What Every Manager Ought To Know About Performance Reviews


In this guide we will expose the common mistakes that managers make and then give you a foolproof agenda for the most constructive discussions at a performance review. No matter where you work, or what type of people you work with, this guide should put to rest the disastrous, old fashioned “appraisal”.


  • The unconscious mistakes that managers make
  • Setting the agenda – 10 key steps
  • Other useful resources

The unconscious mistakes that managers make

1. Delivering a judgement.

Remember school reports? No one likes just being told how bad they are.

2. Talking too much.

Follow the 80/20 rule; that means the manager should talk 20% of the time and the employee 80%. Just get some good questions together and off we go.

3. Making assumptions.

We think we know why someone is behaving in a certain way and we think we know what’s good for them. We may well be right, on the other hand assumptions can be very dangerous. Either way the employee is more likely to react well if they believe the manager has been fair.

4. Last, but certainly not least: Going through the official form with a tick box approach.

Your company may have the greatest form in the world but put it to one side and have an adult, constructive discussion, then fill the form in. The discussion is more important than the form. Besides if you have talked about an issue it will be easy to then put it on paper. Create your own agenda. Don’t let the tail (form) wag the dog (quality discussion).

Setting The Agenda – 10 Key Steps

1              Describe the agenda and time frame.

2              Agree the key skills for the job role at the beginning.

E.g. What are the key skills in your view? What are the priorities of the job?

Agree an up to date job description. Have past objectives been achieved? Was any training useful? These all get the person talking about the job role not their personality or fit. It is also an early opportunity to check that you both agree on what is important in the job. Better that misunderstanding is discovered early in the discussion.

3              Identify all strengths. Make sure you cover them all and why they are key to the role.

4              Use open questions relevant to the situation.

Aim to stick to the 80/20 rule; you do only 20% of the talking.

5              Move on to areas for improvement or development.

e.g. what don’t you like about the job? Is the job getting easier or more difficult?

6              Don’t discuss other people.

7              Encourage the employee to consider the effect of their actions.

e.g. what effect does that have on X?

8              If good questions are not working then suggest ideas for them to consider. If they still can’t see a problem or solution then tell them.

9              Get agreement to objectives; even grudging agreement. These are the steps forward.

10           What are their hopes for the future and career aspirations? What can be done to achieve these goals within your remit at work? Are they realistic?


Download the free ebooklet here and share with colleagues.

In our video How To Conduct A Performance Review (part 1 – establishing the skills gaps) the employee is already cynical about the value of performance reviews because of past experience, probably because previous managers did not structure the discussion correctly. He is one of many who say “what’s in it for me?” when they should be thinking about how they add value to the organisation rather than the other way round.

Despite having some useful strengths, he is keeping his head down and not sharing information or knowledge with others. In truth he is quite negative and inflexible.

Watch how the manager builds the questions to help the employee establish his own skills gaps. In the How To Conduct A Performance Review (part 2) video you will see the second part of the discussion, which focuses on how to agree objectives.

In our elearning module The Constructive Performance Review we combine videos with some interactive exercises to give more depth in helping you structure effective discussions and agree performance objectives. This ebook has covered the basics of constructive performance reviews but it’s only the beginning.

We’ve been building our leadership and management development business, elconsulting, for over 20 years now. During that time, we’ve been fortunate to enjoy a lot of success but we’ve also made our share of mistakes.

What if you could benefit directly from our years of experience and avoid those mistakes?

We’ve got something to share with you. We call it eltalking, the people management toolbox, and it’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done.

This is just the first in a series of regular ebooklets that we can deliver straight to your inbox. Just sign up (email address only…we don’t  ask for all your details)at the bottom on the right.

The next one is “10 Ways To Please The Boss” …. now that would be worth sharing.

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