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Posted: April 18, 2014

Best of CoBiz: Nobody likes performance review surprises

...and other rules for success in life and business

Laurence B. Valant

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from business performance improvement expert Larry Valant’s book, Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance.

True and honest feedback plays a huge role in performance and growth.

Performance reviews must provide true and honest feedback. If they do so, they become the foundation for and the most crucial part of personal development, management development and training.

Sadly, most organizations base their performance reviews on models created by professionals in human resources that are qualitative, complicated, and have virtually no relationship to organization performance and are therefore of little value to personal growth and management development.

Organizations that base performance reviews on quantitative measures and objective standards of performance provide the basis for honest and true feedback on performance. Such performance reviews are the foundation for effective coaching and management development because both manager and the subordinate engage in a discussion of quantitative facts which are indisputable and not qualitative opinions which are indefensible.

And, preparation for these reviews is simple for both the reviewer and the reviewee because the review is based on the delivery of commitments on time and on budget, whether by the individual or the individual and their direct reports. Feedback must be given on a regular basis, preferably quarterly, to provide for maximum employee development and guidance. If reviews occur regularly, weak performance or failure to make plan can be quickly identified and corrected.

There is no better way to create a culture of honesty and respectful feedback than to use a quantitative, unbiased approach to reviewing performance.

Nobody likes surprises in performance reviews.

Most performance reviews include surprises, most of which are unpleasant. Bad experiences result when performance reviews are qualitatively rather than quantitatively based. Even if the general areas of review are understood, the means for measuring them are not because generalities cannot be measured. How do you measure "communications, motivation, teamwork, cooperation", and other qualitative components of behavior? Not easily, and certainly not credibly.

Meaningful performance reviews are based on agreed- to deliverables, standards of performance and clearly defined expectations. And when they are, the performance review becomes a valuable developmental tool rather than a huge source of frustration.

Surprises and disappointments will remain the fate of all those involved in performance reviews unless performance reviews are based on quantitative measures and standards of performance that have been agreed to at the beginning of the performance period.

And quarterly performance reviews should replace the annual review because frequent evaluations encourage managers to coach their direct reports. When frequently reviewed, performance does not get very far off track without corrective action.

With such a process, surprises become rare.

It is not about yelling, it is about coaching to success.

The job of managing is difficult and challenging, even for the best managers. Managing is about getting your people willing to be held accountable for meeting the company's objectives on time and on budget. Achieving this level of commitment requires the skills and personality traits that make up the successful manager.

These competent managers stand apart from others. They tend not to get frustrated, not to blame and not to yell. Rather, they quietly teach and coach and counsel their subordinates to success. They set examples that are models of good management behavior and which invariably follow the company's code of conduct and core values. These traits also serve to teach their direct reports how they can become excellent and effective managers - getting planned results on time, and on budget.

Laurence B. Valant is President and CEO of Valant & Co., a Denver-based business performance improvement consultancy that has worked with almost 300 firms to increase their value by billions of dollars. He is co-author of the hot-selling new book, “Make Plan! With Effective Execution” and now, “Lead and Manage!” Valant can be reached at or at 303-589-3840. If you want more information or would like to order a copy of “Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance,” please visit

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