The Lazy CEO Podcast

Employee Feedback and Performance Reviews

by Feb 6, 2023The Lazy CEO Podcast

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Employee Feedback and Performance Reviews Episode at a Glance…

  • Components of a standard performance review
  • Tips for giving effective employee feedback
  • Developing a performance plan

In this Episode…

This episode of The Lazy CEO Podcast is about both performance reviews and employee feedback. There is tension around performance reviews, did I achieve my goals? They have a lot of stress around them. People don’t like to do them for that reason, both sides. We will talk about both performance reviews and feedback as the yin and yang of engagement with employees. If you think about feedback as a more continuous process and a performance review as a more periodic kind of engagement, annual or biannual, or whatever your pace is, they kind of work together. At one level you’d say the employee feedback over time should aggregate into the performance review. And in fact, one of the rules around performance reviews is there should not be any surprises around performance reviews. Some organizations are eliminating the annual performance review. They’re basically saying, if we’re doing a good job of continually giving employee feedback, we don’t really need to do a performance review. Some dispute that because there’s a bit of a formality that’s got value in a performance review.

Two Extreme Cases

Gen Zs want continuous feedback on how they’re doing. If you told them every day -red, yellow, green, or on a scale of one to 10, they would like that. They are the generation that grew up with- how many likes did I get on my post? And how many friends do I have? How big is my network? And they’re constantly measuring themselves for acceptance and how are they performing and where they fit in. You can not give Gen Z too much feedback.

The opposite of that is when we get feedback from people that do not have good self-awareness and they do not appraise themselves accurately. When there was a complete mismatch in their view of their performance and the boss’s view of their performance. This is when there is a ton of stress, so the boss is questioning, what am I doing wrong that I’ve not communicated to this person where they stand? And, part of the answer is it’s them.

Standard Performance Review Model

An annual performance review is still important. Let’s reframe performance reviews as a coaching opportunity. An opportunity to talk about the good, the bad, and what we’re going do to make them better. That’s your standard good, above average, performing employee review. How did they perform against their objectives? As a leader, you must set clear objectives – specific, measurable, action-oriented, time-based, achievable, all that has to be true about the objectives. They are very observable, third-party observable. You know if you did them, your employees know if they did them. So when we sit down and say, did you achieve the specific objectives that we had for you this year? That should be a relatively easy conversation if you did a good job of making them measurable. So we go through the achievements, 1, 2, 3. You got an A on this, a, B on this, and a C minus on this one. The second thing that a lot of people miss when they’re doing a review is how you got the job done. So they’re only focused on the achievement of the item and they miss how you did the job.  How does your boss perceive you in this organization and how you got the job done? Are you effective in working with others to get the job done? Did you work and play well with others?

When somebody does the job in a way that doesn’t match your culture, they shouldn’t be in your organization over time. How did you get the job done? What did you do well, and what did you do poorly on there? And then based on that, where do we need some development? And given where you want to go, so this is where the career conversation comes in. Do you want to be a vice president? Here are the three things that you don’t have that you need to be a really good vice president. So let’s figure out how to get you those things. We need to teach you some financial skills that you don’t have, or you need to understand the product development process.

Finally, what else can I do to help make you successful? And that’s a bit of a servant leadership view of the universe. I’m here to serve you, I’m here to help make you successful. But it is a worthwhile question particularly if they know you’re going to ask it. Let them know, I’m going to ask you that question. And they have a little time to think about it. And then ask, what can I do to help make you more successful? That is a really good question.

Giving Employee Feedback

The key is to always be very specific in your employee feedback in the performance review. I’ll give you an example of that. If I said you know, Sharon did a really great job on the CEO summit this year. That’s one kind of feedback. Another kind of feedback would be from Sharon, the CEO Summit went awesome. I loved how you took full responsibility for it. I love how you solved problems and didn’t bring them to me. You just dealt with it when it did become a big enough issue, we talked about it and you just solved it. There was never any drama. You organized everybody seamlessly. You did it with good spirits and everybody had a great time as a result. That is very specific employee feedback about the actions taken and why she’s getting positive feedback. So, when you’re giving employee feedback, be as specific as you possibly can.

For the low performer. Did you hit your objectives? No. Did you get the job done? How did you get it done? People that are low performers don’t generally cause a lot of problems because they want to keep their heads below the radar. They know they are non-performers, most of them. And so, they’re not going to make waves.

It’s the people that think they have earned the right to be a jerk that generally are, and they have developmental needs. You will need to spend time on what they need to do to become fully competent in the job they’re in because they’re not meeting standards. The need to be specific in employee feedback is particularly true when you’ve got somebody who has low self-awareness. For example, we have not made a single date commitment for delivery to a client in the last six months. Here’s the scorecard. You were late by at least three weeks on every single commitment that you’ve made. There are 10 jobs that have been there for six months. That affects our sales and our revenue if we can’t do the application engineering. Now I’ve been very specific. It’s quantifiable, it’s observable.

Performance Plans

We’re going to get into a performance improvement plan- these numbers are unacceptable. They need to all get green and on time within the next three months. If they don’t, we’re going to have a very short conversation and it’s going to involve you exiting the organization. So now we’re on a performance improvement plan which is more severe than a negative feedback kind of conversation. You’re going to have them sign. Not that they agree, but that they have received. The reason why it’s important is if you do end up terminating that person, you want a paper trail that says we had multiple conversations about this person’s performance. Here are the documents. We were completely clear about what was going on and that’s why they got terminated. And so the annual review forces that documentation discipline that if you ever end up in a litigious situation, you’ve got it as opposed to normal ongoing feedback.

For more examples, and incites about feedback and performance reviews, listen to the complete episode of The Lazy CEO Podcast.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Jim Schleckser

Jim Schleckser is the Chief Executive Officer of The CEO Project, a business advisory group for accomplished CEOs to help them solve their most challenging issues, resolve constraints, drive growth, and improve outcomes. With 30 years of leadership experience in business strategy, organizational development, sales, marketing, and more, Jim leads global organizations across many functional areas in both public and private environments. He specializes in solving issues that fast-growing firms experience in their business models and processes as they reach high-performance levels. Jim has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and National Public Radio. 

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by The CEO Project. The CEO Project is a business advisory group that brings high-caliber, accomplished CEOs together. Our team of skilled advisors is comprised of current and former CEOs who have run both public and private sector companies across multiple industries. With our experience and expertise, we guide hundreds of high-performing CEOs through a disciplined approach that resolves constraints and improves critical decisions. The CEO Project has helped high-performing, large enterprise CEOs with annual revenues ranging from $20M to over $2 billion to drive growth and achieve optimal outcomes. If you are an experienced CEO looking to grow your company, visit