Many of you have probably just been through year end reviews. It is that moment when shoulders drop, sighs are let out and heads sag at the prospect of completing, collating and delivering feedback.

Having been privy to numerous year end review processes, it is fair to say that too many are viewed as tick-the-box exercises to be ‘gotten out of the way’. And, the larger the organisation, the more difficult and more boring year end reviews seem to get. The organisations that manage to do things better tend to have one thing in common — a stronger ethos of developing and supporting their people.

One-sided monologues

No matter how sophisticated the feedback gathering process might be, it is bound to be limited in its effectiveness if their is no genuine will to use its output to support employees to grow. I still feel like tearing my hair out when I hear about one-sided feedback meetings where managers talk at their reports with little or no effort being made to invite a discussion. Such experiences can be very demotivating, as I am sure many of you have experienced first hand.

Unfortunately, such behaviour is often a sign
of a wider systemic problem.

Managers might themselves be receiving demotivating reviews from their own bosses, so how much more can we expect? But we can try, even in the face of systemic dispassion.

Managers have to remember that the structural power dynamic between manager and direct report is such that it is more difficult for their report to interject and comment on the feedback if they are not invited to. And, this invitation cannot just be a cursory “do you agree?”. It has to be more than that.

A mindset

As human beings, we cannot  help but notice body language and sense the intentions and emotions of others. Things are no different during the year end review meeting. If the manager is rushed, appears impatient and is not coming from a place of genuine interest in her direct report, they will sense this.

year end reviewsWhat is required then is a change of mindset from ‘let’s get this out of the way’ to ‘how can I best support my team to really grow and develop‘.

This requires courage, effort and a willingness to view individuals holistically as human beings, each with their unique personal backgrounds, strengths and challenges.

Nurturing the mindset is crucial. It is the catalyst for having a meaningful year end review conversation and ultimately the basis for improved performance. Below I share a few questions to invite a more collaborative and motivating discussion during review processes. The idea is to explore not just what the direct report could do better, but also what you could do as the manager to support their growth and development.

These questions are aimed at allowing the manager to access a deeper level of understanding about not only the world of their employee, but also the broader team dynamic and environment in which they are operating.

Potential questions for year end reviews:

  • How do you feel about the overall feedback?
  • What points did you particularly agree/disagree with?
  • What things/people have supported you to develop and grow this year?
  • What would you say are your key learnings this year?
  • What pressures/challenges have you faced this year?
  • How happy are you with your role?
  • What can I do to improve things/alleviate some of the pressures?
  • Where do you want to be at the end of next year? What impact do you think that will have on the team’s performance?
  • Where do you want to be in 3-5 years?
  • How do you think your career goals fit within the team’s goals?
  • What more can I do to support you on this?
  • What would you change in the team if you had the choice?
  • Is there anything important that we have not covered or that is unsaid?

Final Thoughts

Having a more developmental ethos around year end reviews will not only create more fulfilled and loyal team members, but ultimately better performance. And, the more sincere and engaged a manager is throughout the year (and not just at year end) the more positive impact she is likely to have. It is something that cannot be faked, however. You have to wholeheartedly adopt such a mindset if you want it to work. There are no shortcuts.