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Give a balanced year-end performance review

When it comes to performance reviews, it can be lonely at the top. After all, who wants to spend an hour telling people about their shortcomings? Fortunately, there's a better way. To conduct performance reviews that make employees more productive and engaged, managers must switch hats, from disciplinarian to coach.

Here's why a coaching review works better than a top-down approach. In the traditional approach, even if the employee receives a good review, he is disempowered. Someone else is setting goals, defining duties and making judgments. For many people, that lack of control demoralizes them and saps their motivation.

So, how does the typical overworked manager with multiple employees go from ham-handed to offering a helping hand? There are four basic steps, from communicating the company mission to creating a post-review action plan for each employee.

Go from disciplinarian to coach

To achieve maximum results in the workplace or on the field, the team must be working toward the same goal. Everyone must share in the mission and understand his unique contribution. By emphasizing a shared vision, you are no longer a disciplinarian but a coach.

This shift carries over to the review process. The manager is transformed into a team leader who stands by his employees to help them succeed. Employees are empowered and the review process shifts from combat to cooperation.

Prepare yourself and the employee

The next thing you must do is signal that the review is as important to you as it is to your employees. Each review needs to be comprehensive, thoughtful and fair. Make sure you are fully informed and have detailed information about projects, accomplishments, deficiencies and other areas up for discussion.

It is also a huge advantage if you can prepare your employees ahead of time by sharing with them the review format, areas you'll be covering and topics they should be prepared to discuss. Even if your company doesn't require it, encourage them to do a self-evaluation.

Create an open exchange

During the review, treat your employees with respect and encourage them to share their thoughts. Ask, for example, how you can help them do their job better or what they need to feel more satisfied at work. If you think of the review as a two-way learning process, you can accomplish a lot more.

Create an action plan

The review is just the first step. You and your employee should use the coaching model to develop an action plan for the future. It should include goals and agreed-to metrics as well as a strategy for achieving those goals. Also develop specific, concrete approaches to overcome shortcomings. The overall goal is to create a blueprint that will help the employee advance and make the greatest contribution to the company.

Going from manager-disciplinarian to manager-coach is a win-win for everyone involved. And when reviews roll around, leading a team, rather than commanding a platoon, is a lot less lonely.

- Cindy Somers owns a Spherion Staffing Services location in Champaign. She can be contacted at (217) 359-4488 or at cindysomers@spherion.com.

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