Managerial Courage for Performance Reviews

What is “managerial courage”?  It can mean different things depending on your situation. Some examples could be: 

  • Making a difficult decision regarding the direction of an organization.
  • Deciding when to terminate an individual who is not performing up to expectations.
  • Rolling up your sleeves to pitch in the operations of your company when there are staffing shortages or a high demand for products or services.

 All of these situations arise in business every day. The area which I feel is critical and where managerial courage needs to begin is in the performance review process. Many managers and employees dread annual performance appraisals. However, this is the time that you as a manager have the opportunity to inform and hopefully improve your employees’ performance.  The ideal situation is if an employee can improve their performance before it is too late, termination may not be necessary. There has been much discussion over the years on how companies should conduct performance reviews. One of the key takeaways is that the performance review should never take place only one time a year. There should be regular conversations between the manager and employee. Make a point of scheduling updates or check-in meetings; weekly, monthly or quarterly – and keep those appointments. Interim meetings are essential to ensure there are no surprises when the annual review discussion occurs. Regular performance discussions provide an opportunity for the employees to know where they stand.   Whether it be on the accomplishment of established goals, production quotas or sales growth. A manager needs to be honest about the employee’s shortcomings and be specific regarding where they are not meeting expectations. This allows the employee to know what they should be focusing on to make an improvement or change their current behavior. Alternatively, if there are areas where the employee is doing well, communication of those specific details can go a long way to increase the employee’s engagement. Speaking of engagement, did you know that an engaged employee will be up to five times more productive than their peers? (As reported by McKinsey & Company in a recent quarterly report.)  Gallup reported in April 2024 that the number of engaged employees has declined in the past few years with only 33% of employees indicating they are engaged at work. This would lead us to believe that almost 70% of our employees are either moderately engaged or disengaged in their work. The Gallup article also posted that 17% of employees are actively disengaged at work. Wow! Businesses have a great opportunity to change those statistics. Since so many companies are struggling to keep good employees, it is essential that managers do everything they can to keep the employees they have. It just makes sense. If your employee feels good about the work they do and knows they are adding value, they will go the extra mile for their employer. Having honest, open conversations with your employees is the only way to develop trust and encourage improvement. Through regular conversations, a manager will get to know the people on their team. If the manager has a better understanding of what the employee is going through personally, they will be more understanding and empathetic if shortcomings at work occur.  Additionally, the manager will be more willing to help the employee overcome obstacles in order to succeed. A people manager or supervisor needs managerial courage more than any other trait in order to be successful.   Open, honest, and productive conversations have benefits that will improve not only your employee’s performance, but the overall climate of your organization. It’s not easy and sometimes these conversations may be uncomfortable – but the results will be apparent. In summary here are best practices for conducting an employee review 

  • Ensure there are no surprises.  Meet regularly and document accomplishments or issues throughout the year.
  • Be objective.  Have specific examples.   Do not let your personal bias weigh into the situation.
  • Prepare a draft of the performance review ahead of time to share with the employee before your discussion.
  • Plan for and incorporate a two-way conversation and open discussion.
  • Focus on the future.  Acknowledge past shortcomings or accomplishments but focus on next steps for growth within the organization.
  • Set aside uninterrupted time in a comfortable setting.

Take the time to work on and implement managerial courage in your everyday interactions with employees it will make a difference.    I guarantee it!