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Did Your Team Deliver For You in 2011?

It’s the end of the year and an excellent time to assess how your team has worked for you and for your business over the past year. But take a structured approach to reviewing staff performance, using these Ten Top Tips to make it easier for you.

1. Be prepared
Set a date for the appraisal and stick to it. Cancelling or postponing it could convey the message that it is not that important. Allow plenty of time for preparation in advance of the meeting.

2. Book a meeting room
or space where any discussion will not be overheard and where you will not be interrupted. Switch off your mobile phone and ensure somebody else fields your calls, and allocate a reasonable period of time for the meeting.

3. Don’t do all the talking
Employ interviewing and coaching skills of listening and questioning. A good indication is that you as owner manager should be doing about 20% of the talking.

4. Celebrate accomplishments
Starting with a blank pad of paper, note down the individual’s accomplishments in the past quarter. Ask the person what was achieved and write each item down, no matter how small. People have a tendency to describe their own achievements in humble terms. Change their language to truly reflect the size / importance of each success.

5. Demonstrate that you have been paying attention
People forget, overlook or are not aware that things they have done were important. Managers often fail to give feedback in real time, too. Search your memory banks for these achievements and add them to the list. Focus particularly on soft skills such as team building, negotiating and conflict resolution which merit mention even though they will never be set as anyone’s objectives. They will feel valued and have a better appreciation for what is important to you as a result.

6. Prepare well in advance
If you need to raise difficult issues prepare well in advance with the objective of seeking positive outcomes. Encourage staff to find their own solutions and aim to strike a balance in your appraisal – don’t focus on the negative aspects.

7. Negotiate areas for employee improvement
Ask the employee what he / she would like to work on in the next quarter. Don’t limit topics to the four corners of the job description. Career concerns and life balance are also legitimate topics. If the individual has not mentioned an area which you would like to have prioritised, verbally add it to the list stating the benefit the person will derive from making the change(s) you envisage. Negotiate one or two items that the person will commit to work on in order of priority. No one can effectively focus on more than two behaviours or skills at a time.

8. Set measurable, time limited goals
The number one reason for employee disillusionment with their performance appraisal is not knowing what is expected of them. “I didn’t know” can range from a total absence of stated objectives at one end of the scale; to goals that are stated in subjective or undefined terms at the other. When you draft objectives, ask yourself if each one contains a completion date and is measurable, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Explain how you will know the goal has been achieved – what do you need to hear, see or receive, to know it has been achieved. People will work towards expectations – whenever they are set. If you set high expectations, employees will meet them. By the same token, if you set low expectations, those will be met too!

9. Keep a record
At the end of the meeting, sum up the key points covered and agree an action plan. Don’t wait for the next appraisal to come round to ensure that key issues are tackled and resolved.

10. Do it again next quarter, starting in 2012
Now you both know what to expect and will be prepared for the next discussion. Be sure to note progress on next quarter’s list of accomplishments. As the process is repeated during the coming year, the time required for each review will diminish because the habit is ingrained. You will have the opportunity to take timely corrective actions or award incentives. Best of all, quarterly feedback sessions take the edge off of annual reviews. Employees know how their performance is perceived and managers give ample notice and opportunity for employee development and growth.

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