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Ask John Dame: Can employee-review process be improved?

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As an executive coach for the past 15 years, I have worked closely with dozens of CEOs and their leadership teams. All of the executives with whom I work face similar issues. Send your questions to

Our annual review process doesn’t seem to work well for my managers or our employees. We need to have some kind of process of review for our people. What do you see working well?

John Dame
John Dame - ()

Over the past 10 years, the annual review has fallen from grace. Managers hate doing it. Employees hate getting reviewed. You have an obligation to your employees to coach them to be better more than one time per year. Also, I have found that most employees crave feedback and flourish with more robust feedback loops in place. Here is what I have found to be most successful. You'll need to work with your managers to help them become coaches versus being directive.

At minimum one time per quarter, your managers (including you) should meet with each direct report. That meeting is a coaching session. Make sure that the meetings are on the calendar for the entire year and you never, ever cancel them. If you think of this as a coaching session instead of a manager's performance review, you will need to change your mindset regarding whose meeting this is. It is the employee's meeting, not yours. There are three things you should discuss with them:

Spend 5-10 minutes discussing current performance. In advance, you need to be absolutely clear on expectations and the specific outcomes required of them. Then report on how they are doing.

Spend 5-10 minutes on areas where they might need your help. Your job as a coach is to help them perform at a higher level, but not do all of the work for them. This is low-hanging fruit.

Spend 10-20 minutes on how they feel they are performing. What are their aspirations? What are they willing to do to get better at their position? Discuss ideas you might have for a development plan for them.

Finally, they take all the notes and send them to you with any commitments made. This serves as the beginning agenda for your next one-on-one session. I guarantee committing to this process will make a material difference in your organization. Additionally, if and when you do an annual performance review, you will have monthly or quarterly one-on-ones to review and discuss. There should be no surprises in an annual review if you do your coaching sessions.


We are having trouble reaching our goals. I need to hold my people more accountable. What can I do?

Most of the time when organizations are not reaching their goals it is not a lack of accountability, it is a lack of clarity.You need to be sure you have assigned goals with absolute clarity.

Some questions you need to ask are: a) Who owns this goal? b) Who needs to support the owner of this goal? c) Have we clearly identified what winning (or hitting the goal) is?

Once those key metrics are established, you need to have a dashboard that is shared with everyone in your organization with everyone's number included. You see, without owning at least one key metric, your number, you cannot be accountable. Everyone in your organization must own at least one number. Clarity of expectations will help you reach your goals and establish a new culture of accountability.

 John Dame is a CEO coach, executive team consultant and leadership strategist based in Susquehanna Township, Dauphin County. Visit his website at

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