Big Brothers Big Sisters
Managing Employee Performance
Performance Management Cycle
Direction: Set Objectives &
Recognize & Review Job
Performance Set Objectives
Planning Provide Feedback &
Assess & Monitor
Assess & Review
Performance Communication Principles
If you ask people what they want most from their jobs, more than likely they’ll tell you
they want to feel good about themselves and their work and to know their jobs are
important. They want to be involved in their jobs and they want to be treated with
In every aspect of managing employee performance there are four principles to keep in
mind. In your communications with employees, you should aim to:
Maintain or enhance their self-esteem
Listen and respond with empathy
Ask for their help and encourage involvement
Share your thoughts, feelings and rationale
When these principles are used effectively they communicate that you are committed to
building confidence, instilling trust and providing whatever it takes for people to do their
jobs as competently as possible. Here’s how these principles play out in the performance
When you are establishing expectations (objectives, performance standards and
o Encourage cooperation and commitment to actions
o Establish a climate of openness and trust
o Provide support for achieving objectives and demonstrating competencies
o Emphasize the need for individual contributions in achieving BBBS goals
When you help people perform successfully by providing feedback, coaching
and tracking progress:
o Help people stay on target toward achieving their performance plan
o Ensure continued commitment to objectives and competencies
o Increase involvement and self-management
o Promote continuous development and improvement
When you review performance:
o Promote dialogue and mutual decision making
o Increase involvement as people review their own performance
o Encourage development as people look for ways to improve performance
Developing Performance Objectives
What is an Objective?
An objective is a statement of what you aim to achieve… the outcomes. The benefit of
setting objectives is so that everyone is in alignment with what needs to get accomplished
so your efforts are expended on what is really important. Furthermore, by clarifying with
your employee upfront what effective performance looks like, there is more of a chance
the two of you will be aligned when their performance is reviewed at the end of the year.
How Many Objectives Should I Have?
Typically, employees should have 3 to 6 major outcomes or objectives they are targeting
to achieve during the year.
What is the Process for Setting Objectives?
After reviewing the agency’s goals, the Department Manager sets the department’s goals
and then each employee in the department drafts a set of objectives for their job to
discuss with their manager. Then, the employee and manager will determine what their
objectives should be for the year.
Can Objectives Change During the Year?
During the year, you and your employee may determine that some or all of their
objectives should be modified. You may eliminate objectives or add objectives. Also, as
business circumstances change and/or as your employee begins implementing the
objective, they may discover that what constitutes success for that objective changes.
For example, a new opportunity may arise that becomes a greater priority to the agency.
Or, perhaps, it is discovered that the agency isn’t “ready” to implement a particular
project your employee was assigned to work on and the project changes or deadlines
change. Often, as an employee starts working on a project, they make discoveries that
may indicate they need to modify what constitutes success. This is why discussing
objectives with an employee is not a one-time event… it’s a conversation that should
occur throughout the year.
How Do You Write an Effective Objective?
In reviewing an employee’s draft objectives, ask yourself:
Is it written as an outcome? Does it describe what they are looking to achieve?
Or is it simply a task or job responsibility? For example:
“Write grant proposals” is a job responsibility or a task. An objective would
be: “By December 2009, grants written bring in 30% of the agency’s targeted
“Make match support contacts” is a job responsibility or a task. An objective
would be, “All matches should be contacted once a month.” Or “Average
match length of matches in caseload should be 12 months for school-based
and 24 months for community based by the end of year.”
Does it reflect how success would truly be measured? When you consider your
Department’s objectives and our values as an agency, what kinds of criteria would
reflect success for the objective? For example, success might be reflected in
Quantity. How many of something the employee does? For example, the
number of partnerships or prospects or the % improvement in retention rate
Impact on Customers. For example, satisfaction scores of Bigs or partners
Decrease in Errors
Increase in Revenue, Decrease Costs, within Budget, Money Saved
Improvement in System or Process Performance. For example, turnaround
time or response time
Description of a job well done. Sometimes it is very difficult to measure the
accomplishment of a goal. In that case, they might be able to describe what
an effective job looks like. This way, you and your employee will be on the
Is it SMART? Effectively written objectives satisfy 5 criteria whose first letters
spell the acronym SMART.
Specific: Objectives must be clear and unambiguous. They should be written
in terms of major outcomes, clear and concise, able to be clearly observed.
Measurable: Objectives should be quantifiable where possible and should
answer the questions: What is the desired outcome? How will the employee
measure the results? How will the employee demonstrate that they are
Achievable: Objectives should be realistic and attainable by average
employees. They should neither be out of reach nor below standard. Each
one should be realistic given the available resources, other responsibilities,
etc. and within the employee’s sphere of influence.
Relevant to the agency vision, mission and strategic business plan. Each
objective should be consistent with the agency vision and business plan and
most should align directly with a stated agency objective or departmental goal.
Time bound: Objectives should include a deadline by which they must be
How are Objectives Rated?
Mid-year and again at the end of the year, you and your employee will formally talk
about and document the employee’s progress on achieving their objectives. You will rate
your employee on the accomplishment of each objective at the end of the year as well as
their overall performance. The employee is not asked to do a self-rating, as it’s usually
the experience that when both employees and managers rate employees, the performance
review discuss focuses on debating ratings versus talking about performance. National’s
rating categories are:
Does not meet minimum standards
Accelerated progress needed
Pace setting performance
Led to breakthroughs
Your agency will establish your own rating system. The above is just one possibility.
What is the Rating Based On?
How you rate an employee on an objective may depend on a number of factors,
To what degree they accomplished the objective
How difficult the objective was to accomplish
To what degree there were obstacles preventing full accomplishment
To what degree did they wisely use resources when accomplishing the objective
How much supervision they needed in accomplishing the objective
How they went about accomplishing the objective and what impact did this have
on other people and other projects
Why Are Competencies Important?
Have you ever known someone who gets results, but in the process alienates people and
takes shortcuts that negatively impact other departments? That’s an example of someone
who may achieve their objectives, but doesn’t demonstrate effective behavior or
competencies. If you only measure someone on their objectives, they may get their
results, but at the expense of someone else… or at the expense of long-term results. The
other reason competencies are important is that, if you demonstrate the competencies
important to your job, you will be more likely to achieve your objectives. When a
manager gives feedback to an employee, he or she gives feedback on the how of
performance… on how well they demonstrated a competency or competencies. When a
manager coaches an employee, he or she coaches them on how they can better use their
What is a Competency?
There are two parts to a performance. Objectives/deliverables are what you achieve and
competencies are how you achieve your objectives/deliverables.
There are many definitions of the term competency. The simplest way to think about
competencies is that they are categories of skills and behaviors that distinguish superior
Basically, there are three categories of competencies: job specific, leadership and general:
Job-Specific competencies apply to the skills needed to perform a specific job
well. For example, a grant writer needs the technical or job-specific competencies
to write persuasively to obtain funding. An IT professional needs the technical or
job-specific competencies to troubleshoot software or hardware problems users
Leadership competencies refer to specific organizational skills and behaviors like
managing change, managing people and strategic thinking.
General competencies refer to skills and behaviors such as interpersonal skills,
attention to detail and planning and organizing.
What Does a Competency Look Like?
Each competency is defined by a set of behaviors that specifies what you’d see someone
doing that demonstrates high performance on the competency. For example, here is a
competency that a manager might have:
Planning & Organizing: Able to help others prioritize their work and
manage their time effectively; hold others accountable for creating
adequately detailed project plans; coach others to follow up and monitor
projects and help them see the benefits of doing so; plan ahead to make sure
critical resources are lined up; set and stick to an agenda in meetings to avoid
How Do You Incorporate Competencies into a Performance
Competencies have been defined for VPPs and four other program roles that are used in
selecting high performing employees in those roles. Competencies can also be
incorporated in performance management systems. That is, in addition to being expected
to achieve objectives or goals during the year, employees are also expected to
demonstrate specific behaviors. If your agency decides to hold people accountable for
specific competencies, the first year performance on competencies may not figure in the
overall performance rating. Rather, to start with, they are used “for development”. This
means that the competency and associated behaviors are listed on the appraisal form,
during the year the employee gets feedback on them and at the end of the year the
manager and employee write a summary of how the employee has performed in those
competencies. There is no rating. For example:
Competency Self Assessment Manager Assessment
Planning and Organizing. This is a strength of Elmo’s that
Able to help others prioritize he’s not only been able to share
their work and manage their within the team, but within the
time effectively; hold others agency. He created a project
accountable for creating management template and used
adequately detailed project project management software that
plans; coach others to follow up has proven successful for other
and monitor projects and help projects. All of his projects have
them see the benefits of doing been on time, risks and issues
so; plan ahead to make sure have been identified and managed
critical resources are lined up; proactively. He is also mentoring
set and stick to an agenda in someone to take over his role at
meetings to avoid wasted time. managing the ABC project so he
can move on to other challenges.
That person has been stepping up
beautifully in part because of the
project management system and
excellent file keeping that Elmo
has put in place.
Notice in the example that the manager talks about the impact this competency had on
achieving objectives. He basically summarizes the behavioral examples he/she has
collected. During your employee’s performance review, if they had defined
competencies, you’ll talk with them about which one or two competencies or skills he or
she will target for improvement and come up with a plan to improve their performance on
them. In the next section, we’ll describe what a development plan might look like and
the different options there are for developing employees.
Once managers are used to providing feedback on behaviors, the agency may decide to
rate employees on their competencies. Typically, competencies are rated on how
frequently they are demonstrated. The agency may decide that a certain % of an
employees overall performance rating depends on how they did on competencies. For
example, perhaps 60-70% of the employee’s rating depends on what they achieved (their
goals or objectives) and 30-40% of their overall rating depends on performance on
competencies (or how they achieved their objectives).
What is an Effective Development Plan?
An effective development plan identifies in a very specific way what behaviors the
employee is targeting to develop and is also very specific about how they will go about
Here is what part of a development plan might look like for someone for whom Planning
and Organizing is not a strength. An effective plan is developed collaboratively by an
employee and his/her manager. Ask the employee first for his/her ideas before providing
This manager needs to learn the skill himself prior to being able to coach his team in this
Competency Development Actions Target Resources Needed
Development Area Date
Planning and 1. Talk with Elmo Butler and End of Manager will talk
Organizing: adopt 3 or 4 project 2nd Q with Elmo Butler
management and his boss about
Needs to use to
tools/techniques for use in working with me
my Accelerating Revenue
projects 2. Observe Elmo Butler run a
project meeting and have
him observe me in
launching team meeting for
3. Read book, “Essentials of
Project Management” and
talk with manager and
Elmo about insights.
Notice that the development plan includes learning from experience, not just reading a
book or going to a course. “Lessons from experience” are often the greatest teachers as
long as the employee has a thinking partner to reflect on the lessons learned. The
following pages have a variety of different options for development. Share these with
your employee to give them some ideas.
Options for Development
There are so many ways to develop someone! There are five categories to develop
someone while they are in their current role. Following are the categories and examples
of developmental assignments under each.
Small Projects and Start-Ups which emphasize persuasion, learning new content
quickly, working under time pressure and dealing with groups of people not worked with
before. Such assignments may or may not emphasize individual leadership, depending
on whether or not the person is in charge. Examples:
Task force on a pressing business problem
Plan an off-site meeting, conference, fundraiser
Handle a negotiation
Present proposal to management
Start up something small
Supervise assigning office space
Write PR releases or communications to media
Serve on new committee
Launch a new program
Assign project with tight deadline
Small Scope Jumps and Fix-Its, which emphasize team-building, individual
responsibility, dealing with the boss, development of subordinates and time pressure. In
these situations, the person should be in charge of people for a short period of time or are
responsible for dealing with a specific crisis or problem (an “undoable” project, cost-
cutting) where high conflict is likely. Examples:
Manage ad hoc group of inexperienced, less than competent people, former peers
Manage ad hoc group in a rapidly expanding operation
Manage ad hoc group in a static operation
Manage a group of experts in which you don’t have as much expertise
Deal with a crisis
Assign a project in which the last person who tried it failed
Resolve conflict among warring subordinates
Make peace with an enemy
Small Strategic Assignments, which emphasize intellectual pressure, influence skills and
a lack of credibility in some area. Having to report on findings and attempting to
influence higher level managers should be a feature of such assignments. Examples:
Summarize new trend/technique; present to others
Write a proposal for a new approach
Write a speech for someone higher in organization
Write up a policy statement
Study funder needs
Postmortem on failed project
Study innovation of another organization or agency
Interview funders, partners or Bigs on their view of specific services
Coursework/Coaching Assignments, which emphasize missing something one needs to
know and intellectual pressure. Examples:
Teach a course or workshop
Teach someone how to do something they are not expert in
Teach someone how to do something they are expert in
Design training course
Do a self-study project
Attend a course
Spend a day with an expert on some job aspect
Study new technical area
Activities Away from Work. Examples:
Become active in a professional organization
Become active in a volunteer organization
Become a Big Brother or Sister
Join a community Board
Act as a consultant on a problem/issue outside job
Coach children’s sport
Why Is Performance Feedback Important?
One of the major reasons for unsatisfactory performance by workers is a lack of feedback
to them about the work they are doing. In fact, it has been estimated that
approximately 50% of the nonperformance problems in organizations occur
because of the lack of feedback. Staff don’t know how well or badly they are doing. If
a staff person thinks he or she is doing okay, he/she has no reason to change.
Effective Feedback—Timely, Balanced and Specific
Effective feedback answers the often unspoken question, “How am I doing? If
employees know what their competencies and related behaviors are (that is, they have
specific expectations about how they need to behave), they can get feedback from a
number of sources: clients, peers, other managers, donors, partners. However, whether or
not a job has defined competencies, employees need feedback from their managers.
When they perform effectively or need to improve, tell them and provide specific
feedback on what they did well or not so well and why. Your feedback is important. It
helps determine whether people meet objectives and demonstrate competencies. For the
best results, your feedback should be timely, balanced and specific.
Timely. As soon as possible after an incident occurs. The incident is still fresh in
the person’s mind, so feedback will be more meaningful.
Balanced. Mix positive and negative comments throughout the discussion
whenever possible. Too much negative feedback might make people defensive
and unwilling to communicate. On the other hand, if you recognize all the good
performance first and save corrective comments for last, people might feel as
though you ‘set them up’. After giving corrective feedback, end the discussion
with a plan for improving performance. Work closely with the person on the
plan. The more the individual contributes to it, the more committed he or she will
be to carrying it out.
Specific. A vague comment—“You could have done a better job on that call”—
doesn’t identify a specific problem. It doesn’t say what was wrong or how to
improve, and it’s not the type of feedback that will help someone achieve an
objective. Similarly, general praise—“Good job on that call!”—doesn’t specify
what the person actually did well and should continue to do.
Specific Feedback through Complete Behavioral Examples—STARs
It might seem difficult to provide feedback because it relates to behaviors or skills that
can’t always be quantified. As a result, people often base their feedback on opinions or
feelings rather than fact. However, there is a way you can provide objective, reliable and
significant feedback on competencies (whether the competencies have or have not been
spelled out for a job). Use complete behavioral examples, or STARs. A STAR provides
a complete picture of a person’s behavior. It includes details about the Situation or Task,
the Action, and the Result (STAR). Here’s a STAR:
“I want to give you some feedback about how you handled that situation when the
Big was considering ending the match (Situation). You asked the Big about his
reasons and determined that he thought his Little didn’t like him anymore. Then
you shared with him how the Little talked to you about how much his Big has
meant to him and the specific things the Big did that he valued. You also
explained to the Big that it’s normal for 12 year old boys not to express
appreciation and that the Big shouldn’t interpret this as meaning he wasn’t having
an impact (Action). As a result, the Big decided to continue the match. This will
really help you achieve your match retention goals for the year (Result).
Sources of STARs
You can collect STARs on performance from:
The employee themselves
However, you might not always get complete behavioral examples. But without them,
your feedback could be inaccurate and less meaningful. To collect all the information,
you need to determine which elements of the STAR are missing and ask follow-up
questions to fill in the gaps.
The Purpose of Coaching
To coach is to “convey a valued person from where he or she is to where he or she wants to be.”
In the simplest of terms, masterful coaching involves expanding people’s capacity to take
In essence, the purpose of coaching is to help people change. If there is no change, then the
coaching has not had any impact. To facilitate change, you must understand people’s real needs.
Often, however, what the problem the employee says they need help with is rarely the underlying
issue. The employee’s real needs emerge through a process of co-discovery in which all sources
of information are explored within the context of the employee’s life and work.
Coaches must be skilled at adapting their methods, techniques and approaches to the needs of the
people they coach. Most coaches consistently fail in the fundamentals of listening, empathizing
and probing (asking questions) even when they think that is what they are doing. Instead, they
revert to advice giving, problem solving and theorizing. This is a human tendency in all kinds of
helping situations, a tendency to want to fix the problem. All of us have grown up with an
implicit model of coaching that is fundamentally flawed. We have learned how to help others
while receiving instruction, advice and guidance from our parents, teachers, religious leaders,
scoutmasters, athletic coaches who, for the most part, take a directing, authoritarian approach.
Coaching Style Preferences
Research tells us that most people who coach prefer to use a directing approach which involves
observing us perform and then telling us what they think, good or bad, about how we’re doing
and what we could be doing differently. At best, they are experts in their field. They know more
than we do and we benefit when they share their insights. Directing managers may ask insightful
questions and be good listeners, but their fundamental modus operandi is to direct us toward the
path they think we need to take. If they are right, and we submit to their will, then we may
perform better and profit from the experience. This approach to coaching is appropriate when the
manager is more of an expert on the topic, when the situation is hazardous, if there is one way to
do something or if there is little time for coaching. Directing coaching is also the right approach
when employees ask for advice and when it truly is what they want. Most managers prematurely
decide what the employee’s issues are, direct the conversation according to that assumption and
frequently discover later that they were wrong.
However, most employees want their manager to be a “thinking partner” (developing). That is,
they want their manager to ask vs. tell. They want their manager to solicit their perceptions and
ideas, ask probing questions, listen and guide them toward their own answers. The best
developing managers have an elegant repertoire of questions and know how to ask the right
questions at the right time to evoke insight. This is the real key to success in this type of
coaching. Questions that merely elicit facts are not particularly insightful. Insightful questions
are those that provoke the employee into questioning why something is the case or what the
implications are of various courses of action or that capture the imagination by getting the
employee to think of possibilities.
What Directing Coaches Do What Developing Coaches Do
Are to the point Ask for self observation and perspective
Are specific and outspoken about what before giving feedback and opinions
they want people to do Ask open ended, insightful questions that
Give positive feedback make people think for themselves first
Provide direction Probe deeper into the individual to better
Take an assertive and active role in the understand how to help
coaching process Minimize lecture
Tell experiences based on examples when Allow employees to make the final
coaching decision for what they need to do and take
responsibility for their decisions
The work of coaching is done largely through conversation. In fact, over the period of time a
manager works with an employee, there will be many conversations. Together, these
conversations constitute the dialogue between the manager and the employee. Dialogue is a
process of discovery.
One commonly thinks of dialogue as a conversation between two or more people or as the words
spoken by characters in a work of fiction. The term acquired a more specialized meaning in the
1990’s when a British physicist and philosopher, David Bohm, found that many of the world’s
problems occurred because people talk at cross-purposes, don’t examine their assumptions, are
unaware of how their perceptions influence their thought processes and try to prevail in
conversations by imposing their “truth” on others.
The most fundamental coaching skills are asking and listening. Being attentive to the employee,
really hearing what’s being said and being facile at asking insightful questions take managers a
long way. However, to create a rich and insightful dialogue, managers must also express
empathy, give feedback, reflect on what they’ve heard, make generalizations and advise and
Many managers are not skillful at dialogue, probably because they are talkers and advice givers
by nature. They have a strong need to assert their knowledge or be in control of the situation.
Other managers become so immersed in the conversation that they can’t step away from the flow
of the dialogue and think about pacing, disclosure and the give-and-take of information as
employees progress toward insights. Ultimately, this is what dialogue is about, helping
employees gain insights about themselves that they would not have had without the dialogue.
Without these moments of insight, employees are unlikely to change and grow.
A Typical Coaching Scenario
Following is a typical coaching scenario. The manager is well-intended, but, see if you can
determine where he misses the boat before you turn the page.
Jan is the new Director of Program. As she’s trying to learn more about how the agency does
match support, she’s been listening to how some of the MSS do their match support contacts.
She noticed that one of the newer MSS doesn’t ask many questions when she calls the Bigs. She
basically asks how the match is going and then, shortly afterwards, ends the call. Jan also noticed
that the retention rate of Cindy’s matches is much lower than that of her more experienced
colleagues. Jan opened the coaching session and began the process of discovery that would help
him understand Cindy’s needs. After the preliminaries in their discussion, Jan asked about her
approach to doing match contacts.
Jan: Cindy, as you know I’ve been listening to how the Match Support Specialists on the team
handle their match contacts. I noticed that on the two calls you had just now you spent just a few
minutes with the Bigs. I want to know more about your approach.
Cindy: Jan, I have so many calls I have to do. I can’t spend too much time on these calls. I think
my caseload is too high.
Jan: Let’s talk about what you are trying to accomplish on these calls. Why do you think they
Cindy: Well, I’m supposed to make sure the match is going well. So, if the Big and Little say the
match is okay, I say, “That’s great and… that’s it.”
Jan: I think you need some training in how to ask better questions of the match…
What mistake did Jan make in coaching Cindy? What should she have done differently?
Turn the page for the answer.
The above is a typical coaching scenario. Jan thinks the real problem is Cindy doesn’t have the
skills she needs to coach the Bigs. However, she jumped too quickly from preliminary problem
identification to solution. In her desire to be helpful, Jan is like a problem-seeking missile. As
soon as she detects a problem, she hones in on it and tries to solve it. In doing so, she is making a
rookie coach’s mistake: treating effects rather than causes. Consider what Jan defined as Cindy’s
problem; she needs skills in coaching. This may be the case, but more likely this is a consequence
or outcome of some underlying problem; it is not the problem itself. Until she understands the
root causes, she cannot truly be helpful to her.
Now let’s take a re-look at this scenario and see what it sounds like when Jan engages in a true
dialogue with Cindy and helps her get to the heart of the issue.
Getting to the Heart of the Issue: Exploring the Problem
Jan: Let’s talk about what you are trying to accomplish on these calls. Why do you think they
Cindy: Well, I’m supposed to make sure the match is going well. So, if the Big and Little say the
match is okay, I say, “That’s great and… that’s it.”
Jan: Cindy, help me understand something. What happens if you sense the match isn’t going
well? Has that ever happened? (Note: You need to know whether this situation or behavior is
unusual and, if so, why. This is called exploring context.)
Cindy: (reflecting) Yes, when a Big tells me they might end a match, I try to find out why and
convince them to hang in there.
Jan: Tell me about a call like that.
Cindy: Yesterday, I got a call from a Big who wanted to end the match. She was really upset
because her Little just sits there and won’t say much. I got a little bit more information and then
called the father. The grandmother answered and told me the Little’s father was in the hospital
and the Little is really worried that he might die. That’s what happened to her mother. When I
spoke to the child, she said that her Big meant a lot to her…. Then I called the Big back and told
her what was going on. We had a great conversation about how the Big just needed to be a little
patient right now and that this is typically what happens …. The Big said she didn’t have a lot of
experience with quiet children in general, so we talked about how she might… She decided not
to end the match.
Jan: That’s really good. Yet, how come you didn’t use this approach with the calls I heard.
Cindy: Well, I used to have conversations like this with all my matches, but then I was told by
my old manager that I would need to handle a bigger caseload because we’re short staffed. So, I
figured I would only spend time with matches that were just about ready to close…. I didn’t
know what else to do.
Jan: That’s a real dilemma. I can see it’s upsetting to you. Well, we’re going to bring in some
Fellows from Xavier School of Social Work to handle some matches. I don’t think we’ll need to
add to your caseload.
Cindy: That would be great. I really want to help Bigs and Littles have stronger relationships
and prevent matches from closing prematurely. That’s why I took this job.
The above scenario illustrates the importance of asking good questions to probe beneath the
surface… to “diagnose” what’s really going on. In Cindy’s case, she had skills in coaching and
knew what to do, the problem was she thought she’d need to err on the side of quantity at the
expense of quality. Through the coach’s skilled questioning and by the coach clarifying
expectations, she was able to resolve her dilemma.
On the following page is a simple format for coaching someone. In essence, it is a
problem solving model. When you are functioning as a thinking partner with an
employee, you, in general, want to help them solve their own problems. The first two
stages are about identifying the real problem which is usually the bulk of the
conversation. The second two stages are about generating solutions and selecting an
action. It is important in the second stage to try to identify what the facts are because
when people first start talking about an issue or problem they may not be clear or
coherent about what’s really going on. They just know their side and their perceptions.
Also, in the first stage, people may share emotions which can cloud the facts.
The bolded question in the third column of the chart below is the basic question you ask,
but we’ve included a range of other probes you can use to help the employee think things
Stage Goal Questions to Ask
What’s up? Ask questions to What happened?
confirm What seems to be the trouble?
What do you make of_____?
How do you feel about_____?
What concerns you most about______?
What seems to be your main obstacle?
What’s holding you back from_____?
What’s so? Testing thinking to How did you reach that conclusion?
agree on facts What do you mean by______?
Tell me more about it?
What leads you to conclude that?
How would you summarize your efforts so far?
How is it working?
What’s Generate What do think you might do?
possible? possibilities for How do you want _____ to turn out?
What do you want?
How do you suppose you could improve the situation?
What are you thinking of doing about it?
What if it doesn’t work out the way you wish?
If you do____, how will it affect______?
What else do you need to consider?
What are some options/alternatives? What are the pros and
cons of that approach?
What do you think of these various alternatives we’ve been
Let’s go! Confirm action plan What have you decided to do?
What do you think you should do next?
Who should you involve? When will you do____?
Preventing Problems at Review Time
Identify expectations up front (including what constitutes different levels of
performance) and reevaluate regularly; have employee participate in setting
objectives. Objectives should be SMART.
Provide feedback on a regular basis and connect it to the impact on
departmental/agency performance and achievement of mission/vision.
Solicit feedback from others about the employee’s performance.
Check in with employee periodically about how they are doing and what support they
need. Help them navigate challenges if needed.
Encourage candor… especially about bad news.
Confront performance issues early.
Conduct formal interim reviews.
Recognize and reward performance. Use reinforcers and rewards the employee
Keep records of performance examples, feedback, conversations about performance.
Ask the employee to do so as well.
Don’t hold individuals accountable for poor systems or processes or circumstances
outside of their influence.
Differentiating Levels of Performance
Extent to which they achieved their objectives/goals
Complexity/visibility of objectives/goals
Amount of supervision required
How they achieved the objective (competencies)
Ability to navigate challenges
Impact on others and/or on the organization
Are they a role model/mentor/teacher in this area for others?
Ensuring a Successful Appraisal Discussion
There are no surprises; this summarizes discussions held during the cycle. By this
time, people already have tracked their performance, collected data, received
feedback from you and met with you regularly for coaching, reinforcing and periodic
The emphasis is on continuous improvement and development. Performance reviews
often make people uncomfortable and defensive. In this process, the discussion is
positive. The key themes are continuous improvement and development, even if a
person hasn’t met their goals.
The success of the discussion depends on the successful implementation of the
performance management cycle. The success of this discussion also depends on the
quality of coaching, reinforcing, feedback and data collecting that has taken place
throughout the cycle.
People must be involved and get an opportunity to provide their input. Performance
review discussions depend heavily on the other person’s involvement. The individual
is responsible for compiling performance data, rating performance, planning personal
development and sharing this information with you.
Preparing for the Discussion
When scheduling the meeting, talk to the employee beforehand and:
Review what you will discuss and why.
Discuss what the individual must do to prepare for the discussion.
Explain the length and format of the discussion.
Gather and review pertinent data (feedback, meeting notes, coaching and reinforcing
discussion notes, action plans or reports) that you have collected.
Give the person any performance data you’ve collected since your last discussion so
the employee can review them. Suggest that the employee give you additional
information about his or her performance for your review.
Use the information you’ve gathered to complete the appraisal. Record specific data
or examples of feedback that will help the individual understand how you evaluated
Before you meet with the employee, review your assessment of the employee with
Arrange for a private, quiet place, free from interruptions; schedule enough time for
Discussion Format- Option I
Since you’ve reviewed the employee’s self-evaluation before writing your evaluation of
the employee, you have a sense of where the two of you may agree and disagree. One
option is to have the employee review your evaluation of their performance during the
meeting and then discuss first where you agree and then were you disagree. Here is a
way of framing the discussion.
Thanks, Sally, for coming in. I’ve been looking forward to the chance to go over this
past year with you. I’d like to go through the process carefully, since this will be one of
the most important things that we do together all year.
Setting the Agenda
I’d like to start by having you tell me about the evaluation that you wrote of your own
performance--- what you felt were the most important items and how you came up with
the evaluation that you did. Then I’d like to have you read the evaluation I wrote and talk
about the highlights.
I think the most productive way to proceed is for us to cover the areas where we both
agree first, and then move into those areas where we don’t see exactly eye to eye. I want
to explain how I went about evaluating your performance the way I did and give you the
chance to ask me any questions you have.
When we’ve finished evaluating last year, I’d like to talk about your development plans
for the upcoming year. I have some ideas on things you might do to increase your skills,
and I’m sure that you have some ideas in this area too.
Starting Things Off
Why don’t you start by telling me how you feel this past year has gone?
Wrapping Up the Evaluation Discussion
Now that we’ve reviewed your evaluation, let’s summarize the key points we’ve
discussed. In general, you feel that [general statement of employee’s reaction to the
appraisal]. Is that an accurate summary?
In reviewing the evaluation, there are two areas in which I think your performance has
been particularly strong: [describe two specific areas of strength that should be continued
There is also one area in particular that you need to work on improving. That area is
[describe the single most important development area in the employee’s performance and
explain why improvement is necessary].
That pretty much sums it up for me, Sally. Are there any other questions I can answer for
you? [Listen and respond appropriately.]
As a final matter, it’s our policy to ask you to sign the performance evaluation to make
sure that you’ve had a chance to read and understand it. If you’d like to add any
comments, feel free to do so. [Give evaluation to employee to sign.]
We’ve already talked about your objectives (and competencies) for next year. I have
every confidence you’ll be able to achieve them and continue to contribute to the agency.
Discussion Format- Option II
State purpose and importance.
Emphasize that the discussion is a summary of performance based on the information
you’ve both been collecting throughout the cycle.
Provide the structure.
Say: “We’ll take a look at objectives talk about your performance in each of them. Then
we’ll talk about any actions that need to be taken. (If they have competencies…) Then
we’ll look at each competency and talk about your performance in each. Then we’ll talk
about how you’ve done on your development plan.
(Complete the Clarify and Discuss and Agree guidelines for each objective and
competency… if the employee has competencies)
Compare actual vs. expected performance.
For each objective and competency discuss how actual performance compares to the level
When the person has met objectives and competencies talk about behaviors that illustrate
what he or she did to be successful. This enhances self-esteem and encourages continued
or improved performance. Acknowledge the achievement when the person discusses
If the person hasn’t met objectives or competencies effectively, be sure to keep the
discussion positive to maintain self-esteem. This is a future-oriented discussion; you
want to uncover causes of the problem and discuss what can be done about it. It won’t
help to just rehash the details. Listen to the person’s rationale and respond with empathy.
For example, “You didn’t achieve your match retention goal. Since you’re new, I can
understand that you’re still learning how to help strengthen your matches…”
State how the person’s level of performance impacts departmental or agency goals and
the agency’s mission. For example, “Your performance has helped us improve our
overall match retention rate. Think about all the children’s lives you’ve impacted because
of your efforts.”
Discuss and Agree
Discuss performance on development plan.
Ask employee to talk about progress. Add your observations.
Develop action plans and follow-up date(s), if needed.
The two of you should agree on action plans to enhance successes or resolve problems.
Discuss what the person should continue doing and what should be done differently.
Seek the employee’s ideas and build on those ideas as much as possible to enhance
commitment and self-esteem. The action plan might require removing obstacles or
coaching the individual. When you discuss action plans, set follow-up dates to check for
Ask the employee to summarize or use your notes to recap each action and follow-up
Handling Two Difficult Situations
If a person believes his or her rating is too low, but doesn’t have data to substantiate
a higher rating:
Explain that you understand the individual’s right to question the rating
Ask for data or reasons to warrant a rating change
Refocus the discussion on ways to improve if the person still disagrees after
reviewing the data
If people display negative feelings toward you, the process or being reviewed:
Ask for reasons that explain the resentment, listen intently and empathize with
Discuss concerns openly
Seek ideas about addressing the concerns