Writing and delivering effective performance reviews is one of, if not the most important thing that a manager will ever do. Many supervisors whom I’ve coached on this task view performance reviews as an interruption, even a hassle. Before learning the techniques to prepare for and deliver a review, there is a guiding principle that needs to be understood.

Performance reviews lead to the path to improvementAs a manager, you share in the successes and failures of the people who report to you. Making them a success is the #1 priority in your job as their supervisor. You’re no longer an individual contributor. It’s all about them (your staff) now. If you think that you can deliver more by doing things yourself and not developing your staff, you don’t belong in management. Without your feedback, they will never improve to the point where they can reach their potential.

There should be no surprises on a performance review. This is not the time to catch an employee off guard and make them feel “beat up” on. Effective managers give constant feedback, both good and bad. No one should ever come into performance evaluation and be hit with things that they need to work on without having first heard about those items in a one-on-one meeting. Everyone deserves a chance to improve upon their behaviors BEFORE shortcomings are put in writing in an official evaluation. Review your notes on the feedback you’ve already given. This should make writing the review much easier.

Read the review from an outsider’s perspective. After you’ve written the review, take a step back and reread it as though you don’t know the person. Do your comments match your ratings (provided your reviews have a rating system)? Have you provided sufficient detail to support both your positive and negative comments? If the review might appear unfair to someone who didn’t know the employee, you need to revisit what you’ve written and added more detail.

Review the behavior – not the person. Your feedback needs to be tied to performance measures, not an individual’s personality. Saying that someone “has a bad attitude” or that they are “not a team player” is very inadequate feedback. This will only upset the employee, and it will give them no real guidance on how to improve. Be specific. What actions took place that made you feel that they have a bad attitude? What specific things do they need to improve upon to be a team player in your organization?