Are You Giving Real-Time Performance Feedback in Business and at Work?


My good friend and colleague Joanmarie Dowling, Esq. presented to our Senior HR Leadership Group last Friday on a timely and frankly aggravating topic: “Why You Should Scrap Your Annual Performance Review Process.”

Frankly, the annual performance review process in any organization is aggravating for all of us – managers, employees and HR. Because the best way to give, receive and ask for performance feedback is in real-time, just after or as performance milestones occur – both stellar and substandard. Waiting a year to tell me at my annual performance review that I did a great job saving you a half a million dollars is anti-climatic and diminishing, just as waiting a year to tell you during your annual performance review that you need coaching on business writing is at best evasive and at worst downright abusive.

The best manager of my career, Bill, was the master of real-time performance feedback, and I was blessed to have Bill as my manager / coach early in my HR career. First, Bill’s premise for giving me performance feedback was crystal-clear: he told me that he believed in me and my talents, and that I was promotable as an HR executive – he cared about me as a person and a professional, so he had me at hello. Consequently, he informed me, he would be coaching me to reach / exceed my promotability potential. And because Bill secured my trust with his baseline commitment and vision as my mentor, I was able to fully accept and integrate his wonderful coaching and feedback.

And indeed, Bill coached me. Some days, on an hourly basis. His commitment to my success often exceeded my own commitment. We’d leave a meeting, and Bill would pull me aside and begin.  “Great meeting,” he would say to me. “Just a few points I’d like to coach you on.” One day, I reached my saturation point. “Bill, I’ve had enough coaching for today,” with a bit of a groan.  Bill would not relent, and he coached me anyway. And I’m so glad he did. I attribute a great deal of my career success to Bill’s commitment, caring and (most importantly) courage as my coach / manager. And by the way:  he also succeeded in getting me promoted – his greatest source of accomplishment as a manager.

And the beauty of Bill’s coaching is that when he delivered my one-page annual performance review (another wonderful best practice that I advocate to this day, if organizations really want to do annual reviews), it was not a surprise: it was a summary (e.g., documentation) of the feedback Bill had given me the entire prior year, marking our joint progress as mentor and mentee.

How will you coach your employees in real-time to support your shared success, in business and at work?

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