defined key developmental area needing additional focus.
Lack of performance feedback: an all-too-common story
An employee approached me after one of my workshops about a lack of feedback. He was taken aback at his last performance review because there were many areas for improvement. He made a commitment to work diligently towards meeting expectations.
About four months into the new performance cycle he asked his boss, "So, have you seen any progress? How do you think I'm doing?" His boss said, "You're doing better." End of conversation.
Fast forward eight months later; it's performance review season again and the employee is worried about another bad review. He received zero valuable feedback from his boss throughout the year about whether he was on track with his goals or what skills he needed to work on.
Employees: the two key questions you should ask your manager
Here is my advice for how to get the most out of your performance evaluation discussion, and how to encourage regular feedback from your manager:
Set the stage by saying something like:
"It's important that I get a sense of what's working, what should continue and what I can do to be even more effective in my role.”
Then follow that up with these two questions:
- Tell me one thing I'm doing well and should continue with.
- Tell me one thing I could do that will help me be more effective.
Asking these questions is tantamount to saying:
"I don't want to wait for performance review time, I want to know this information now, because it’s information I need to grow and develop. And by the way, you have permission to share your thoughts with me.”
According to a Mercer survey on performance management, only six
percent of managers are skilled at having candid conversations about
performance and just 14 percent are skilled when it comes to managing formal
Initiate the conversation by asking questions phrased with the "Tell me one thing about..."
Avoid asking general questions, such as, "So how do you think I'm doing?" General questions result in general answers – which are not helpful.
Repeat these two questions as needed
Ask these two questions about your performance more than just once per year. Ask monthly or quarterly or whenever you feel you need the information.
That way you have time to work on any areas for development well in advance of a formal review. Equally important, you will know what you are doing well and build greater confidence.