I don’t like formal performance reviews. I find them awkward and unproductive. But I do think it’s important to get and give feedback. I do that with the people who report to me by discussing their progress with them on a regular basis. I call these interactions three-question reviews. I ask:
- How are you doing?
- What is your biggest challenge right now?
- How can I help you do a better job?
In answering these questions, my fellow interlocutor will usually identify his own strengths and weaknesses. This makes it easier for me to provide critical input. I feel like I’m coaching rather than criticizing. In fact, that’s how I think of it. The employee has to carry the ball. All I can do is hand it to him and encourage him to go.
The first time you try a three-minute review it might seem artificial. But after a few times, it will become a low-stress, high-return habit. And you’ll notice the benefits immediately. You’ll both have more clarity about your goals and how they need to be achieved.
When you’re giving a three-question review, it’s important to have positive feelings about the employee while you are discussing his problems and shortcomings. Get the frustration out of your head before you start talking. Think, “I really like this person and want him to succeed.”
When you’re the one being reviewed — either formally or through this method — it’s important to listen actively. That means paying close attention to what is being said, repeating key phrases, and asking questions when you have them. And maintain a humble mindset. Think, “It’s okay to be imperfect. I will get better in the future.” Look at the criticism you get as an opportunity to improve yourself. Thank your boss at the end.[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]