July 2010

Shannon Wells

Better Business | by Neil Ducoff


What’s Not Being Said during Performance Reviews

One of my favorite Neilisms is, “Do you do quarterly performance reviews at least once a year?”

When I use it during my presentations, there is a reason why it always gets a chuckle. No matter how you view the process of performance reviews, there exists an inherent confrontational element.

The intent of performance reviews is not only for issuing praise for outstanding work, it’s also to discuss behaviors and skills that need improvement. In addition, let’s not forget the most uncomfortable part -- to communicate performance and behavior that is unacceptable and must stop.

Issuing praise and accolades is the joyous reward of leadership, but dispensing the not-so-fun disciplinary stuff is just as important. Often, the muck of emotions and fear of confrontation blocks the passage of vital information to the employee.

Performance reviews are formal opportunities to guide and coach salon / spa employees to reach their full potential. The perspective that reviews are “confrontational” is created entirely by the leader responsible for conducting the reviews. And until the leader can shift his or her thinking back to the healthier “guide and coach” aspect, the process of conducting performance reviews will continue be painful, ineffective, and without question, detrimental to the employee, the company and its culture.

Here are some no-compromise strategies to keep performance reviews in the proper perspective:

Properly set the table: Take the drama and uncertainty out of your performance reviews by informing employees how they will be evaluated and what topics, performance and issues will be discussed. Detail how the review will be conducted -- that it will be open, respectful and allow both parties to express their views safely. The “not knowing” is what fuels stress. Given this, you may want to re-introduce performance reviews to your employees.

Use evaluation tools that allow the right conversations to occur: At Strategies, we encourage the use of Broadbands and evaluation tools to serve as a checklist of talking points. For example, under the heading of “dependability and accountability,” you can ask the employee how he would rate himself on a scale of one to ten. If he rates himself higher than you would, you instantly have the basis to open dialog where you can say, “That’s interesting because I rated you a bit lower because of ...” Tools keep you on course and allow the right conversations to occur.

Keep the focus on the desired outcome: Without question, one-on-one performance reviews are stressful and emotional. However, consider this; the intention is to establish and clarify the mutual accountabilities and next-steps for employee and company success. Sensitive issues may need to be addressed, but with success as the desired outcome, performance reviews should be embraced as positive and necessary course adjustments, not dreaded confrontations to be avoided.

Recordkeeping and accountability: These are two of the most common post-performance review pitfalls. First, you must maintain accurate records of each and every performance review detailing what was discussed, what the next steps and expectations are -- complete with timelines. Second, too many leaders expect all to be right with the world after a performance review. It’s the leader’s responsibility to hold the employee accountable -- to check in and see if the employee is making progress or is stuck and in need of coaching, guidance and support.

Performance reviews are essential elements to employee growth, retention and nurturing of the company culture. If your reviews are incomplete and leave essential performance issues unaddressed, it’s called compromise and your company’s performance is paying a price.

Neil Ducoff is the founder and CEO of Strategies, a business training and coaching salon specializing in the salon and spa industry. Ducoff is the author of Fast Forward, and his new book, No-Compromise Leadership, is available at www.amazon.com. For a signed copy, go to www.strategies.com You can email Neil at neil@strategies.com.