May 30, 2013
Why June Is The Best Time To Maximize Performance

What is a simple, no-cost way managers increase the performance and engagement of team members?

If you answered annual performance reviews, shame on you. Most companies still make annual reviews the cornerstone of their performance management system. The problem with end-of-year reviews is the fact that they only take place every 12 months, are tied to a lot of generic standards and values, and are linked to compensation.

Annual reviews also enable non-confrontational managers to delay feedback. I should know. I used to avoid conflict like the plague and was a terrible, passive-aggressive manager.

Wow, Shane has been really messing up lately. I should talk to him about it. But I don’t want to upset him, and we’re on that deadline this month. I’ll just wait 9 months until his annual review comes around and bring it up!

No wonder managers and direct reports alike hate annual reviews.

As a leader, you should think not just about performance and short-term job goals, but also the growth of your team members. Time and again, research shows that growth is one of the top three drivers of employee engagement.

Employees don’t actually need new titles, new pay or a higher run on the mythic ladder. What they need is to be learning new things, a sense of being challenged and the hope that they are progressing.

The answer to both increasing engagement and maximizing results-against-goals is the mid-year one-one-one career path meeting.

Late June is the perfect time for one-on-one meetings with each of your direct reports—half-way through the year and the end of another quarter. While you definitely want to review goals and performance, these meetings should include larger career-path topics. Consider these conversation starters:

  • Do they think they can accomplish those goals within your organization?
  • What knowledge, skills, experiences and relationships do they need in order to get there?
  • Where would they like to be, career-wise, in 3-5 years?
  • How are they performing against their annual objectives? What else do they need in order to hit their annual objectives?

As the manager, it is not your job to guarantee that they will hit their goals. But as their manager it should be your job to coach them in their current position and develop them for future positions.

Ways you might assist them on their career path include finding a mentor for them within the company, helping them to find a coach from outside the company, or suggest training, seminars or books to read. You could also think about developmental opportunities—perhaps there are projects that they could join, not necessarily because they’ll make big contributions, but because they’ll learn and make new connections.

The daily routine can make it hard to do continuous coaching, but waiting to check progress and goals until annual reviews is lethal. June is the perfect time to schedule one-on-ones with your direct reports. Feel free to call these meetings “Goal Checks” or “Career Conferences” or just “lets-grab-coffee-and-see-how-we’re-doing meetings”. Regardless of what you call them, you’ll get great results from mid-year check-ins.

Go ahead, send out those calendar invites to your team members. You won’t be sorry!

Kevin Kruse  is a NY Times bestselling author, speaker and serial entrepreneur.

His latest book is Employee Engagement for Everyone