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performance reviews dont have to be akward podcast leadership coach anne koopmann

007. Performance Reviews Don’t Have to be Awkward

As we near the end of the year, a topic that’s on a lot of people’s minds are Performance Reviews and setting objectives for the new year. Whether you’re the employee or the manager, this process can be quite daunting and stressful, so I’m sharing with you today my top tips for having effective (and not awkward!) Performance Reviews.

In this episode, I talk about:

  • Being mindful the extraordinary difficulties of 2020 we’ve all faced and how that may have affected employee performance
  • The importance of investing in training yourself
  • How to get prepared for Performance Reviews
  • Investing in your Emotional Intelligence
  • How to set clear expectations and define success
  • Frameworks for providing effective feedback

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[00:00:00] Hi, and welcome back to the lead like you podcast. In this episode, we will be talking about eight tips to make performance reviews less awkward, and help and support you to make them more efficient and effective.

[00:01:26] I’ve also created a summary document with all 8 tips , that you can download under That way you have it handy whenever you need to refer back to it in the future.

[00:01:37]Before I go into the content of this episode, I want to share with you that I’ve just opened registrations for my new four months leadership program “Lead with Courage”.

[00:01:46] This is a group program, and together we will work on your courageous leadership brand. We will start on the 9th of December and work together all the way until the end of March. It’s a perfect program for you to focus on yourself, reflect on the year and start to set yourself up so you can lead with confidence in 2021. If you would love to learn more, check it out under

[00:02:11]We’re nearing the end of the year. And that also means that it’s time for the end of year performance review and setting objectives for 2021. And I know, I know that this process is quite daunting and stressful for all of us, whether we are the employee or the manager in this scenario, everyone gets a little bit anxious and stressed out about these conversations.

[00:02:35] And I remember when I was a leader, I found this process really difficult myself. Especially when I was a new leader, I was thrown in, I didn’t have much training and I wasn’t quite sure how to have effective performance reviews. And often this can leave both parties to leave the conversation feeling frustrated and like it was a waste of time. But it really doesn’t have to be.

[00:02:55]We can, with a bit of practice, make sure that these conversations are very effective and actually can build and nurture the relationship.

[00:03:03]Especially this year, 2020, it is so important that we spend time to prepare for performance reviews and that we spend some time to be clear on our intentions and what we want to achieve with this review. A lot of things have happened this year. A lot of objectives have shifted and everyone had to work through a lot of stress and a lot of anxiety already.

[00:03:25] So just keep in mind that it will be quite unfair to measure your employees based on the targets you set at the start of this year, because a lot of things will have changed and it could be a better approach to measure their performance based on their personal growth and learning this year.

[00:03:42]The tips that I will provide you though, they are very applicable to this year, but also every year going forward.

[00:03:48] So make sure you have a note pad at hand and you can take some notes.

[00:03:52]My first tip is to make sure that you invest in training yourself. Most of my clients say they’ve just been thrown into it. They didn’t get any training. I did not get any training in performance reviews when I started. And it’s quite a difficult process. It takes a lot of skills, communication skills, and management skills to make it an effective and positive experience for both parties.

[00:04:13] So don’t underestimate how difficult it actually is to make this a fruitful process. Ask for training from your employer or invest in training yourself.

[00:04:22] There are a lot of accessible resources out there as well. There’s books, podcasts, articles that you can look at to help yourself prepare and get better at performance reviews over time. Keep in min, it’s all about practice, reflection, and then improvement. You will get better at it over time and it will feel easier.

[00:04:40]Tip number two is to prepare. A lot of people think that they can just rock up to performance review and then just have a conversation. That’s not going to work. You as the manager need to prepare. You need to become really clear on your intentions, your desired outcome, and also key points and key talking points and feedback that you want to talk about.

[00:05:03] You also need to think about development opportunities and ideas of how the employee can develop themselves. If you have budget for external training. Fantastic. But there’s also a lot of options to develop someone and you just have to get a little bit creative and think outside of the box, But it’s important hat you come prepared.

[00:05:20]My third tip is to invest in your emotional intelligence. And that’s probably the most important competency for performance reviews, because it is such a vulnerable and scary process. It’s important that you tune in, that you use your empathy and relationship skills to build a connection.

[00:05:35]Especially this year – empathy really is key. Understand what has been going on for each individual is so important. If you have to do a performance review remotely, make sure that you tune into their body language, even more to get some clues of how they’re feeling and what’s going on.

[00:05:50]Emotional intelligence will also help you to build trust. And trust is not established in just one conversation. This is something you should invest in all year around to really build a strong relationship built on trust. When there’s trust, then it’s going to be much easier to deliver and receive feedback, because we’re clear about the intentions of the other person and we trust them.

[00:06:09]And another advantage of emotional intelligence is that it also helps you to manage your emotions and control and regulate them. If you are anxious and stressed, when you go into a performance review conversation, it will actually have an effect on the person as well. If they see you’re nervous, they’re going to get nervous even more so. Regulating and managing your emotions so you enter the conversation in a neutral state will be much more effective and provide a very nice environment for the discussion.

[00:06:36] And another important tip is to set expectations clearly. And this obviously happens at the start of the year and they need to be adapted and adjusted as you go along.

[00:06:47] Often conflict in performance reviews happens because both parties had different expectations and there’s a misalignment. It’s important that at the start of the year, you have a conversation about your expectations, but you also invite your employee to share their expectations.

[00:07:01]So for you, that could mean that you share your vision, you share your goals and you share the expectations on their performance. But you also share how you want them to communicate to you, how often you want to be updated. What are the key reports and KPIs that they will need to deliver? And how will you measure and define success? How do they know that they have been successful?

[00:07:22]And then invite them and ask them, what is their vision, what are their goals and aspirations? Where do they want to go? How do they prefer to communicate with you? How often would they like to talk to you? What support do they need from you? What can you do more of ?

[00:07:36]Once you’re clear on both sides’ expectations, you can start to define meaningful objectives.

[00:07:41]And that’s my next tip to really make sure that objectives are meaningful. In my career I’ve often seen managers that just copy and pasted the company’s objectives into the performance management plan of the employees.

[00:07:52] Now that’s not really effective because your team members, depending where they sit in the organization, they’re not going to be able to directly impact the company goals or targets. It’s going to be quite meaningless for them because it has nothing to do with their day-to-day work. So you need to become clear on the company’s objectives, your own objectives, and then break them down to each individual.

[00:08:13]Every individual will have different objectives based on their strengths, based on what they do best and based on their area of expertise.

[00:08:20] Come prepared with these objectives, but then set them and define them in a joint effort. Make sure that they’re meaningful for both parties, that they’re in a wording that your employee can understand, so they can relate back to that throughout the year. And for themselves understand whether they’re still on track or not.

[00:08:37] Define what success looks like. If you measure performance on a scale from one to five, for example, make it clear from the start, what each level actually means.

[00:08:46] Now, when it comes to objectives, there’s two situations I want to point out. One is that you sometimes get promoted throughout the year and you inherit a team and often they have had objective set at the start of the year. It’s important that you review those objectives with them, that you really fully understand what these are, and then adjust them, if they don’t fully align with your new agenda.

[00:09:07]And secondly, if the objectives and priorities of the organization changes throughout the year, make sure that you adopt the objectives for each individual as well. Every year, I see companies changed their priorities and objectives. But often the performance review is not looked at until the end of the year.

[00:09:26] And then objectives haven’t been updated.

[00:09:28] Especially this year with COVID-19, a lot of organizations have shifted their priorities. So the objectives should have been shifted as well. Make sure you adapt and check in with the objectives going forward throughout the year to make adjustments when need be.

[00:09:43] The next tip is about providing effective feedback. And here I want to mention the work by Brene Brown in her book Daring Greatly, where she talks about a checklist for us as leaders to check, if you’re ready to really provide courageous and effective feedback. And four points of this checklist I really want to point out to you. The first point is that we are ready to sit next to the person. We are ready to sit on one level and have an open discussion. Don’t put a table or desk in between yourself. Really sit together, put the problem in front of you. Talk about it together. It’s an equal conversation.

[00:10:17]Secondly, make sure that you accept your responsibility. Now in any situation, any case you as a leader have a certain role to play and you have responsibility. Make sure that you’re open to accept that and own that responsibility.

[00:10:30]Thirdly be open to hear their feedback as well, invite their feedback, and also be open to change your view or your perspective after hearing that.

[00:10:38]And lastly, don’t use shame in your approach to provide feedback. This will never be effective. It’s never gonna go anywhere. It’s just going to harm your relationship.

[00:10:46]And when it comes to feedback, another thing we should all be aware of is that feedback is always subjective. We always base our feedback based on our view and our thought on what success means and looks like. We are driven by our biases, often unconscious biases. So when you provide feedback, make sure you check in with your biases and make sure that you try and keep your feedback as objective as possible.

[00:11:09]There’s two great frameworks, that I like to use. One is the SBI module by the center of creative leadership and the SBI module stands for situation, behavior impact. And it just allows you to set up your feedback in a framework that allows you to be very specific on the situation.

[00:11:25] You’re describing the behavior really clearly, no judgment, no assumptions. Just describe what you’ve observed and then describe the impact this has on you or the company or on the individual. this framework makes it easier for you to give clear and precise feedback and avoid that you start to stumble around and lose your words or talk too much just cause you might be a little bit nervous as well.

[00:11:46]And the second framework that is really easy to use and allows fantastic discussions is the start, stop, continue framework. You can have discussions about what should they start to be doing that they haven’t been doing? What should they stop straight away because it’s not effective and what are they doing really, really well and they should continue to do more of. invite them into the conversation and allow them to share their point of view as well.

[00:12:08]Tip number seven is to focus on strength when we provide feedback. And for me, this is something I’m really passionate about. We are always taught from a young age to focus on our weaknesses, fix our weaknesses and in performance review processes, traditionally, that’s something that we always focus on.

[00:12:23] All the things we’re not doing right? All those things we still have to learn.

[00:12:27] But that’s quite a negative approach and it’s not going to lead to growth. But focusing on strength and focusing on how can we use our strengths to be successful is really key. So when you give somebody feedback on something that they should change or improve, think about how could they use their strengths to do that? Have a suggestion ready to go.

[00:12:46]Again, this will take a bit of preparation and creativity from your part, but it will make a big difference in how people perceive feedback. If we focus on their strengths, they will feel appreciated and they will feel positive about the feedback.

[00:12:59]And lastly, tip number eight, and this is probably the most important tip of all is to have regular one-on-one meetings. Don’t just wait for the half year or end of year review. Have regular one-on-one catch-ups with your team members. Ideally weekly. That does not mean to micromanage, but it means to have regular checkpoints to just be able to follow up, what’s going on.

[00:13:22] They can ask for your support. You can ask and get a bit of an update. That way you will be able to adjust expectations, adjust objectives along the way. And there’s no big surprises. You can give good feedback along the way. You can tell them what they should start, stop, or continue to do more off. You can give advice straight away. That way the performance review at the end of the year should be easy and enjoyable conversation. And you can really focus on the development and on the strengths approach in your discussions.

[00:13:49]Having regular one-on-one meetings will also provide the opportunity to share success and celebrate success along the way. Especially this year really focused on the wins and the successes. Really highlight what somebody has done really well. And throughout next year, make sure that you check in every week and highlight something they’ve been doing really well.

[00:14:09]so performance reviews can be daunting and stressful for both parties, but they really don’t have to be. You just need to invest time to prepare and practice and then reflect and review and decide what you can do differently next time. It’s all about practice. And over time you will start to enjoy this process.

[00:14:26] And it’s actually going to be amazing to build a really good, effective relationship and to have a team that thrives.

[00:14:31] I hope you enjoyed these eight tips for effective performance reviews. Let me know what resonated the most with you. Don’t forget you can download the PDF summary under so that you have a guide handy whenever you need it. I’m looking forward to talking to you soon.