Five stages of a successful performance review meeting

It’s quite possible that you think we are going to start with a discussion of the merits of the good news/bad news/good news sandwich.  Whilst this gentle and well known way of delivering bad news can be a useful tool in a manager’s kit, there are other more advanced ways of managing a performance conversation.   We consider that there are five essential stages to go through to reach a good result for both parties.

Stage 1 – Create Rapport

Make certain you begin the session by concentrating on putting the representative at ease. Do not jump straight in to giving feedback or explaining how you view the employee’s performance.  Create an atmosphere where the exchange of information is comfortable, open, and focused on the staff member.

Make certain you are making the transition between “doing” rapport and getting into the session as transparent as possible to the individual – otherwise it can be perceived as fake.  Avoid saying, “Well, shall we get started then?”, or “Alright then, you know what this is all about…”

Stage 2 – Use Discovery

Just like any other conversation, discovery questions are the most powerful way to get into a conversation and get the staff member to be involved and take responsibility for the session and the outcomes.

Ask big open questions!  “What’s working well?  What’s not working?”

Use techniques to overcome the “I Dunno” answers. You can make an agreement at the beginning that makes “I dunno” an unacceptable answer.      You can use NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) technique:  “If you did know, what would that look like?”

Ask yourself who is doing the most talking?  If the answer is YOU then change the pattern ~ if you are doing too much telling and leading then the representative will not be taking responsibility for the outcomes.

Get the individual to write on the LDP (Learning Development Plan). Remember the completed LDP is the desired outcome of the session.

Stage 3 – Agree Solutions

Solutions in this case are coming up with ideas about areas to develop and include good activity plans that are creative and address a specific issue. It is important that you (the person conducting the performance review) feel satisfied that these things are coming out as a result of mutual agreement and not you telling.

It is also important that you get a clear indication that the person is truly participating and not just saying “yes, yes, yes” to get this over with. You need to get a clear indication that the person will take responsibility for the action plan and follow it through Find Out More.  After all, practice is the only way to modify behaviour and increase skill.

Many of these things should be discussed and set out as guidelines if this is the first feedback session.  They should be reinforced with each additional feedback session.  The ultimate goal is to have the individual completely drive the entire process and only come to you for support and to let you know what they are up to.

Stage 4 – Close the meeting

Closing the performance review session should be done with finesse, allowing the individual to ask any questions and address any concerns necessary.

Make certain you take the time to photocopy the completed performance review right away and decide who will keep the copy and who will retain the original.  This may be dictated by your organisation’s policies – best to check before the commencement of the session.  This is so there can be no mistakes or confusion about tampering with the forms.

Make certain there are no stilted moments at the end of the conversation, by the same token, make sure the person doesn’t feel rushed.

Be aware of your own body language – don’t constantly check your watch – but make sure you are keeping to time commitments.  Make alternative agreements to complete conversations if necessary.

Make sure you both pencil things in your diaries if there are follow-up commitments to be kept.

Make certain you schedule time to speak with “other parties” if other people are to be involved in development activities – or you need to get a hold of resources to be made available to the representative.

Stage 5 – Conclusion Phase

As always, follow-up is critical to the success of the program.  Keep your commitments!

  • Do scheduled and un-scheduled follow-ups
  • Now is the time to plan for those “Walk By” pats on the back.
  • Take time to Catch People Doing It Right!
  • Find creative ways to give encouragement and support those people who are taking action as specified on their action plans.
  • Investigate what incentive, reward and recognition programs are appropriate and will work in your environment.

If you follow these five stages you are on your way to guaranteeing a successful performance review meeting.

Check out our other related posts containing handy tips for leaders and managers

Contact us to find out how we can help you build a culture of highly engaged, highly motivated, high performing people.

How to help your team prepare for the annual performance review

Many employees would rather face root canal treatment than an annual performance review!  

There are two common reactions to the annual performance review situation.  First there may be the voice of self-doubt Inside all of us there is a little voice suggesting we haven’t worked hard enough, or we aren’t clever enough, or maybe we are doing something wrong but don’t know it.   The other possibility is that the employee feels that he/she has worked tirelessly and in a nearly-perfect way – and if there is any suggestion that the performance has been anything less that amazing, then I’m really going to let my manager have it!   There is always the fear that at the performance review something will be raised that you are unaware and unprepared for. 

In reality though, bad experiences can usually be attributed to the fact that managers lack the skills and the confidence to have productive conversations with staff.  Well-designed performance systems, including regular informal feedback conversations, can be a very powerful way to align executives and employees to the business’s objectives project management apps.

As a manager, it is important that you recognise your employee’s hidden fear of the annual review and do what you can to reduce it.

Tell them what is going to happen

One way to reduce the performance review fear is to ensure that the person being reviewed has full awareness of what is going to occur in the Performance Review, as well as for them to have a sound understanding of the context in which the Review is being conducted.

This needs to be communicated to them before the review session occurs. If this is not your role, and you are conducting the performance review, then ensure the appropriate communication is sent out, with at least one week’s notice.

Keep everyone informed

Ideally, the whole team will be informed of the upcoming reviews, what this means for their performance, and how and when they will be conducted.  The more information that is provided to the team the less gossip and misunderstandings there will be. 

Give time to prepare

Team members need time to prepare just as much as the person conducting the review.  They need to be clear about what they can expect, what the review will entail, what is expected of them in terms of providing examples of work they consider to have done well, as well as what they would like to achieve in their role between this review and the next. 

A couple of months before the reviews, consider scheduling dates for official meetings with each team member. At this point, you could also ask them to begin pulling together a compilation of their annual results. Start with any official forms your company wants you to use, or create your own, asking each employee to craft a summary of his or her key job responsibilities, current project work, and a recap of goals and achievements.

It can also be helpful to have each employee complete a written self-evaluation. This not only helps employees feel like they have a say in the process, but it challenges them to take an honest look at their own work behaviour, which is helpful when talking about their performance. The best self-evaluations include 6-10 open-ended questions, such as: What accomplishments are you most proud of this year? Where have you fallen short of the expectations and goals of the team or yourself? What are your areas for growth and how are you addressing them? Are there things your manager can do to further support your progress and success?

This is just the beginning of how you can ensure your performance reviews are successful.

Check out our other related posts containing handy tips for leaders and managers:

What to do before you do the Annual Performance Review

Five stages of a successful performance review meeting

Contact us to find out how we can help you build a culture of highly engaged, highly motivated, high performing people.


What to do before you do the Annual Performance Review

Our philosophy at Alive & Kicking is that annual performance reviews should be a year round adventure, not a once a year event! We believe that performance should be a regular part of every one-on-one meeting with employees.

The danger of the annual performance a review is that the subject of performance is ONLY discussed once a year and leading to nasty surprises. If a manager conducts regular one-on-one meetings with employees, creates agreed plans to improve performance and follows up – then performance most likely will improve.

It’s all about follow up and accountability. The employee knows how he/she is performing and also doesn’t have to worry about any surprises coming out at the end of the year.

That said there is still a place for the annual formal performance review, so what can you do before the meeting date to set yourself and your team member up for success?

A Solid Foundation

This is all the work needed to be done before the Performance Review session commences. Begin the review of performance with a thorough consideration of what is required to create a solid foundation for the session to be effective and successful.

Things to consider

  • What would have to occur for you to consider this session a success?

  • How will you know it is effective?

  • What are the company’s procedures, processes and guidelines?

  • What do you need to do to prepare?

  • What is expected of the staff member being reviewed?

  • What is the context of the Performance Review – is this something done annually? Quarterly? Does it build on previous Reviews?

  • What are the company’s strategic themes?

  • How is the performance of the staff member being measured? What are the KPIs of the employee?

  • Be realistic with the timeframes to conduct the performance review – a half-hour to one hour is usually sufficient. Anything shorter and the staff member may feel undervalued, as if the review of their performance is not worthy of more time and consideration by management. Any longer and it can reduce effectiveness.

  • What other things do you think are important to create a solid foundation for your feedback session?

Things to do

  • Spend some quality time preparing your performance review documentation. This will depend upon what is used in your organisation. Ensure you are familiar with the layout, what the organisation expects of you in terms of completing the document before the review is to occur, as well as what information is required and to what standard once the performance review has been conducted.

  • Schedule a time for the performance review – if you are to conduct several, consider what your mental and emotional states are likely to be in each session. Allow yourself sufficient time in between review sessions to successfully complete each one to the best of your ability.

  • Allow at least 10 minutes to re-acquaint yourself with the performance review document you have created before each and every performance review session, as well as sufficient time to review any supporting documentation you may be using. This may include previous performance reviews, observation notes, statistics, or other documentation. You want to be able to speak factually about the performance of each individual.

  • If you are doing back to back reviews, ensure confidentiality is maintained by separating each person’s documentation.

  • Choose an appropriate location. It is best not to use a manager’s office as the space is often used for disciplinary actions. It is best not to use the individual’s desk because it is too easy for others to hear and the person may not feel free to speak openly. The best possible location is a conference room that is neutral.

  • Consider where you will sit in relation to the staff member being reviewed. Do your best not to sit across a table from the individual as it places a barrier between you.

  • Leave the individual a clear path – unobstructed – between the representative and the door.

  • Make certain you have all your supplies ready – blank or partially completed Performance Review Documentation, things to write with, a schedule and anything else you need for the meeting.

You are now set to hold your meeting.

Check out our other related posts containing handy tips for leaders and managers:

How to help your team prepare for the annual performance review

Five stages of a successful performance review meeting

Contact us to find out how we can help you build a culture of highly engaged, highly motivated, high performing people.

6 Reasons Trainers need High Emotional Intelligence

I watched a trainer die once and it was horrible.  He spoke clearly and had great knowledge of his subject.   A probing question from a participant though landed badly and he responded with a defensive statement ‘you clearly weren’t listening to what I have just said.’

The participant slumped in his seat, the room tittered and the energy changed.

The real tragedy is that the trainer had no idea. 

He didn’t see the participants who were now on their phones and making faces to each other or just switched off. He didn’t notice that no-one was asking any more questions or engaged with his presentation.

He didn’t notice my dumbfounded expression when he asked what I thought and said that he thought it went ok.  The only time he did tune in to the situation was when I suggested he needn’t send me an invoice.  Now he was connecting!

This event came back to me earlier this week when we were discussing the importance of Emotional Intelligence for trainers, whether you are an in-house resource or external training provider.

We’ve put together our top 6 reasons why Emotional Intelligence is so vital for this role:

  1. To maintain an outward focus

    Our entire goal is to be participant focused.  If we have internal chatter, emotional junk, triggers for negative thoughts or reactions happening at any point during a training session (and it does happen regularly), we simply must be able to address it quickly and move it on. 

    When those things happen to us, we lose our ability to maintain an outward focus – and be present and sensitive to what is happening for our participants. 

    If Emotional Intelligence is low – we are likely to spend the majority of our focus, our attention and our energy inwardly.  To turn the focus to me instead of thee.  

    At best the participants will experience a sense of detachment, a lack of care, a distancing, a sense of push-back from the facilitator.  At worst, the participants could experience a complete disengagement – and close down to any potential learning’s and growth

  2. To identify with the feelings, emotions and experiences of others

    Low Emotional Intelligence means that we may lack the ability to spot small shifts in participants that, if not handled brilliantly, could cause a complete shut-down and a decision made to not participate fully. 

    This could be due to a lack of safety created by the trainer, or simply an insensitivity to reactions that could be brought forth to create a real learning space.

    The trainer needs to be able to deal with the multitude of emotions that arise in certain training and development situations.  People are faced with dramatic changes to their work place (and behavioural) practices and this can be tantamount to being pushed into developing or changing when someone is not ready, which can cause strong emotional and psychological reactions in some people. 

    It is all well and good to be able to identify one’s one emotions and then to be able to manage them (Daniel Goleman’s first and top two quadrants of the definition of Emotional Intelligence) but if we cannot identify with the feelings, emotions and experiences of others, we are ill-equipped to deal with those when they inevitably arise in training sessions, often without warning.

    Trainers need to be able to stand in the face of these reactions and hold their ground, the ground that is a safe space for people to express their feelings and to explore the situation while being supported and accepted for who and where they are at the moment.

  3. To hold all people as equal

    Some of the very best sessions will have both parties (trainer and trainees) learning equally from each other. 

    This process requires a high level of EQ on behalf of the trainer that allows him/her to step out of arrogance and positional power.   “I’m the teacher – you are the student. 

    Therefore, I am the expert and you are the novice. 

    I am greater and you are lesser or subordinate.”  

    High Emotional Intelligence gives the facilitator the mental and emotional ability to be open to new input, new ideas, new perspectives and points of view.

    It allows the facilitator to hold all people as equal – and to be a learner as well as a teacher.

  4. To invite engagement

    High Emotional Intelligence on behalf of the facilitator will help him/her to create a space that invites people to engage.  

    It often happens that participants arrive with a sense of fear and/or resentment, high resistance, or simply absolutely no expectations whatsoever.  

    The participants may well have been “forced” to attend a training for which they don’t understand the purpose.

    Perhaps the participant even perceives that he/she has been “sent here to be fixed” – because a leader sees him/her as being broken or a problem.  

    If the facilitator is not emotionally intelligent – there may be little or no way that a space can be created that invites the participant to look past the thoughts and perceptions and decide to take positive messages, skills and content away from the session – regardless of the intention behind why he/she was booked to attend in the first place.

  5. To set a positive and alluring example

    Experienced Facilitators and trainers are paid to achieve the aim of bringing about useful change to a team or an organisation.  This is the ultimate level of Emotional Intelligence – to lead others in the direction they wish to go by setting a positive and alluring example and by showing them the way. 

    This does not imply that Facilitators and trainers need to be better than others – no one can be exalted to that status (and be aware of anyone who boasts the ability to do so; we are all human being on a journey of self-discovery and development).

    In workshop, training and facilitation situations the leader of these is the Facilitator &/or trainer – the person in this role need to know how to lead and have the requisite capabilities and competencies to do so.

  6. To be fully open to feedback

    Finally, there are times when participants can simply behave badly and be mean.  

    The facilitator may perceive that he/she has given his/her very best – and been completely participant focused, delivered on every objective and been amazingly entertaining to boot ~ yet a participant may give harsh criticism and damming feedback.  

    This sometimes happens when one participant gives hyper-critical feedback amongst all of the other participants who gave positive or even glowing feedback.  

    If the facilitator obsesses and focuses only on the negative feedback, there could be damage to confidence for future sessions.  

    On the other side of feedback, facilitator’s need to be able to find the kernel of truth in negative feedback – and make discerning judgements as to the “truth” and “reasonableness” of the feedback – and set the negative response aside and take the learning to continue to grow.

Next we will be looking at the 5 qualities to look for when hiring a new trainer (or the 5 qualities to highlight in your CV!).  We’d love to hear your thoughts……contact us at or find us on Facebook.

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Be Positive! Or else!

Fran Berry, Director of Alive & Kicking Solutions, was recently interview by Hospital & Aged Care Industry Magazine on her opinions on the most important elements in bringing about positive culture change in the industry.

Read more here!


Are you using effective learning techniques in your training?

If you walk passed an Alive & Kicking training room you will often hear music playing. And if you happen to be curious and glance in, you will see brightly coloured posters hung on the walls, dice, tangrams, potatoes, balloons and smelly pens strewn about the tables.

You would be forgiven for wondering who the party is for, and why you haven’t been invited.

In fact, what it means is that your training team understands the importance of using Accelerated Learning Techniques in the adult learning environment.

What is Accelerated learning?

Accelerated Learning was born in the mid-1960s, and developed over the following decades into a highly efficient set of techniques that have been shown to speed training time, reduce training costs, and improve training results—as well as provide a learning experience that keeps us engaged and motivated.

Isn’t it interesting though, that even though this knowledge has been around for so long, there are still so many training courses that are instructor led, PowerPoint driven, one way exchanges that are tiring and exhausting. When you are using accelerated learning techniques effectively in your sessions – you end the day with energised and happy participants!

Everyone has their own default learning style — a way of learning that suits them best. If you know and use the techniques that match your preferred way of learning, you learn more naturally.

Because it is more natural for you, it becomes easier.

And because it is easier, it is quicker.

By also incorporating well-researched memory techniques, Accelerated Learning makes learning an enjoyable, successful and satisfying experience.

The Essentials of Accelerated Learning

  1. Learning Involves the Mind and the Body.
    Learning is more than the old school model of conscious, rational, “left-brained” learning. It involves the whole body/mind with all its feelings and senses.
  2.  Learning is Creation, Not Consumption.
    Knowledge is something a learner creates, not absorbs. Learning happens when a learner blends new knowledge and skill into his or her existing awareness. Learning is the act of creating new meanings and new neural networks in our total brain/body system.
  3. Teamwork Aids Learning.
    All good learning has a social base. We often learn more by interacting with peers than we learn by any other means. Competition between learners impedes learning. Cooperation among learners speeds it. A genuine learning community is always better for learning than a collection of isolated individuals.
  4. Learning Takes Place on Many Levels at the Same Time.
    Learning is not a matter of taking one little thing at a time in linear fashion, but absorbing many things at once. Good learning engages on many levels at the same time (conscious and para-conscious, mental and physical) and uses all the receptors and senses and paths it can into our total brain/body system.
  5. Learning Comes From Doing the Work Itself (With Feedback).
    People learn best in context. Things learned in isolation are hard to remember and quick to evaporate. We learn how to drive by driving, how to write by writing, how to type by typing, how to lead by leading and how to care for customers by caring for customers. The real and the actual are far better teachers than the hypothetical and the abstract – so long as we ensure we allow for total immersion, feedback, reflection, and re-immersion.
  6. Positive Feelings Greatly Improve Learning
    Emotions determine both the quality and quantity of one’s learning. Negative feelings inhibit learning. Positive feelings accelerate it. Learning that is unpleasant, painful and boring can’t hold a candle to learning that is fun, effortless and engaging.
  7. The Brain Absorbs Image Information Instantly and Automatically.
    The human nervous system is more of an image processor than a word processor. Visual images are much easier to grasp and retain than words in the air. Translating words into images will make those verbal abstractions quicker to absorb and easier to retain

Do you incorporate Adult Learning Techniques into your training?  What have you found to be the most effective?

Joanna Bryant – Customer Relationship Manager with Perth’s leading training development, design and delivery experts.  Helping you build a culture of highly engaged, highly motivated and high performing people.