Feedback is not always easy to give. Or receive. Take the story of the CEO who went in to give his head of sales his annual performance review and found the office cleaned out. Turns out the head of sales left a "note" in his drawer saying that he coudn't face the performance evalution he was expecting he would get. This is a bit extreme. Hopefully, your experiences have not been this dramatic.
But let's assume you have never given performance feedback, like about 60% of all bosses. If you need to create a performance evaluation from scratch, take the person’s job description and break it down into categories. Try not to list more than 12 or 15 areas at the outside. If you have no job description available, search the job title on the internet with the words “job description” included, e.g., “VP of Marketing job description”. Pull out the parts that apply to the role and break it down into categories. Be sure to include soft skills such as influence or conflict management if they apply. If you are reviewing a person in customer service, for example, friendliness and communication skills would be top priorities on the soft side.
Next, either have the person do a self-assessment or include as many people as realistic in evaluating the person in the time allotted. The people to include can be the manager, peers, direct reports or any other stakeholders who know the person well. A simple evaluation can include a rating scale and a box for comments. A more complicated one can include a rating scale and associated questions. A simple 360° process can be purchased at a reasonable price through a coach. (The cost can be as low as $100/person.) A 360° is so named because it takes evaluation information from 360° around the person. It is simply a specialized type of performance review most commonly used by executives and a favorite tool of many coaches.
If you are giving feedback to a high level executive, the most common areas of improvement for executives are listed in the following table by frequency. These percentages were gathered from the hundreds of executive 360°s we have performed over the last decade in our company and in partnership with other companies.
If a person had more negative comments than positive comments in an area, it is considered a “development area”. These development areas show common themes and they are listed in the table by frequency of appearance.
Most Common Development Areas
Onboarding 12% / 88%*
Results Focus 62%
Interpersonal Skills 58%
Executive Presence 22%
*While Onboarding was only a development area in 12% total of the reports we performed, of those who had recently begun a new role, 88% needed onboarding help in their development plans.
If you need further ideas for competency areas, check out the FYI book by Korn/Ferry. Next, get ready to actually deliver the feedback, or at least talk about it after you have slipped the report surreptitiously onto your employee's desk.
Remember a few key points as you deliver the feedback:
1. Be specific. Include examples as you point out development areas.
2. Balance praise and criticism. When giving the criticism, include suggestions for improvement.
3. Expect some reactions. Allow the person receiving feedback to digest and then have a follow-on conversation after tempers or tears have cooled.
4. Don't forget a development plan. Pick one or two areas that are most important and give the person a little adivce or some tasks to handle those areas. You'd be surprised how far a little advice can go.
It's time to get going on giving some feedback and helping the 94% of your employees, so let's get started!