Best Review Question You Can Ask (For both Managers & Employees)

Reviews are dreaded by managers and employees alike.

Dreaded because there's 1) an uncomfortable power dynamic of judgment and 2) a hoped for expectation of increased compensation.

The dreaded ones usually go something like this:

  1. You're great.
  2. BUT improve on this.
  3. Oh don't forget we think you're great.
  4. Oh and about your raise....

Mostly the manager talks and the employee listens. And really the employee doesn't listen, because they simply hear BUT and $$, or lack of $$ and BUT. Either way, they don't tend to leave a review clicking their heels with excitement.

If you don't already do this - first separate raise reviews from performance reviews. Only here can an employee really participate in the conversation.

The manager is charged with what would seem the simple task of giving positive feedback and providing ways an employee can improve their performance/contribution.

To have a review welcomed by both managers and employees - consider this...

Marshall Goldsmith talks about one of the scariest, most valuable questions you can ask those who you care about. "How can I be a better ....?" (insert parent, spouse, kid, boss, employee)

So what if a review included these questions:

Manager to Employee: How can I be a better manager?

Employee to Manager: How can I be a better employee?

The beauty of this format, is that both parties are equally vulnerable and both have an equal opportunity to learn something important and improve in a meaningful way. They also have an equal desire to be kind yet constructive since they are both on the "hot" seat. And nobody has to come out feeling slimed.

Oh - and the key, according to Marshall Goldsmith, is upon receiving the suggestions from the other person, simply say "thank you." That's it. Thank you. Because it is a gift of honesty.

Then consider talking about constructive innovative ideas on how to make those improvements. "So how do you see me improving on X in the future." Avoid past examples - which often carry baggage such as stories and defensive remarks. Instead talk about what would it look like in the future. Why you did X in the past, doesn't really matter. What matters is how it landed.

Then talk about what you feel each is doing "right." What should we both keep on doing/being since it works well?

This is a genuine good note to end on.

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