Every year about this time many organizations are gearing up for (or have already started) their annual performance reviews. That once per year sit down with the boss to find out how you did against the goals and objectives you hopefully were a part of setting some 12 months ago. Or maybe we should settle for you having at least received them 12 months ago?  Frustrations like clarity around goals and objectives, frequency of reviewing them or complex scoring systems have plagued annual reviews for quite some time. And while there are plenty of process improvement opportunities to be addressed, there is one simple rule, or dare I say ethic, that should be a non-negotiable and that’s the “no surprises” philosophy. In short, it’s the expectation that whatever feedback our associates are getting at year-end, it should not be the first time they are hearing it.

Over the course of my own career there have been many “gems” of advice or wisdom I have received from other leaders, mentors and coaches. One that jolted me the first time I ever heard it was around this subject of feedback and developmental conversations. The comment made or better said expectation conveyed was “as leaders, it is our ethical responsibility to speak directly to versus about others, and let them know in the moment exactly what we are thinking and feeling about them, their choices and ultimately their performance.” What hit me the hardest was the word ethical or what is morally right and good. And quite frankly I couldn’t agree more, yet today, 11 years into our Values Based Leadership journey, this ethic can still allude us leaving some of our associates surprised and ultimately uninspired by what should be an extraordinary conversation about the year they just had and the one ahead. So what have we learned and how can we as leaders ensure that performance reviews are developmental while also inspiring confidence and optimism about the future, void of surprises and frustrations for our associates?

  • Invest in Self: This is where we begin all of our leadership conversations. It goes without question that showing up well for others requires us to find our own voices first. To be the best version of ourselves before we can inspire others to do the same. As such, all the work that serves our own mind, body, emotions and spirit must remain a priority in our lives.
  • Build Deep and Meaningful Relationships: Without the trust and respect that comes from loving our associates to death, any and all of these conversations will fall on deaf ears. Clearly this is work that occurs throughout the year and is a priority, an obsession if you will, of leaders who believe in the servant style of leadership.
  • Set Clear, Personal and Measureable Objectives: Hay Group tells us that clarity about the role and responsibilities of our job, and standards, or the specific goals and objectives we are expected to deliver, are the top two dimensions of how associates feel about their work. The need to be completely and unequivocally aligned with our associates about their expectations, goals and objectives cannot be overstated. And again, this is a conversation that should be re-visited all throughout the year.
  • Catch Them in the Act: Earlier this year we wrote a blog titled “Caught in the Act: Leadership Lessons from our Doberman’s.” The content emphasizes the importance of feedback (both praise and developmental) needing to be personal, immediate and certain. This requires us to be present in our associates work and lives. And more than anything else can help in avoiding those year-end surprises.
  • Make it a Celebration vs. a Review: Regardless of how difficult the year-end conversation may be, how do we make it a celebration? A celebration even in the case of those tough dialogues whereby we look ahead with a sense of hope and optimism. A conversation where we get real clear about those things that need to change while also expressing our utmost confidence in the associate. And then of course there is the case of those high-performers and remembering no matter how many times we have told them just how extraordinary they are, year end reviews provide one more formal means of ensuring they have heard us.

At Luck Companies we remain committed to our ethical responsibility as leaders to talk to our associates, sustaining an open and honest dialogue throughout the year. We understand that when done well, year-end reviews (or celebrations) are simply replaying the video montage of conversations we have had all year long. We do this by following our Values Based Leadership philosophy of loving our associates to death, giving them something to believe in and obsessing everyday about them becoming everything they are capable of becoming. In the end we realize there is so much more on the line than a job or a review. At stake is the extraordinary potential that each of our associates are gifted with to make their own difference in the world and live a life of meaning and purpose. And for me personally, there is no greater responsibility that a leader holds than inspiring those around us.


Mark Fernandes

Mark Fernandes

Having a passion for inspiring people to believe in themselves and become everything they are capable of becoming, Mark works with individuals and organizations to inspire transformation. @MarkSFernandes

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