I say let them loose on an uninhabited island with only a rubber band, some string, a left shoe, and a hand towel. If they can work together to use these tools to catch fish, build a shelter, and rig up a primitive ham radio, they pass the review. If not, well… I’d obviously rescue them. I’m working out the kinks and legalities of this team review approach, but stay tuned. In the meantime, there is another system that you can use for effective, informative performance evaluations that have a marked impact on your team’s ability to pull together and achieve goals.
Best practices for individual reviews apply: constructive feedback, respectful communication, active listening, and specific detail are important. Teams also benefit when you:
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- Start with the best team you can. Why not set yourself, and your team, up for success? Select a team with different levels of seniority and experience, with different skill sets and personality styles. When members are able to communicate effectively and are open to sharing ideas, diversity drives outstanding results.
- Coordinate offsite activities. Why have a review when you can have an event? I always took the opportunity to turn performance appraisals into team building activities that helped move the group forward. We would take a half-day or day away from the office and do a variety of exercises. In one, team members talked openly about each other’s strengths, and we recorded the answers on flipcharts. What do we do well? What do our coworkers add to the mix? Our responses created a map so we could better see the contributions of each member and how their unique talents increased our ability to achieve goals.
- Give them Oreos. We didn’t eat them. Which I suppose could have been part of the experience. The Oreo approach to feedback asks us to frame criticism with positive statements. You make a general positive statement, move into specific feedback, and complete the sandwich with another positive statement. For example, “Judy, you are always willing to go the extra mile for the team. Sometimes, you can be aggressive in pushing people to do the same. Your self-motivation is incredible, and we’re lucky to have you on the team.”
- Have clearly communicated objectives. Creating an atmosphere of open communication ensures everyone is comfortable offering, and receiving, feedback. The goal of exercises like the one I described earlier is not to point out and make visual the fact that Judy is pushy or that Chad waits until the last possible minute to get his reports in. It’s not to knit-pick or find fault, but rather to figure out where people’s talents are and how they can be best directed in the future.
Reviews can be an opportunity for members to gain insight into how managers choose teams. It helps create better awareness of people’s strengths, skills, and talents, as well as where we, as individuals, can improve and grow.
On the surface, this is far less entertaining than the island idea. The good news is that you can make anything fun and exciting, and performance reviews are ripe with this potential. Beyond that, there is a goldmine of information and feedback to discover and apply to future initiatives.