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    Improve performance

    Review frequency, format demystify the process

    Download this checklist as a reminder when leading performance discussions with your employees.Replacing the awkward, intimidating annual review process with more frequent structured reviews provides accountability for all, according to  Ron Hartley who spoke at The Cosmetic Bootcamp (CBC), Aspen, Colo., in July.

    In medicine and elsewhere, virtually everyone hates giving or receiving annual reviews because very few people have been taught how to do performance reviews effectively, says Mr. Hartley, business relationship manager with Solutionreach, Lehi, Utah. 

    “The old way was, we chose a date, maybe toward the end of the year. And as we got closer to the date, we became more nervous, whether we were giving or receiving the review. Instead of doing them annually, maybe consider doing them twice a year, or even quarterly.”

    Rather than doubling or quadrupling the workload, he says, performing more frequent reviews relieves pressure. 

    “The annual review typically only focuses on the most recent months. In December, you’ve forgotten what happened in January, February and March. Issues arise mid-year that need to be addressed.”

    When performing reviews, he recommends finding a comfortable place to sit one-on-one with your employee. 

    “It might be your office, but sometimes that desk in between is a bit of a barrier.” He suggests a four-step process.

    #1 Look the employee in the eye.

    Express gratitude for meeting with you, and for whatever the person is doing well.

    “Whether they’re a superior or average employee, make them feel good,” he says. Find something to thank them for—maybe doing a good job, or for being on time every day.

    #2 Ask 6 questions:

    Q: What’s one thing you’re most proud of that you’ve done at work recently? 

    “This gets employees thinking about positives, and their contribution. They’ll come up with something, and it may surprise you. When they respond, this should open a discussion. Spend a few minutes” talking about their recent accomplishments. For employees who are in denial and consistently overrate their performance, he suggests giving praise where appropriate, but also adding statements like, “I wonder if it might have been even better if you had done this differently. Or you may give feedback like, ‘You have such passion. I love that you’re very confident about what you do,’” but patient feedback suggests there are areas for improvement. Rather than handing the employee a form to fill out alone, he says, it’s crucial to open a two-way discussion early in the review process.

    Post-appointment surveys provide a great tool for assessing what’s happening with an employee, Mr. Hartley adds. If one name keeps coming up in response to the question “Who was particularly helpful in your visit,” he says, “That’s great. But if you have a question that says, ‘Was there anyone who could have done a better job today?’ and there’s a name that keeps coming up, that triggers you” to discuss the matter at the employee’s review.

    Q: In what ways are you making personal progress here? 

    “Isn’t that what everyone in your office should be doing — learning and gaining experience?”

    Q: What’s the best thing about working in this office? 

    “Notice that we’ve started off with a lot of positives. Usually people are afraid to come to reviews” because they fear the reviewer will focus exclusively on what they’re doing wrong.

    Q: If you were in charge, what’s one thing you would do differently? 

    “You’re asking, in a nice way, what are we doing wrong?” But wording it positively gives the person permission to suggest an improvement, he says. “This question helps you understand things that maybe you weren’t aware of that are not going as well as they should.”

    Q: What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing in your job? 

    “In an ideal world, everyone would be totally content and comfortable with their work assignments, work environment and co-workers. This is a great question to help you identify stumbling blocks to personal progress.” 

    Q: What can I do to help you and the team be more successful? 

    “Again, you’re giving this person permission to share some things that they might not otherwise share with you. So far, the review has been more about asking open-ended questions” to get the employee talking.

    #3 Let employees share their thoughts. 

    “Ask the person, ‘Based on what we’ve talked about, is there anything else you’d like to tell me that I should be aware of?’ At this point, you’ve generated such a great discussion through these questions that they should feel comfortable now sharing something with you.”

    #4 Sum up the review with an action plan. 

    “Ask the employee, ‘What can I hold you accountable for when we meet next?’ You’re not saying, ‘I’ve made these notes, and when we meet next, I’ll make sure that you’ve done this, this, and this.’” Based on the discussion, he says, it should be clear to the employee what sort of goals to set.

    “The employee may say, ‘I’ll try to come in on time two days a week.’ Since that’s not an acceptable goal, you can say, ‘That would be an improvement, but why don’t we shoot for five days a week?’ Let this prompt some discussion. If they don’t come up with what you think they should be doing, lead them in that direction.”

    As a second action item, Mr. Hartley recommends asking the employee what you as the doctor can be held accountable for at the next review. “They’ll probably be surprised you asked that question, but let them think about it and answer. They may say, ‘It would be great if you could be more open with me about how I’m doing.’ Say, ‘That’s great,’” and add to the employee’s suggestion if needed. 

    Mr. Hartley concludes that the performance review processes is about “having more of an open discussion, letting that person tell you what they think they’re doing well, and being able to respond to the employee in a somewhat more casual atmosphere, which should open up greater discussion and sharing. And don’t forget to document everything. As you’re talking, take notes, particularly regarding action items. This will provide a starting point and structure for the next review.” 

    Disclosures: Mr. Hartley is an employee of Solutionreach.

     

    John Jesitus
    John Jesitus is a medical writer based in Westminster, CO.

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