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Performance Reviews

7 Dos & Don’ts for Staff Performance Reviews

It’s the midpoint of the season, a time when many studio owners put their leadership into high gear and offer performance reviews for their employees.  Whether you have a carefully-developed system in place or you simply meet informally with each person, performance reviews open up the opportunity for you to check-in on your team’s progress and look ahead to the future.  They also allow you to hold your team members accountable (and for them to do the same for you!).

Performance reviews aren’t something I recommend doing off-the-cuff.  While you may need to improvise here and there, having a plan in place makes it possible to proceed with confidence and communicate with clarity.  Many studio owners I know have found success with implementing a rating system or a document of standards to help employees see where they stand on the key behaviors that lead to effective outcomes.  Others I know simply use a few, firm guidelines as touchpoints for the conversation.

However you choose to conduct your reviews, there are some key elements to the process that I have found essential to make sure each meeting is insightful and productive for everyone.  Through two decades of practice, I’ve been using and revising these 7 Dos & Don’ts for Staff Performance Reviews. Keep reading to use these Dos & Don’ts for yourself!

Here are my 7 Dos & Don’ts for Staff Performance Reviews:

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  1. Do come prepared … and allow your employees to prepare too
When scheduling a performance review, be sure to set aside some time to make some notes for yourself of the main points you want to discuss.  If your process is formal, prepare the ratings/scores and comments to share with your team member. Remind them of the items that you’ll be reviewing together so that they too can spend time preparing to discuss those specific outcomes.


  1. Do start with the positives
Lead the meeting by complimenting some of the employee’s strengths.  Refer to behaviors you have personally observed and offer praise for what you specifically noticed.  Don’t offer compliments just because you think you should; really mean what you say!


  1. Don’t dominate the conversation
Make a point to really listen when your team member responds to a question you’ve asked or a critique you’ve given.  Take notes if it helps! Active listening will allow you to ensure they feel heard and will give you the space to acknowledge their point of view.  You are building trust with them as you make room for their voice to be heard.

  1. Do offer clear feedback
As you can tell, I think there’s plenty of room in a performance review for high-fives and pats on the back!  But remember that the main goal is to communicate effectively about the areas where your employee can improve their work.  If you’re not specific about what you expect to change, you’re doing a disservice to yourself, the employee, and by association, to everyone on your team.


  1. Don’t forget to ask for feedback
While a traditional performance review is designed to give the employee feedback, I encourage you to ask for feedback too.  Find out if your employee has suggestions for an improved experience with team communications, staff meetings, with your leadership practices, or other areas of the business.


  1. Don’t take too much time
Performance reviews can be nerve-wracking for your employees and for you, so it’s important to use your time wisely.  Sketch out a simple agenda beforehand but be ready to adjust from it as needed. Being respectful of your employee’s time is another way to build confidence in your trustworthiness as a leader. We shoot for twenty minutes.


  1. Do allow for follow-up
It’s not realistic to expect that one personal conversation will be all it takes to move forward from a performance review.  Experience has taught me that although the conversation itself is an extremely valuable tool, the communication doesn’t stop there!  Be willing to circle back to some of the same topics after resetting expectations, offering suggestions, and listening to feedback.

Remember that conducting performance reviews can serve as a critical tool in advancing your team through the season and for this reason, shouldn’t be overlooked.  I encourage you to combine these Dos & Don’ts with your current system to create a winning formula for your studio! I hope you’ll share in the comments below what helps YOU most when preparing and managing your performance reviews, so we can all learn from each other.

Looking for more great ideas to help you manage an awesome team? Check out the following articles:

The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.

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