So every May we celebrate our Mothers. We tell them how much we love them and show our appreciation. As a mom, it’s a day I’ve always enjoyed – and honestly feel as if I’ve earned! I work hard all year long to support my family and make sure our household runs smoothly. So having one day a year that focuses on me, seems deserved. I look forward to it with anticipation and excitement.

I find employees look forward to their performance reviews with the same anticipation. They’ve thought about the work accomplished in the past year – the challenges they’ve overcome – what they’ve contributed, and they are looking forward to having these achievements acknowledged.

But for most employees, their experience is not like my Mother’s Day. Most employees come away from their performance reviews discouraged and demotivated. Rather than focusing on all the good things they’ve done all year, and how much they’ve contributed to the company’s performance, they often hear that they’ve “met expectations” and are frequently blindsided with focus on a small issue about something they should have done differently. Many employees come away from this conversation confused and discouraged – frustrated that they let themselves think it was going to be a positive interaction.

So here’s something to consider. I’m not a perfect mom. I mess up, I get angry, I fall down on the job – and I know when I do. But 80% of the time I bet I’m getting it right. What would it be like if one day a year my husband and kids sat me down and told me about the 20% of the time I messed up in the past year? When dinner was horrible (or non-existent). When my kids felt I was being unfair, or when I snapped at my husband because I’ve been doing the grocery shopping for 20 years. I’m fairly certain if Mother’s Day focused on my shortcomings, my motivation for trying to be the best mom possible would be diminished. So is this what we are doing to our employees?

What if Leaders approached performance reviews like Mother’s Day? What if during your next performance conversation you told each employee how valuable they were? How much you enjoyed working with them? What a difference they were making to the company and your team? What if they left that conversation feeling good – excited, appreciated and hopeful? Imagine what that would be like.

We all mess up. And most of us know when we do. Rarely do we need someone to talk to us about our mistakes in detail, and worse, put it in writing. But what we do need is people telling us when we are doing a good job. The science of positive psychology is gaining a tremendous foothold and can help us be better leaders. As Daniel Goleman, psychologist, and leading guru in emotional intelligence, discusses in his book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, “positive goals and dreams can be a better way to encourage employees.” And as Richard Boyatizis, a psychologist at Case Western Reserve University has noted, “focusing on what someone needs to do to ‘fix’ themselves will effectively close them down to new possibilities or ideas.”

So this Mother’s Day – appreciate your mom and your employees! Pause and think about the good work all of your team members are doing, and let them know. My guess is that that good work will be repeated, and increased. And you won’t even need to buy flowers or a card!

P.S. Happy Mother’s Day to all! Whether you’re a mother, a father, or occasionally cross paths with a child, know you have can have a tremendous impact on someone’s future.


Action Steps:

  • Make a list of each of your employees. Write 3 positive contributions each makes to your team and share it with them.
  • Select one meeting a year to celebrate each employee. Select one meeting a year to celebrate your team.
  • Vow to change how you deliver your performance reviews.
  • Read Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, by Daniel Goleman.
  • Buy a Mother’s Day card for someone in your life who is making a difference!