As a manager, you may be responsible for giving each member of your team formal, individualized feedback, at regular intervals.

Some people see this exercise as a chance to regularly judge who is deemed worthy enough to stay on the team. So, they look for weaknesses, failures, and areas of improvement to gauge whether this person is on their way out or on their way up. It’s a negative frame, where review is judgement and potential punishment.

Others see the review as a chance to help people on the way toward their goals and recognize the good work they’ve done on behalf of the team and organization. So, they look for strengths, accomplishments, and areas of continued growth in alignment with the individual’s personal goals. It’s a positive frame that affirms and validates the team member’s inherent value.

People in Vacuums

It is easy, and tempting, to approach a talent review by looking at quantifiable results, their attitude, or counting how many mistakes they made relative to expectations.

However, we should remember that people are largely a product of their material conditions. This means that someone who is underpaid, overworked, dealing with stress outside of work, or battling any number of physical, emotional, mental or socioeconomic factors, will be impact their performance and their attitude. It is simply not reasonable for the company to make decisions that materially impact the employee, who has no control over those decisions, and then harshly judge that individual.

Every talent review must consider how the person’s performance is directly influenced by a number of factors that the company controls. If someone isn’t performing, there is little value in judging and blaming them when there is so much more to learn from them about why they are struggling. By taking this posture instead, we can adjust the environment to increase the chances of success.

The Lovable Leader Talent Review Framework

If you’re giving someone feedback directly…

  1. Focus on the positives — their accomplishments, their growth, and their strengths.
  2. When discussing areas of improvement, ensure it is always aligned with their growth goals.
    1. Do this by taking some time to ask them about the areas they want to focus on improving.
  3. When discussing areas where the person came up short or missed expectations, ask what type of support they need to succeed.

If you’re giving feedback to someone else about someone on your team

  1. Make them look good.
  2. Report on their strengths.
  3. Put their weaknesses in context — identify where the company is failing to adequately support them
  4. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

Whose side are you on

I can’t believe that we still have to point this out in 2023 as late stage capitalism continues to amplify human suffering through mass layoffs coupled with unfathomable income inequality, and a totally inadequate safety net, but…

You, the manager this post is for, are not a beneficiary of the company’s success.

The owners and shareholders are.

You, are labor.

Therefore, do not make the mistake of thinking it is your job to protect the company from the people below you in the org chart. Do not make the mistake of killing yourself for a job that would replace you before your obituary is written.

Your job is to continually protect, and push for the needs and dignity of, the people you manage.

  • Always stand with the people over profits.
  • Always lead with empathy and kindness.
  • Always put people in context of their humanity before the context of their job responsibilities.

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