You’ve conquered a lot this year, from starting with strategic goals to adapting many parts of your business and life due to workplace challenges and economic changes. For many, it’s been another fast-paced, taxing year. So, what’s left to do? Evaluate and review.
Annual reviews are standard, and most senior managers don’t necessarily need to put much thought or effort into conducting one. However, it is always a good idea to get back to the basics and remember that performance reviews can be demotivating or counter-productive if not handled correctly.
Planning for the review is critical to ensure the meeting meets your objective: improvement. Your team members expect to have formalized feedback at the end of every year. As a leader, the act of reviewing a team member's performance shows respect and an interest in their development. Think back on the early years of your career. Did you have a manager who dedicated significant time and energy to your performance reviews? How did that help you become the professional you are today? On the contrary, was there ever a manager in your professional life who never told you how you were tracking? Either way, that experience should help you recognize the importance of feedback and conducting performance reviews with your team.
As with many aspects of management, there are functional and interpersonal elements you should consider when preparing for performance reviews with your team members.
- Have the sales professional conduct a self-review before your meeting. For example, send them the Key Performance Metrics you want to cover and have them fill in the appropriate data before the meeting. Or send them open-ended questions surrounding their key accomplishments, top priorities for the future, personal strengths, or ways you can better help them as their leader. This prepares your team member for their review and includes them in the process. It also allows you to discover what’s important to them and what areas you have alignment or potential disagreement with. This information is especially key when planning your conversations with team members who have several areas for improvement.
- Be specific with your feedback. “You are doing a great job prospecting” or “I’m expecting you to utilize our CRM tool more effectively” looks and sounds like feedback, but it runs the risk of coming across as your opinion. Including specific situations or scenarios where your sales professional excelled or when they needed a higher level of performance or skill will infuse facts and tangibles into the feedback.
- At Carew, we recommend that whenever you give feedback, you start with everything they do well and end with all identified areas of improvement. Most importantly, when transitioning to the areas of improvement, avoid language like “but” or “with that said.” Those throw-away phrases can make your team member feel like you are erasing all the great things you just reviewed with them.
- Follow up. This is crucial. If you agreed to help your team member with a specific aspect of their performance improvement, you must do so.
- Check-in with them as human beings. Genuinely ask how they’re doing. How are they managing their work/life balance? How are they handling any changes in their job that have resulted from workplace shifts or potential layoffs? This is important in building your relationship and getting a complete picture of their ability to grow and contribute.
- Don’t allow the year-end review to be the only time you give feedback. By the time you get to the year-end review, your direct reports should have a great idea of where they are succeeding and where their areas of improvement lie. Frequent and specific feedback (things they are doing well and areas of improvement) should be ongoing and part of your managerial style. The best feedback happens in the moment and will help you build more trust and credibility with your team.
Annual performance reviews do not have to be a daunting or dreadful task. When adequately prepared for, performance reviews are a chance for you to show your sales team members that you value them and their personal and professional development.