Performance reviewing

2 people talking across a table in cafe

Most Leaders don’t use performance reviewing properly and the performance of those they lead suffers as a result.

55% of people don’t think their performance reviews are effective*. And that’s the ones who actually have one.

Be one of the few that does performance reviewing properly.

*Source: Global Workforce Leadership Survey.

Reading time: 4 minutes

What goes on

Three really toxic things have happened to performance reviewing in a lot of organisations.

Firstly, performance reviewing has become an event, known as “performance reviews”. The result is that the opportunity for learning and getting back on course is pretty awful.

Secondly, the performance review “process” is owned or run by someone other than the performer, whose performance it actually is. The result is that there’s a reduced sense of responsibility for performance.

Thirdly, money and status are too often attached to the result of a performance review. The only “result” of a performance review should be superb learning that makes a real impact.

Five Performance Truths

  1. Performance reviewing is a verb. Performance Review is a noun. In high performance arenas, the verb is the truth. Performance reviewing is a consistent behaviour that happens several times a day, without it being labelled anything.
  2. The driving force behind performance reviewing should be the performer. It’s their performance, they own it and have responsibility for it. Leaders, coaches and colleagues can provide useful input but they don’t own it.
  3. High quality performance reviewing is a learning obsession, whether the result has been good, bad or indifferent. The passion is about learning what led to the result, so wins get reviewed as much as losses.
  4. Great performance reviews need a mindset that’s open, curious and ready to learn. So everything is done to remove negative stress, fear, anxiety and pressure from the conversation. As a result, it’s not linked to money, promotion, prizes or anything else other than learning.
  5. Performance reviewing is seen as part of the performance, not something that happens if there’s time. Simply, the performance is not complete until it’s been reviewed. Particularly the important ones

Three things to do

  1. If your organisation has a process that supports performance reviewing then you’re in luck. If there’s no process or it’s a bit rubbish, or if it’s tied to pay and reward, then worry not. Remember that nothing stops you talking about performance in the way that’s most useful for you.
  2. If you work in an organisation where there’s little or no performance reviewing or the process is a bit rubbish, then think about ways in which you might be able to change things. Maybe by suggesting you test out a new approach or referring them to all the great insight about performance that’s here on The Performance Room.
  3. Start taking control of your own performance review. Make sure you’ve looked at the tools and guides on The Performance Room about talking performance and together with the tool in this kitbag, you’ll be ready to lead your own review.


Nicole’s story

Nicole loved her work and hated her performance reviews. They only happened once a year and they seemed to be all about her having to prove that she was doing a good job while her manager pointed out the stuff that wasn’t so great about her work. It really upset her and the days leading up to her review really stressed her out.

So she decided to take a bit of control. She examined her own performance, came up with a comprehensive plan together with goals and milestones and before the next review she shared it all with her manager. He was delighted that she’d done all this work and said that it had made his life a lot easier. They had a much more open conversation about performance and because Nicole had taken time to think about it in such an open and non-defensive way, her manager actually started to talk about using her strengths more widely. The process is still a bit rubbish and her manager still does his performance reviews the old way with most people, though Nicole feels good by taking more control.