Tough Love Performance Reviews, in 10 Minutes
There’s growing evidence that conventional performance reviews are not working. According to a CEB analysis, organizations can only improve employee performance 3% to 5% using standard performance management approaches. Last fall, 53% of human resources professionals in a Society for Human Resource Management study gave a grade between B to C+ when rating how their organization managed performance reviews. Only 2% gave an A to their organization. As a result of findings like these, some companies are doing away with annual performance reviews altogether.
“Tough Love Reviews” emerged. A Tough Love Review is simply a 10-minute, one-on-one conversation with each employee to talk through the one thing he is doing exceptionally well and the one thing that he needs to improve to reach that next level. The result is a meaningful conversation that gives employees a choice in how the conversation unfolds, and results in two key takeaways that are memorable and actionable.
Minute 1: Explain that the goal of the review is to bring awareness to positive traits and areas to work on. The employee will work with his/her manager to craft an action and accountability plan. Then ask: “How do you feel like receiving advice today on a scale of 1 to 10? One is kind and nurturing, and 10 is pointed and direct.” This scale gives control to the employee, and the reviewer becomes the servant leader, playing by each employee’s rules and preferences. It requires quick thinking, but tailoring your messaging reassures the employee that this is about helping him/her. An important note: those who select 10 don’t get a mean boss; they just get a direct, cut-to-the-chase one. The people who pick lower numbers also get the same honest content, presented with softer words.
Minutes 2-4: The Tough or Love section. For responses 7 or higher, start with Tough. Begin with Love for anyone who says 4 or lower. Those who respond in the middle, 5 or 6, get this question, “What do you think needs work?” which brings Tough to the forefront so you can end on Love.
Minutes 4-6: Switch to the remaining section, either Tough or Love.
Minutes 7-10: Now, let the employee take the driver’s seat and provide whatever response they want to close out the review session. Borrow from the discipline of design thinking: observe and absorb without bias, and know that you can follow up later if needed.
Finally, remember that while we often assume that people like to receive feedback, there are also many studies that show people actually hate it. As Stanford’s Carol Dweck has found, people approach feedback with either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe their qualities are fixed traits (“I am who I am”), while people with a growth mindset believe their qualities are just starting points, which can be developed through hard work, shaping who they could become. But you can help nudge your team into a growth mindset by framing your feedback in terms of growth.