How To Do Quarterly Reviews

Posted On: August 14

I have a fabulous coaching client whose company is growing quickly. As his business expanded, he realized he needed a more formal process for managing his managers. He asked if I could give him some ideas about how to conduct quarterly reviews.

Here is my reply.

I’m glad that you’re going to start doing quarterly reviews. This practice can bring numerous benefits, such as improved communication, enhanced performance, and increased employee engagement. Because you’ve never done them before, it will be essential to start off on the right foot. Here is an overview of how to conduct the reviews.

Begin by explaining the purpose and benefits of the reviews. Emphasize that these reviews are meant to support their growth, align their goals with the company’s objectives, and provide valuable feedback. Encourage an open and collaborative environment where both parties can share their thoughts and concerns. Ensuring the employee does not feel like they are being punished is critical.

The key to effective reviews is that they are based on very clear expectations of what the team member was supposed to achieve in the last quarter.

It is unfair to employees to get negative feedback on their performance if they do not clearly understand what they are supposed to deliver. It is also essential to, as much as possible, base the review on facts. Your review should touch on how they performed against the agreed-upon metrics, observable behaviors, and feedback from other employees about their performance. Telling a team member you think they “have a bad attitude” is confusing if you can’t back that up with examples and compare it to what you believe are the specific elements of a positive attitude.

To prepare for the meeting, you should review all the information you have about the employee’s past performance. This might include project updates, sales figures, customer feedback, and other metrics demonstrating their performance. This will enable a constructive and productive discussion during the review. Since this is the first time you’re doing reviews, you might not have all that information readily available.

Now is the time to create a baseline to use going forward.

Some companies I work with ask the team member to do their own review and send it to their manager before they meet one-on-one. This gives you a feel for how the employee thinks they have been doing. Sometimes this aligns very well with your thoughts, other times the team member sees things differently. You think they are struggling; they believe they are superstars. Either way, asking them to do a self-analysis before the meeting will better prepare both of you for the discussion.

Along those lines, it’s best to have a template that helps the team member prepare their review. Here is a template from one of my clients. They have more than 400 employees, so this is a bit more detailed than you will need to use. Pick and choose the questions that you think apply to your organization.

Please take some time to reflect on your performance over the past quarter/year and provide thoughtful responses to the following questions:

  1. Accomplishments: Reflect on your achievements during the evaluation period. What notable goals did you accomplish? Were there any projects or tasks where you exceeded expectations? Please provide specific examples and quantify your achievements when possible.
  2. Strengths: Identify your key strengths and skills contributing to your success. What unique qualities or abilities do you bring to your role? How have these strengths positively impacted your work, the team, or the company?
  3. Areas for Improvement: Consider areas where you believe you could enhance your performance or develop new skills. Are there any challenges or tasks that you found particularly difficult? How could you overcome these challenges in the future? This is an opportunity to highlight areas where you want to grow and receive support.
  4. Learning and Development: Reflect on any training, workshops, or learning opportunities you have pursued during the evaluation period. How have these activities contributed to your professional growth? Have you acquired any new skills or knowledge that have positively impacted your performance?
  5. Goals and Aspirations: Outline your career goals and aspirations. Where would you like to see yourself in the short and long term? How do you envision your role evolving within the company? This information will help us align your goals with the organization’s objectives and support your professional development.
  6. Support and Resources: Consider the support and resources you require to excel in your role. Are there any tools, training, or resources to enhance your performance or productivity? How can we, as an organization, provide the necessary support to help you succeed?

Once you have done your homework on the employee’s performance and they have provided you with a self-evaluation, the next step is to set up a meeting for the two of you to discuss their review.

During the review, focus on both achievements and areas for growth. Begin with positive feedback, acknowledging their accomplishments and highlighting their contributions. Then, discuss any areas that require attention or improvement, being mindful to provide constructive feedback and suggest actionable solutions. Encourage the team member to share their perspectives and ideas for growth. It is vital that they have the opportunity to give input and ask questions at the meeting. 

Once you have discussed their past and current performance, make it a collaborative goal-setting process to set specific and attainable goals for the upcoming quarter. You want the team member to understand precisely what is expected of them and agree that they can deliver it. You must leave the meeting fully aligned on what the employee needs to do over the next quarter. Remember, this entire process focuses on celebrating the team member’s successes during the last quarter, agreeing on areas for improvement, and setting them up for success in the next quarter. This is a partnership where you both want the same outcome. For the employee to be successful so that the company can be successful.

On that note, you must also be sure to give the team member all the resources, training, and decision-making authority necessary to deliver on the goals you set together. Giving someone a goal but not everything they need to achieve it is incredibly frustrating and demotivating.

Quarterly reviews are not standalone events; they should be part of an ongoing process.

Offer your continuous support and guidance to help the employee achieve their goals. Regularly check in between reviews to provide guidance and monitor progress. Most of my clients do a quick weekly check-in, perhaps 30 minutes, and a more extended meeting once a month. They also set up short meetings whenever a team member asks for one. Unless you’ve got a business that moves very fast, having a formal meeting more than once a week feels like micromanagement to me. You must trust that they’re doing a great job, and if something goes wrong and needs your attention, they will ask for a meeting.

I do a lot of work helping my clients coach their employees for improved performance. Here is a framework called GROW that many organizations use as their coaching methodology. GROW stands for Goal, Reality, Options, and Will. It provides a structured approach to coaching conversations. It helps employees find solutions and take ownership of their performance improvement.

Here’s a brief overview of the GROW framework and how to implement it:

  1. Goal: Start the coaching conversation by clarifying the team member’s goal or desired outcome. Encourage them to express what they want to achieve and ensure the goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). Then, help the team member define their goal in a way that aligns with their role and the organization’s objectives.
  2. Reality: Explore the employee’s current reality or the current situation. Encourage them to reflect on their performance, strengths, challenges, and any factors impacting their effectiveness. Use open-ended questions to help them gain insights into their current performance and identify any gaps between their current reality and the desired goal.
  3. Options: Facilitate a brainstorming session to generate options and solutions for the team member to improve their performance. Encourage creative thinking and exploration of different approaches. Then, help the employee consider a range of options, strategies, or actions they can take to bridge the gap between their current reality and the desired goal.
  4. Will: Guide the team member to commit to specific actions to improve performance. Encourage them to choose the most promising options from the previous step and develop an action plan. Support the employee in setting clear milestones, defining the steps they need to take, and establishing a timeline for implementation. Emphasize accountability and ownership in this step.

Implementation Tips:

  • Actively listen to the employee throughout the coaching conversation. Pay attention to their needs, concerns, and aspirations. Validate their feelings and perspectives, which will help build trust and rapport.
  • Use powerful open-ended questions to encourage reflection, promote self-awareness, and stimulate creative thinking. This will help the team member gain deeper insights and explore new possibilities.
  • Encourage the team member to take ownership of their performance improvement. Guide them to develop their own solutions and make decisions. Empower them to think critically and take responsibility for their growth.
  • Schedule regular follow-up meetings to review progress, provide feedback, and offer ongoing support. Hold the employee accountable for their commitments and celebrate their successes.
  • Encourage a growth mindset within the coaching process. Help the employee identify opportunities for further development and refinement of their goals, strategies, or actions as they progress.

This framework helps you and the team member work together to set their performance goals for the upcoming quarter.

I hope you found this helpful.

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  1. So much great stuff in this post, John. The ongoing process is key from my point of view. Reviews are a tracking/planning tool. Daily growth, development, and achievement are where it's at.

    BTW: I always hated giving myself a performance review. Some of us are hard on ourselves and some are easy on themselves. Good managers can deal with this, but I never felt good about my self-appraisal being in my record. I'm not sure of an alternative. I just don't like them.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Dan. I had a hard time with self-appraisals, too. The scale only goes to 10 on the positive, and I kept trying to give myself 15. Very frustrating!!

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