Want to give effective performance reviews as a first-time manager? Here are five steps to help leaders of small teams.
5 Steps to Performance Reviews for a First-Time Manager
- Mission and Values: Define the purpose of work and create alignment.
- Define Roles: Provide clarity of how the role contributes to the team.
- Evaluation: Create accountability and set expectations for how performance is assessed.
- Discussion: Require joint participation for discovery and growth.
- Planning: Take ownership in defining growth and success moving forward.
Mission and Values
The foundation of team performance starts with your company’s mission and values. The mission defines who you’re helping (customer), why you’re helping (need), and how you’re helping (product/service). Defining the mission helps team members understand the purpose behind their role. They are part of the team helping serve and provide a solution to the customer.
The values define and guide the behavior for achieving the mission. They are the pillars for your company culture. Values are filters for decision making when hiring, taking on projects, and developing partnerships. Team members live the values and it shows in their work. Thus performance assessment needs to be tied to the values to ensure accountability.
What does this look like in everyday work? “Lead with Excellence” is one of my values. This value challenges me to lead by example, walk the talk, execute with intention. It’s the difference between completing a project well versus a mediocre effort to just check it off my list. It can be measured in the quality of content I create. While quality can be subjective, the value can be measured in shares, comments, new subscribers, conversions, etc.
Clarity of performance expectations helps team members excel in their roles. While job descriptions are not all-encompassing they should define the importance of the role and performance expectations. Briefly summarize the role and how it contributes to the success of the team and business. Then outline key performance objectives with bullet points. A well-written job description not only attracts ideal team members but is a resource when evaluating performance. A resource for you and the team member.
When performance expectations are not clearly defined it can discourage team members. A lack of guidance and a clear path for success insinuates they aren’t important. When they don’t feel valued they start to look for places where they will be valued. It is easy to not make this a priority when you have so many other things on your plate. I’ve been there and learned the hard way. Your team is your first customer. Invest in them. Make the time to define their roles. Be the leader who sets your team up for success.
Evaluation of Roles
Accountability for performance helps your team grow. Defining and measuring their performance encourages the growth of their career and your business. It acknowledges their work to reinforce positive behavior and correct negative behavior. Acknowledging and reinforcing positive behavior encourages it to be repeated. Negative behavior provides an opportunity for coaching, training, and additional resources. Identifying negative behavior isn’t reflective of a team member’s character. We all, including myself, have behaviors to improve.
In the absence of feedback, people will fill in the blanks with a negative. They will assume you don’t care about them or don’t like them.Pat Summitt
The frequency of evaluations will vary depending on the purpose and depth of the discussion. A mix of weekly, monthly, and annually are helpful for ensuring focus and achievement of goals.
- Weekly is best for immediate coaching, encouragement, and feedback.
- Monthly provides consistent performance updates. It reinforces where they stand in relation to achieving annual goals and if they need to recalibrate.
- Annual is for defining performance goals for the year.
Weekly can be delivered verbally or written. Monthly and annually is done best face-to-face for joint participation. It’s an opportunity for both of you to learn and grow.
If you already have a lot on your plate, the frequency may seem daunting. A simple way to look at frequency is to imagine you’re going on a road trip.
- Before you leave, you will map out your drive (annual review).
- During the trip, you will encounter road signs to guide you to your destination (weekly check-ins).
- Along the way you will stop to rest, fuel-up, and recalibrate (monthly 1:1).
The success of your team is dependent on how much you invest in their development. Your team’s engagement with customers is a reflection of how they feel about their role. When they feel valued and important, they perform accordingly.
Discussing Performance Reviews
Coaching performance requires a joint discussion. In order for team members to excel, they need to take ownership of their success. Let them talk while you listen. You can do this by asking questions to help them reflect on their performance and what they need to succeed. Take notes when they talk. This serves two purposes 1) shows them they’re important and 2) helps you document what’s important to them. The notes then serve as a resource for what needs to be followed up. In addition, letting them talk allows you to understand things from their perspective and reduce assumptions.
This is what I observed…. tell me what happened from your perspective? What am I missing?
In the meeting identify action items and schedule time to follow-up. This encourages accountability and helps you both be on the same page.
Planning for a First-Time Manager
Success requires taking ownership of your growth. As a first-time manager, this is taking ownership for empowering your team members. For team members, this requires them taking ownership of how they will excel in their role. What will they do to achieve their goals?
When goal planning, keep in mind that goals should further the mission and align with the values. Goals will serve the growth of the team member and the business. This requires preparation work for both you and the team member.
As a leader, define the business goals. Next, determine how each role plays a part in achieving the goal. Then decide how you will measure the progress towards achieving the goal. The measurements will be determined by what is important to you. If customer relationships are part of your values, what is your desired retention or renewal rate? How many referrals are generated? What is the average rating of your reviews? How you decide to measure progress is up to you and the values of your business.
Once you’ve decided it must be clearly defined and communicated so your team understands what is needed. Define what determines success (ex: met 80% of goal) vs needs improvement (frequent errors). Share relevant policies, processes, and templates for execution. List the tools and resources they may need. These details empower your team’s efforts.
For team members, encourage them to set goals to encourage their growth. Is there a project they want to develop and lead? Do they want to help mentor a peer? Is there a skill they want to develop and what resources do they need? Career development is about the employee and helping them grow whether they choose to stay or not. Giving your team autonomy to create their own goals is empowering for them and drives innovation in your business.
The key to goal planning is creating a clear path for your team to succeed. The coaching, conversations, and evaluations help provide momentum for forward progress.
Taking the time to work through these 5 steps helps you give performance reviews that benefit your team and the business. If you need additional support or have questions, send me a message. Wishing you and your team the best this year!
What would you add for performance reviews to help a first-time manager?