Give Your Best, Most Authentic Reviews Ever

By: Maggie Knoke

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Oh my dear leaders-of-people, it’s that time again for many of you! I feel you! Review time is underway or about to start. (Except you retail people, I see you and your weird year-end. I’ll talk to you next spring.)

I’ve been asked to coach a few of you lately, as you prepare for any number of high-stakes conversations: giving tough feedback, speaking frankly, addressing mixed results, reviewing someone who doesn’t seem to “get it,” making sure top performers feel very valued.

You want to make sure your message gets through and is authentic and fair. It can feel like there’s a lot riding on the review conversation.

[Related: Are You Sensitive? Here’s Why It’s a Superpower and How to Work It]

There’s a whole spectrum of strong feelings as a reviewer, from angry or uncomfortable or second-guessing all the way to hugely confident. Believe me, surprising feelings and attitudes about giving reviews can crop up any time, no matter how seasoned and senior or first-time-leader you are.

Reviews loom large in our collective imagination as a type of conflict situation(regardless of whether they really are or should be). And with conflict situations come strong feelings. It’s only natural!

We humans are saturated with emotions — yes, even at work — and deeply brain-wired to cooperate in communities. Conflict, real or perceived, can threaten that sense of cooperation. Throw in interpersonal dynamics, and it feels even messier!

Consider doing some self-coaching to help you show up as the leader you want to be. This is a great prep ahead of review time, but works equally well if you’ve already given reviews and want to make sure you’re supporting and holding your folks accountable ongoing.

If you brought this topic to a coaching session, here are some of the questions I might ask you. Make some time for yourself to write and reflect on your answers.

[Related: How to Avoid the Bias You Didn’t Even Know You Had]

  • What do you need to address or examine regarding how you think/feel about giving reviews?
  • What values are most important to you as a leader of people?
  • How do you want those values to play out when you’re assessing performance and giving reviews?
  • Envision yourself giving a tough review. What thoughts do you have?

— When you have that thought, what emotion comes up?

— Where do you feel it in your body?

— When you have that thought and emotion, what action do you take?

— What is a different, more powerful thought that you could try out?

  • What “should”s or beliefs do you have around giving reviews?

— How true are they, really, for you?

— Are there other ways to look at these beliefs?

  • What might happen if you gave reviews differently than you’re “supposed to?”
  • What do you wish could be true about assessing performance or giving reviews?
  • What have you learned about yourself as you’ve reflected on your answers?
  • How do you want to apply that learning to your assessment and review practice?
  • What’s a reasonable step (big or small) you’ll take in the next week to take action on your learning?

The world and the workplace needs leaders like you who are interested in self-reflection and bringing their best to their teams. Thank you for taking time to explore your beliefs and priorities around reviews….and thank you for all that you do!

[Related: Elevate Your Career by Communicating Your Impact]

Maggie Knoke is the founder and CEO of FrameWork Consulting, where she coaches founders, visionaries, and corporate senior leaders. Her coaching focuses on leadership development, career pivots, and tapping into deeper levels of effectiveness and meaning. This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

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