Get performance reviews right

How and when to prepare and drive your performance reviews

Updated over a week ago


  • Set expectations early: Co-build objectives (OKRs or SMART) early, define success

  • Touch base often: Once a month, touch base on objectives

  • Prepare: Team member to prep. Manager to prep.

  • Hold the conversation: Use the right tone & coach

  • Follow through: Action items, impact on objectives

Set expectations early

The first step to reviewing objectives efficiently is… having the right objectives to review! Setting expectations early and having a mutual buy-in from team members and managers are the best way to ensure that the review can happen in the best conditions.

Using methodologies such as OKR or SMART are a great way to ensure the defined objectives are result-oriented, precise and tangible. Efficient objectives should clearly answer the question: what does success look like? Answering this question early will help managers gauge performance objectively further down the road.

Co-building objectives is a great way to ensure mutual buy-in. A simple way to do it can be to share your team objectives to your reportees and ask them to prepare their own. Dedicate a 1:1 meeting to discuss these draft objectives, share your feedback and follow up by asking a finalized version taking into account said feedback. Make sure to review, make adjustments if needed and then formally share these objectives back to your team member.

Touch base often

Let’s say you have an official performance review once a year, this doesn’t mean you should review objectives only once a year, on the contrary. 

Objectives are the northstar of your team members, making them understand how they are contributing to the team and company success. Team members will also know that their individual performance will be measured on these objectives completion. Your role as a manager is to help them reach this destination and the best way to do it is to touch base often: how are they doing? Do they need more support? Are they facing hurdles you could help resolve? Are they prioritizing the right initiatives to reach their goals?

This is why we recommend checking in at least once a month on objectives. It doesn’t need to be a very formal or lengthy conversation. However, knowing how each person is progressing on their objectives, how confident they are on completing them and how you can help them will have a strong impact on your team’s focus and performance.

Finally, having these check-in conversations about objectives are very useful to take a step back from day-to-day work and reconnect how daily actions are contributing to longer-term goals. Your team will be more engaged if they understand their impact on the company.


A performance review is an important conversation and it should be prepared on both sides in advance.

Team members should prepare their autoevaluation. They need to develop an understanding on how they feel they performed, what their key achievements and challenges were and what resources they need to continue to move forward. Resources could be budget, headcounts, training but also more direction or managerial support.

Managers should draft an objective review on how their team members performed. A good way to be objective is to stick to reviewing how they performed on their objectives, identify personal strengths and development areas and always illustrate with examples.

Hold the conversation...

We recommend dividing the conversation into 4 stages: setting the stage, auto evaluation, manager feedback, and conclusion and next steps.

Do not forget to set the stage for the conversation. A lot of employees fear these performance reviews or feel uncomfortable during them. Take the time to introduce the meeting: insist on the fact that reviews are two-way conversations, reframe the goals of the review and highlight its benefits for managers as well as team members. The more it feels like a partnership, the better.

Then, come the time for the team member’s auto evaluation. During this phase, managers should focus on active listening and refrain from speaking. Once team members have finished sharing, take the time to rephrase what you have understood so far. Only once team members have fully completed their auto evaluation can you move onto the next stage, your own feedback.

Of course, as with all feedback you share, you will need to be focused on delivering in the best and most impactful way. When sharing your feedback :

  • Start with successes and achievements

  • Identify gaps between expected and actual performance

  • Focus on causes of under performance

… and follow through

Following through is critical to the review as it ensures that the review will translate to tangible actions and will have an impact on future performance.

Follow through can be broken into the following steps:

  • Put it down on paper: write down the review on a shared doc as it will become a reference document for both you and your team member

  • Craft solutions to answer under performance: don’t just point out areas of development, work on these with adapted coaching sessions

  • Adapt objectives: when co-building the next period’s objectives, take into account what worked well and less so

  • Follow up on action plan and next steps: refer back to this plan during the year - are you making progress?

Always keep in mind that a successful performance conversation is a conversation that leads to tangible actions. When leaving the room, managers and team members should feel aligned on their vision of the past period and on the best way to move forward. 

Don't end the discussion before there is a plan with concrete next steps: this exercise is intended to give more clarity to your team members and is a powerful tool to encourage the right behaviors.

Wrap up: The best performance reviews are conversations built on trust. Managers and team members should come into the room with a clear picture of the past period and walk out tangible next steps. Regularly checking in on objectives is a great way to avoid any surprises during these reviews.

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