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Performance Power

By Melissa Davies, Wise Ways Consulting

As the calendar flips to September, employees and managers gear up for performance review season. Each industry seems to have its own mojo formula. If you’ve left the federal space and are now working for a government contractor, new rules and forms. If you are moving out of private industry into a non-profit organization, new rules and forms. Medicine, education, technology, retail, foodservice, it’s all here in Northern Virginia. It’s all measured and that means whether you are at one end or both ends, you have to take a deep breath and jump in.

How you approach this process will determine whether it’s a good outcome for you or something that needs to be endured.

The emotions surrounding performance evaluations are some of the reason everyone finds them so tedious. Managers are expected to mentor and coach employees while also potentially needing to provide discipline and corrective action. Employees are expected to work in teams, think creatively, while planning for their career paths. It’s at times, and depending on where you work, a giant game of tug of war.

But what if with some simple planning and resolve, the performance process could be upended? When you see the world from a new perspective great ideas follow.

Plan – not your attack but your tactics 

A great performance evaluation is one where the employee and the manager have a meaningful conversation.

You met all of your performance goals – good job. Or, you came up short in three out of five performance areas. This does not make for a good conversation. It doesn’t say anything.

What’s missing in the “check-the-box evaluation” is dialogue.

If you work in a box checking environment, you will have to go to the dance. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for the music being played. Ask questions.

“Ok, so I missed the mark in three categories. Can you tell me specifically two or three things I can do right now to make a marked improvement? Can you tell me what I can do in the long term to make this better? Is there training available, a mentor I could work with?”

Or, sometimes you receive a poor review because your manager doesn’t really know what you do or have done.

Take the opportunity to correct the perception. “I’m concerned that you may not have all the facts about the project. May I provide you with some documentation and we can talk through this again?”

As a manager, you likely have multiple person to evaluate. You may have to compare their performances. That’s hard and at times not fair. Before the actual one-to-one meeting, ask your employees to document what they see as important projects and contributions for the period being evaluated. If you have to give a bad review and are feeling anxious, take the opportunity to ask your employee what he or she would like to do to fix the issues or offer up a few immediate and long-term solutions.

Whether in the public or private sector, all organizations want to succeed. People want and need to feel productive and appreciated. Success comes to all when we work together and realize that conversations about performance need to be conversations and not proclamations.


Melissa Davies is an executive leadership coach and facilitator as well as the author of “How Not to Act Like a BLEEP at Work”.  She  resides in Prince William County and runs Wise Ways Consulting, which specializes in leadership, management and team development, executive coaching, group facilitation and high-engagement training.  She can be reached at [email protected] or through  



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