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Why Performance Reviews are So Damn Painful for Leaders

//Why Performance Reviews are So Damn Painful for Leaders

Why Performance Reviews are So Damn Painful for Leaders

By Michael Holland

During a recent coaching session with a leader, he spoke about how tired he was having recently spent his whole weekend to get his employees’ performance reviews completed and then delivered the reviews in back-to-back sessions on the Monday and Tuesday right after the weekend.  In my mind I thought “what an idiot and what a waste for him and for each of those employees”.

Performance reviews are so damn hard for leaders because they have to gather up and expend so much emotional energy the one time a year they do them.  This is all top brain type of stuff, in simple terms, work of the brain that is not set in habits.

What is so interesting – and intriguing really – is that performance management can be so easy with the right leadership habits in place.  A leader can expend a very small amount of emotional energy to guide employees in the behaviors that will help them to be more engaged, more productive and even happy.

The Secret

The big secret is in the habit of continual coaching-up of employees: providing ongoing insight on what behaviors, actions, activities they are doing that align with your vision for them in their role and the arc of development you have for them.  Let’s unpack a couple of big things here . . .

  • Coaching – Is continual.  It requires you to have ongoing conversations with your employees.  This includes  weekly/bi-weekly one-on-ones in addition to all the ad-hoc conversations that are occurring.
  • Vision for the Role – You need to know – on a conscious level – the essence of the work the role is supposed to deliver and how that role fits into the work of the team you lead.  And, maybe more importantly, how that role looks when it is at full engagement and execution.
  • Arc of Development – You should have an active development plan for each employee that is the roadmap you are following to grow their capacity.
  • Seeing and Saying – You have to look at their behaviors.  Not what they are doing wrong but more at what they are doing right.  You have to take note of the behavior and then you have to tell the employee about the behavior and it’s impact.

Seem like a lot?  If you’re working on this a once a year, then yes, it’s a lot of emotional work.  But if your leadership habits – healthy leadership habits – are engaged then it’s really little work.  Almost like driving your car down the road.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • Grab a peer manager and each of you make a list of your healthy leadership habits.  Discuss your lists and how they may compare to a leader leading well.
  • Which is easier for you to think about: Vision for the Role or Arc of Development? Why?
  • Test it out. . . Spend a season – a few weeks or months – trying out continual coaching.  Analyze what changes you see in your team.
By |2018-11-30T09:23:27+00:00July 12th, 2017|Managing Performance|0 Comments

About the Author:

Michael Holland unravels the mysteries of leadership. Michael is a professional executive coach and trusted advisor to executives who seek to become better leaders and build cohesive teams. Michael’s wisdom and insight are the product of 30 plus years of leadership experience and an uncanny, natural ability to perceive the questions that need to be asked. His newest book -- The Missing Leader: One Man's Journey to Leading Well - A Leadership Fable -- is available on (

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