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Five Tips to Make Performance Reviews Successful

Performance written on blackboard with measuring ruler

Year-end reviews, annual performance appraisals, annual review year…it doesn’t matter what you call them, they generally stress people out. What if you could prepare for and have a constructive year-end conversation that includes feedback, coaching, and recognition? All employees -- managers and non-managers -- deserve to feel a sense of accomplishment, be clear on how you can continue to grow, and be inspired to continue being valued for your contributions to Stanford’s mission.

Here are some tips for managers and non-managers to prepare for a useful conversation.

Manager Guidelines Non-Manager Guidelines
1. Set the Tone: Be clear about what will happen in the process, who does what, by what dates, and the outcome desired. Make time to write your assessment and give your employees enough time to write their self-assessments so that no one is rushed. Share your written review with the employee in advance so they can come prepared for the discussion. And, when it's time to conduct the review, be sure to find a neutral location to have the conversation. Get out from behind your desk and conduct the conversation at a location outside of your office so you are equal participants in the discussion. 1. Set your Mindset: Your review is about YOUR performance. Set your mind to take it as the feedback you deserve to hear to help you be successful. Spend time reflecting on what you have accomplished this year. Did you meet your goals? How well? What did you do to exceed expectations? Review your emails and your calendar to identify milestone successes, challenges faced, and feedback from others that supported you along the way.
2. Ask Questions and Listen Well: When it comes time to have the discussion, encourage employees to participate in the review. Do less talking yourself, and instead, ask questions to draw employees into the conversation and then listen well. 2. Prepare and Participate: Prior to your meeting, review your manager’s comments and re-read your self-review and digest what it says as a way to support your future success. Think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Prepare questions you want to ask, clarity you want to seek, and acknowledge your own success.
3. Build Connection: Help your employee see the meaning of their work and how they fit into the bigger picture of your group’s success this past year. Acknowledge the value they bring to the organization and give them an honest rating that reflects their actual contributions. 3. Build Connection: Make sure you know how you and your work supports others on your team, your manager, your department, your unit and the university’s mission.
4. Describe the Successes and Improvement Areas Concretely: Highlight the successes, especially from your perspective, linking them to what is important to the team, to the department and/or the unit/university. Don’t avoid the improvement areas, speak directly to them. Then tie improvement into supported development opportunities in the coming year. 4. Seek Clarity on Successes and Improvement Areas: Don’t settle for general feedback, be sure to ask for specifics. Make sure you understand exactly how you have been successful and how you can improve so you can increase your success.
5. Encourage Support and Development: Help your employees take their skills and contribution to the next level.  Link their growth to the expectations in their role. Share with them Stanford’s career resources.

5. Invest in Your Own Development: You heard about areas to improve and where you excel, now support your excellence in your daily work by seizing opportunities to take your contributions to the next level.

Although annual performance and mid-year reviews typically take place once (or twice) a year, it’s important to have regular discussions throughout the year on both performance and development so managers and employees may reflect on past successes and identify how to build on results and accomplishments throughout the coming year.

For more resources to prepare for the performance conversation including checklists, communication guidelines, and suggested meeting agendas for managers and non-managers, visit the Performance Management@Stanford website.

Learning at Stanford, Manager Toolkit