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How to conduct performance reviews for senior staff

WRITTEN BYJames Price | JPAbusiness

Young woman and man listening to someone speak during business meeting

I recently put together some questions for my senior staff to consider in advance of their Annual Performance Review discussions.

We have discussed the mechanics of the performance review process in previous blogs, and a key theme was that reviews are ‘a two-way street’.

Senior staff members bring considerable experience and insight to your business so you need to ensure you use the review event as an opportunity to tap into those insights for the benefit of your business, as well as the individuals involved.

How to get the conversation started

Prior to our review discussions, I sent each team member a list of questions and ‘conversation starters’.

It looked something like this:

Dear [Team member]

I see the following as being of interest to discuss in our Annual Performance Review meeting:

1. Your reflections on FY2019 at the business, including individual:

* key achievements, outcomes etc

* positives, negatives, difficulties or challenges.

2. Re. your specific area of responsibility [e.g. profit centre, business line etc]:

* performance versus revenue and % return budget/target.

3. In FY2019, what have you learnt about yourself and also about your professional capability (strengths, weaknesses, extensions, other) and how are you applying or planning to apply these learnings?

4. What feedback would you like to give me, in terms of what you experience from me as your manager (i.e. management style, communication, support, advice, learnings, challenges, mentoring, frustrations, other)?

5. Suggestions and ideas to improve/change the business.

Please note the review session is as much – if not more – for you than it is for me, so please share your thoughts on any other issues you think we should cover.


Performance reviews part of bigger ‘cultural’ picture

An Annual Performance Review is just one event. In some respects, it’s a bit like an annual awards night: the year in review!

But in a modern workplace, if you’re leaving everything until this annual review, you’re missing opportunities to fully utilise the capability of your people.

In our business we’re aiming to achieve a culture where, as a team, we regularly reflect on learnings, challenges, achievements and plans.

We want to have conversations about:

  • what worked
  • what didn’t
  • why
  • what might need to change to improve.

Annual Performance Reviews are just one part of that ongoing conversation.

So, the questions and talking points I sent to my staff were really designed to break the ice and get all the parties thinking and talking together. 

2 men and 1 woman having a breakfast meeting

How to encourage ‘frank and fearless’ feedback

When having these conversations with staff, it’s critical that they feel comfortable giving you honest feedback about any aspect of the business.

If you’re the manager facilitating these conversations, your ‘seniority’ should not be an undertone.

One way to put yourself in the right mindset for such a conversation is to think of it as a private interview with the CEO of your firm’s largest and most important customer, where he or she wants to give you some feedback critical to how you’re serving their needs.

I’m sure you would welcome feedback from your most important customer, and so you should be equally willing to hear feedback from your most important resource: your team.


How do you know if the conversation has been a good one? 

The conversation has been a success when:

  • your fellow team members take the lead in the discussion and you do most of the listening;
  • there is open, frank and respectful discussion;
  • all parties take responsibility for their past actions;
  • all parties welcome accountability for future improvement plans, both for the themselves and the business – accountability is the key to a team working together effectively to achieve its goals.


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If you’d like to invest time and effort in your most important assets – your people – by fostering a positive work culture within your business and improving accountability and performance, feel free to contact the JPAbusiness team on 02 6360 0360 or 02 9893 1803 for a confidential, initial discussion.


About James Price | JPAbusiness James Price has over 30 years’ experience in providing strategic, commercial and financial advice to Australian and international business clients. James’ blogs provide business advice for aspiring and current small to mid-sized business owners, operators and managers.