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Tipsheet: Better Performance Reviews

Keep reviews constructive and don't allow them to become personal. Employees in any organization want to know how they're doing in the eyes of management. Experts suggest that more frequent reviews can take some of the anxiety out of the process. Tell employ-ees how they're doing on the record; praise what they've done well; and help them work out a playnto remedy any shortcomings.

For difficult reviews, make sure your evaluation is in a well-considered draft form before sharing it with the employee. Make sure the employee has a chance to review your appriasal in advance, and stick to key points during the in-person discussion.

Avoid making judgments that can't be backed up with specifics. Especially when it's necessary to criticize performance, make sure you can cite (and document) performance examples that support your evaluation.

To end an appraisal on a positive note, make sure every reviewed employee is encouraged to commit to performance goals and improvements in the coming year. Most employees will work to achieve goals if they are clearly stated and they feel they are realistic ones.An important part of a performance review is to set such goals and establish personal plans for meeting them.

Here are some tips if you're on the receiving end:
Be objective. Remember, performance reviews can help you improve your job performance. Listen carefully and take notes. Maintain a professional attitude. Try to take criticism constructively, not personally.

Think long term. Don't go into the discussion with only one objective (e.g., to get the maximum pay raise possible). You'll be so focused on achieving that objective you may miss other useful feedback.

Be prepared. Review your strengths and weaknesses (and last year's performance review and goals if applicable) beforehand so you're ready to discuss them. Be ready to cite your achievements and results, progress made toward previously established goals, etc.

Ask questions. If the person giving your job review cites a problem with your performance, ask for specific examples after he or she has completed the entire appraisal. Then seek a mutual understanding of what behavior or outcome would be more acceptable, and try to get that under-standing documented.

Establish your value. Use this time to establish your own value to the company and to present your long-term objectives in the context of the organization's established objectives and strategy.

Tipsheet: How to Recognize Achievers

  • Every manager wants to identify those employees with the best long-term prospects for achievement, even though those with the greatest potential are sometimes "hidden achievers." According to Bruce Merrifield, president of the Merrifield Consulting Group, you can often recognize an achiever because he or she has these characteristics:
  • takes honest pride in accomplishments
  • is willing to admit mistakes but uses them as learning experiences
  • comes up with solutions to problems without being asked or prodded
  • takes the lead and is at his/her best during peak periods
  • does not blame others for failures
  • is the one other employees look to naturally when things go wrong and need to be righted
  • has a stable job history and family life
  • is active in the community
  • lives within his or her means, with reasonable, modestly ambitious goals for the future
  • is committed to certain activities and causes, but not in a fanatical way.

Tipsheet: Fatal Career Flaws

A study of senior company executives by the Center for Creative Leadership identified nine fatal flaws that are the most likely to derail an otherwise promising career:

Inability to adapt or develop. Flexibility is key to survival and advancement in most organizations. Seek constructive criticism and make necessary changes in your management style. Embrace change and adapt quickly.

Poor working relationships. Can't be a team player? Better make the necessary adjustments now. The study notes that these problems intensify as executives move up the career ladder.

Inability to build and lead a team. Your track record is judged as the best indicator of your ability to lead in the future. Building a team is especially difficult in today's matrix environments, and the abillity to can get things done through others who are not direct reports is highly valued.

Authoritarianism. No one likes a dictator. Be one, and it will eventually catch up to you.

Poor performance or poor perceived performance. Successful executives must produce results and be able to demonstrate contributions. Part of the job is successfully positioning and communicating one's achievements in the context of the organization's overall goals.

Extreme ambition. Ambition is a good trait when kept in check. Over-ambitious executives come off as arrogant and over-confident.

Narrow function orientation. Broaden your expertise in order to be successful.

Lack of preparedness for promotion. Make yourself "promotable" by learning new skills.

Conflict with upper management. It's okay to disagree with your boss, but make sure disagreements are diplomatic. Never dis-agree with your boss publicly if it will make him/her look bad.

Tipsheet: Guidelines to Successful Hiring

Robert Half, a well-known authority on personnel placement, says that following these guidelines can help take some of the uncertrainty out of the hiring process:

Give each hiring situation top priority. Remember that the quality of each person hired will directly reflect the amount of time an energy spent on the process. Investing the time to make a good hire is like any other investment: it pays off over the long term.

Before interviewing candidates, determine precisely what the function, responsibilities and qualifications of the job will be.

Maintain realistic expectations. Don't count on finding the "perfect" candidate. Instead, focus on locating several good candid-dates and selecting the one who is the best among them.

If you are using a recruiting agency, select one with care. Put the same effort into the selection process that you would put into an actual hire.

Constantly monitor screening procedures to be sure qualified candidates aren't being eliminated from consideration.

Develop interviewing skills and customize each interview to learn the most about a given candidate.At the same time, make sure key baseline questions are asked of every candidate. Keep good notes of findings.

Check candiddates' references personally.

Make a concerted effort to overcome personal prejudices and to be as objective as possible in your interviews and evaluations.

Don't rush into hiring someone, but don't delay the process so long that you lose excellent candidates.

Learn to understand the Equal Opportunity Laws and to avoid discriminatory practices. Know the questions you can and can't legally ask in job interviews.

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