5 Elements of Integrated Team-Based Performance Reviews

How to revolutionize conversations about results and contributions in your team and organization


April 18, 2019

People & Organizations

4 min.

Performance reviews in some form or other are a necessary element of working together. Traditionally they are an affair between a manager and an employee. They usually ignore the dimensions of the team and its inherent dynamics, sometimes creating behind the scenes rumors between team members.

With new organizational structures and agile teams, new ways of evaluating performance are required. One of the most effective ways to create lasting impact while maintaining good relationships is a team-based performance conversation. When everyone on the team gets personal feedback from everyone else, the whole team gets on board with the individual contributions of team members to overall performance.

In essence, a team-based performance review is a conversation among team members sitting in a circle, talking openly and honestly about goals and results with a team member. Each team member gets a turn at some point throughout the year – including the team lead. When done with the right tools and attitude, such performance reviews boost morale, team spirit and connection to the overall mission, generating consistent positive results.

There are several prerequisites for this to work. Here are five key elements.

1: Shared Leadership

Implementing shared leadership  is foundational to ensure a participative culture for honest feedback in all directions. It means to distribute managing tasks among team members based on various roles, instead of giving them all to a team lead. A team can assign roles such as meeting manager, controller, expert or even culture warden to different people in a self-managed process. Then, everyone shares responsibility for the team results as a whole as well as one’s individual contributions. Working in this way supports the mutual trust required for empowering conversations about results and contributions.

2: A Culture of Dialogue

Dialogue is an essential element for shared leadership and feedback to work at its best. True dialogue comes from an open heart and mind, which need to be actively cultivated in communication within teams. Dialogue is first about deep listening in order to fully understand what another person is saying. Second it is about speaking from one’s heart and mind to provide full information about where you are on any issue. Then you can get to the root of things and focus on moving ahead.

The experience of dialogue especially helps with challenging situations in performance management. Ideally, dialogue principles ensure that difficulties are recognized early and resolved on the spot, before they become major issues to be discussed in a performance review. Also, dialogue enables teams to trust each other in their conversations, thus providing the base for honesty in feedbacks.

Sounds too soft? You would be amazed to learn just how much time and energy you can save in conversations when these basic principles are established in your interactions with each other.

Performance Reviews

3: Clear Criteria

Performance criteria need to be aligned with your mission, vision, culture and values. This ensures that objectives are achieved in a way that is congruent with the spirit you want to cultivate in your team and company. Quantitative goals are usually easy to establish based on standard KPIs. Involve your team in developing qualitative criteria based on values and individual roles to engage them in the whole process. 

Through clear and positive criteria tied directly to your organizational and team values, you can establish a constructive way of talking about actions and results within the team. This enables accurate and specific feedback to each other and allows for the definition of concise quantitative and qualitative objectives, thus enhancing overall team spirit and performance.

4: Structured Process

To have an effective conversation about performance in terms of results and contributions, it is vital to have a clear structure, from preparation to documentation. All team members need to know, when and how to prepare for the review conversation, how they will be assessed themselves and how the conversation will happen. A basic outline of the overall process is usually enough. Preparation by all is essential, based on the criteria defined beforehand. 

The conversation itself includes a self-assessment about results achieved and contributions made.  Then the team presents their assessment. Finally, there is a dialogue about quantitative and qualitative results to be achieved during the time period until the next review. Having a structured agenda helps everyone stay focused in the now, so that time is used with maximum effectiveness. A short and concise summary of the agreed upon commitments completes the review.

5: Reflect

Finally, a cycle of reflection at the end of the conversation supports learning for all and makes future reviews more and more effective. Never skip this step – experience shows that something important often shows up just in these final rounds. And it helps to ground the practice of the review as part and parcel of working together productively.

Good News: You Can Start Right Where You Are as a Leader

You can start right with your own team – you don’t need to wait on policies or directives from above. Of course, it is very helpful if top management is on board for the principles of shared and participative leadership, but it is not a necessary condition for you as a team lead to start working in this direction. And who knows – once you plant the seed, others might want to emulate your example. This is one of the many ways in which we can change entire organizations over time.

Learn more about how to implement a team-based performance management system and review.

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