Leadership Corner

Communicating effectively during Performance Appraisals

October 17th, 2019 at 2:55PM
Protrait photo of Leslie Weldon. U.S and Forest Service glags in the background
Leslie Weldon, Senior Executive for Work Environment and Performance, USDA Forest Service

October is a month of transition: we wrap up one performance appraisal period and initiate another. We focus on accomplishments of the year prior and set expectations for the year ahead. And while it’s critical to provide meaningful feedback to employees on their accomplishments, recognize their performance, and set expectations, it’s also a time to invest in, and strengthen, relationships.

What we have learned over the past several years through listening sessions and surveys, is that employees want leaders who show up with more humility, honesty, and humanity. Employees want leaders who are transparent and inspire trust, and who communicate with empathy. Being mindful about how we engage in performance reviews allows us to meet employees’ wants and is another way we live our core values—in particular, service, interdependence, and safety. Service to each other. Interdependence between colleagues. And psychological safety for all.

With these core values in mind, here are some ideas to guide your performance reviews:

  • Develop a performance plan. Taking time to develop detailed, specific, and goal-oriented performance plans demonstrates that you care about your employees’ work.
  • Meet often. Meeting frequently (at least quarterly) ensures employees have multiple opportunities to excel or turn poor performance around. Transparency inspires trust.
  • Provide and receive feedback. When providing feedback, be respectful, give specific examples, focus on only a few topics, and frequently check in on employees’ thoughts. Negative feedback should be based on performance and delivered honestly and quickly.
    • Ask employees to provide feedback on your supervision and how you can support them going forward. This is an opportunity to get valuable feedback for your own leadership growth.
  • Create a comfortable environment. When meeting with employees, set up a comfortable environment. Give employees advance notice of the meting time. Ensure the location is private, there is plenty of time, and there are no distractions. Take into account different personality types and interact in a way that is comfortable for individual employees to facilitate better communication.
  • Prepare for the final review. Request your employees’ accomplishments and input on their performance prior to meeting. This helps you remember their accomplishments and provides employees the opportunity to objectively think about their performance.
  • Plan future development. Assess employees’ skills and think about developmental opportunities. Talk with employees about their career goals. Consider details, mentoring, special assignments, and training as part of their development.

Investing in relationships during performance reviews helps us create a work environment that is safe, respectful, and inclusive, where everyone feels welcome and valued for their work. Without a safe and respectful work environment, we simply cannot fulfill our conservation mission.

Next week, Chief Christiansen will share the agency FY19 Accomplishments and provide a look ahead at FY2020 program direction.