How to Give a Meaningful Performance Review, According to 3 Team Leaders

by Janey Zitomer
February 12, 2020

Managers at Vivid Seats, Aptitive and Bounteous all use specific data-driven metrics to evaluate their direct reports during performance reviews. They said the purpose of using metrics is to have an objective evaluation method that leaves emotions out of the process.

“The goal is to have an open and honest conversation that is informed by data and action-oriented,” said Vivid Seats Senior Manager Nic Roth. Meanwhile, Aptitive COO Jason Maas said he relies on agreed-upon performance standards to track employees’ growth. 

But performance reviews require more than metrics.

The following three tech professionals said they also gather feedback from employees’ peers, clients and even leadership to ensure they have a 360-degree view of each team mate’s performance.

“I take this feedback and turn it into an actionable plan for my coachee, reflecting on the past year’s goals while outlining opportunities for growth in the year to come,” said Bounteous Director of Business Analysis Heather Gantz. 

 

VividSeats
Vivid Seats

Vivid Seats Senior Manager Nic Roth makes sure that his direct reports understand that performance reviews are action-based and not a reflection of individual character. He accomplishes this by relying on career maps and evaluating outcomes based on specific actions. Advice he’d share with other managers? Always come to the meeting prepared. 

 

Ahead of a performance review, how do you prepare in order to ensure it’s a meaningful and productive conversation?

I like to begin the preparation at the beginning of the year or when an employee first starts by reviewing the expectations of their role with them. We have an engineering career map that serves as a guide for the skills, deliverables and behaviors expected at every level. It makes it easy to ensure my employees and I are on the same page with how their performance will be measured. I then make sure I’m delivering regular feedback against those expectations in my weekly one-on-ones. 

Once a quarter, we take a comprehensive look at the career map to identify how they are performing relative to each expectation. When it comes time for the actual review, we both have a good understanding of where the employee stands. My only outstanding action is to review the peer feedback they received so we can have a more informed and holistic discussion around their performance.

 

What about during the review? How do you format these meetings and why?

The review is a multi-part discussion that incorporates an employee’s reflection of their own performance, their peer feedback and my overall feedback on their performance. The goal is to have an open and honest conversation that is informed by data and action-oriented. 

We first discuss the individual’s review of their successes and areas they can improve on. I then share a summary of the peer feedback I received for them and my own feedback to ensure we’re aligned on their accomplishments, strengths they should leverage and the two or three development areas we both agree they should focus on. We wrap up the conversation by identifying some concrete actions that will help them progress in those areas.  

The goal is to have an open and honest conversation that is informed by data and action-oriented.’’ 

What advice do you have for delivering constructive feedback in a performance review?

Prepare in advance. Constructive feedback is always challenging. Being prepared ensures that you’re able to navigate the conversation. My focus is to make the feedback clear and timely. I make sure my feedback is action-based by delivering feedback in a three-step format. We first discuss the action and the resulting impact it had. I then explain what I expect to see going forward and we work together to agree on a plan. This model transforms feedback about negative behaviors or poor performance into concrete areas of improvement.

 

Aptitive
Aptitive

At Aptitive, COO Jason Maas said managers and executives alike are action-oriented, particularly when it comes to performance reviews. The company’s review process involves oversight from a board so that all feedback is personable, specific and as intentional as possible.  

 

Ahead of a performance review, how do you prepare in order to ensure it’s a meaningful and productive conversation?

Aptitive uses our APS (Aptitive’s Performance Standards) to help gauge the performance of all of our employees every six months. During the review process, each employee will write a self-review based on our APS. In addition, mentors also reach out to the employee’s peers, clients and leadership to gather feedback and provide a 360-degree view of the employee’s performance during that time. 

 

What about during the review?  

Based on the feedback received from our 360-degree performance review process, each mentor writes a review that is then seen by a performance review board. The performance review board meets over several days to discuss each review and ensures the review and the feedback promotes the employee’s career advancement. After the performance review board, each mentor will meet with their mentee to discuss the review, provide feedback and develop action items to address career development.  

Be sincere, listen and give praise when it is due.’’ 

What advice do you have for delivering constructive feedback in a performance review?

Be sincere, listen and give praise when it is due. Focus on the future. Don’t dwell in the past. Make sure you are giving each employee concrete examples of their behavior and action items to address those career development areas. Doing so will help the employee grow and progress their career. 

 

Bounteous
Bounteous

For Heather Gantz, director of business analysis at Bounteous, the conversation doesn’t end once goals are set during a performance review. Gantz schedules a follow-up at the conclusion of each review so her team members feel supported beyond their designated evaluations.  

Ahead of a performance review, how do you prepare in order to ensure it’s a meaningful and productive conversation?

I believe that constructive feedback should be continuously provided throughout the year so that nothing that comes up is new or surprising for someone at the time of their review. I like to stay in regular contact with my coachee on progress, quick wins and milestones and proactively identify and advise on any hurdles.

Ahead of a formal performance review, I gather peer feedback from a handful of colleagues that each coachee has worked closely with the prior year. I take this feedback and turn it into an actionable plan for my coachee, reflecting on the past year’s goals while outlining opportunities for growth in the year to come.

 

What about during the review? 

The review is a time to celebrate successes from the prior year as well as look forward to growth opportunities. I try to focus on behaviors and their outcomes to make sure it doesn’t turn personal. I like to keep reviews conversational and ask for my team member’s perspective and thoughts along the way.

I end the review by giving my team member the opportunity to add their final thoughts and perspectives and to ask any questions they have. I also offer up thoughts about possible stretch goals for the coming year and make sure to have a follow-up conversation on the calendar to review and finalize those goals.

Don’t feel the need to over elaborate or fill up the time.’’

What advice do you have for delivering constructive feedback in a performance review?

Keep it simple. Don’t feel the need to over-elaborate or fill up the time. I focus on the outcome of a behavior so that my team member understands the impact that the behavior is having on others or the project. It is important to not make reviews personal and keep emotion out of the process.

 

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