Episode 44

#044 - Performance Reviews

Published on: 8th June, 2021

Today we talk about performance reviews and the importance of how to manage them effectively as a leader (someone writing the review) or the person being reviewed.

Whether or not performance reviews are done well within your organization, they represent a core part of the career growth process and should be taken seriously. In addition, performance reviews offer an opportunity for you to share your career narrative and get full credit for your growth over the last review period.

Thanks for joining us today and don't forget to hit the subscribe button or reach out at [email protected].


Igor Geyfman 0:04

Let's let's just keep going with the performance stuff that's too complicated to coordinate.

Charles Knight 0:08

Yeah. Robert, you wanna kick us off on that performance

Igor Geyfman 0:10

reviews baby?

Robert Greiner 0:11


Igor Geyfman 0:11

it's that time of year,

Robert Greiner 0:12

that time of quarter

Igor Geyfman 0:14

a year, right? Yeah, we don't do our reviews annually.

Robert Greiner 0:16

Yeah, so we semi-annual reviews here. And you're either q1 q3, or q2 q4. And that means that there are reviews being done performance reviews being done every quarter. And our processes quite in depth, there's, I think everybody gets three to five pages of written text across a number of dimensions about your performance for a six month period. And as a result, since we have four times the amount of performance reviews every year, and maybe two to three times the quantity of them to deal with every year, I think we we see some patterns that maybe emerge a little bit more quickly. And so since we're in performance GB season is top of mind, maybe let's talk about an observation around performance reviews, and maybe some things that if you're a manager or leader, executive, individual contributor, you can take those ideas and maybe boost your career a little bit or be a more effective leader because of it.

Does that sound good?

Igor Geyfman 1:16

Sounds great, very timely for us. And we spend a lot of time, Robert, maybe just the baseline for some of our listeners, we probably all answer this question. How long do you think you spend on writing a review, including all the interviews and everything else that you have to do quality assurance and delivery and all that?

Robert Greiner 1:34

Yeah, so to be clear, I write six performance reviews, probably between six and eight per year, based on the number of mentees I have assigned to me. And then I attend 12 ish sessions, where another mentor comes in and presents a review. And we give feedback on it 12 sessions a quarter, and they're about an hour, 30 minutes to an hour. Does that seem right to you?

Igor Geyfman 1:59

It depends.

Usually how many people have to interview and how nuanced the review has to be because of the things that are coming up.

Robert Greiner 2:08

Oh, that's true, too. On the reviews, you're right, there's a tremendous amount of interviewing and in writing, that used to take me forever, it's much faster now. But yeah, so there's multi facets to thinking about the performance, the demonstrated performance of people at all different levels, and trying to project out their future career growth and give them opportunities to grow and making sure that their feedback is fair and onpoint. And it's not one of those that we usually lined them up, you have one day on one day off kind of thing. And you may have three or four sessions in a row where you have to be on because this is not something can really slouch on this people's careers are, are affected deeply by, by these reviewing their permanent record and all that kind of stuff. We do a lot of things, right, I think we get paid hefty dividends on the effort. Like it's definitely worth it for us. But it does take a lot of time. And you have to do it right.

Igor Geyfman 3:01

And I definitely have parts of it that I really enjoy and that energize me. And then parts of the review process that are not quite as enjoyable and pretty draining. Usually, for me that's in the documentation, like the actual writing of the review. I don't get any joy out of that if I could get feedback from people and then have a conversation with my mentee, that would be my preferred way of handling that. I prefer not to write a five page letter. But I understand

Robert Greiner 3:27

You do a good job. You

put a lot of effort in you and Charles, I'll just affirm that in front of all of our listeners, that y'all do a really great job writing reviews.

Igor Geyfman 3:37

I think we all take it seriously. I don't think we treat it as a chore. It's a big responsibility. And it's our responsibility to the people that we work with and that we want to see succeed and want to become executives. So it's a big deal. Can't slouch on it.

Robert Greiner 3:52

Yeah, there's

a funny analog here where you could raise the question, Why are people so bad at Christmas? It comes at the same time every year. Everyone's always buying presents late, those kind of things. And it's because it doesn't happen that often. Right? If you're 30, you've only had 30 shots at Christmas. And most of those were when you were a kid. And so it's really looks more like 10. And performance reviews are probably the same way. Oh, Igor just bailed. Thanks for joining back. I think it's fine. So performance reviews are kind of the same way. There's like this yearly thing. You don't do them that often. You're not good at things. You don't do that often. And we have to do it four times a year. So yeah, I think that helps with the, if you're putting in hours to gain mastery over a skill like that. We're doing it four times as fast.

Igor Geyfman 4:37

I've gotten a lot better. And I think I've done better and I don't spend less time, but I've gotten better at getting more use out of the time that I spend. Because I do spend probably depending on the review, 20 hours per view, but I just squeeze a lot more value into that time. But I haven't been able to cut back and say oh, only 20 hours.

Charles Knight 4:59

20 hours for a single review,

Igor Geyfman 5:01


Charles Knight 5:01


Igor Geyfman 5:02

Yeah, I

Charles Knight 5:04

Well, Robert, that's consistent for you too.

Robert Greiner 5:07

Now, I think I do much less. I'm trying to think the time spent in the interviewing side, and taking notes and then distilling those notes definitely is the heavier part. But I think I'm much less than that. I don't, maybe five to 10 hours.

Charles Knight 5:23

Yeah, I was gonna say max for me eight per review, with with easily over half of it being the, okay, I've gathered all the feedback, I need to synthesize, come up with a narrative come up with the forward looking stuff and present and adjusted after presenting it based on feedback, that's 20 hours, man,

Igor Geyfman 5:44

I'm just a bad writer, I think. And so I have to continuously. But that's the toughest part for me, the synthesis and all those sort of things. It's time consuming, for sure. But I think I probably spend more time in the writing than y'all because I'm not as good at it.

Charles Knight 5:59

That is where I have improved the most in terms of efficiency, while maintaining effectiveness is it's in the writing itself. And I was gonna say we all we absolutely 100% we invest a lot of time and energy, we take it very seriously. And there is quite a bit of variation in terms of how we each approach reviews, I bet if we run around one around the horn here, we would all have slightly different processes and preference in terms of how we gather feedback and how we synthesize it and how we spread that overtime or not. There's, I was talking to somebody the other day, who was commenting on hey, I had to work over the holiday weekend to write this review. Right, it's a sign of commitment, right? Because it is important, and they took time out of the holiday to do it. Also probably sign of poor planning shouldn't have to have done that. But that's it happens. I've done it before late night review writing and things like ends, we described, I asked them what their process was and how they approached it, I had a hypothesis, and they confirmed it. And then I offered essentially a complete 180 approach to what they did. And it was just fun to compare how people think about writing a review, which, whose purpose is to provide forward looking direction on growth for an individual. And there's a lot of different ways that you can do it. Even though we have a very standard process, we've got a standard document, we've got objective criteria in which to evaluate people, right, there's all of that standardization, and yet very subjective in terms of how we arrive at that final document. And I think that's fascinating.

Igor Geyfman 7:37

Maybe one of the differences for me is that I don't accept written feedback. And so every person that I talked to, is a half an hour to an hour long conversation. And then it probably takes me another hour or so to synthesize each of those conversations into like meaningful insights. So that that's also pretty time consuming process that I could probably really cut down on, if I just asked for written feedback from people,

Charles Knight 8:05

I'm with you, though written feedback, you lose a lot. And so I do conversations for feedback, instead of 30 minutes to an hour, it probably ranges from 15 to 45 minutes. So I try to shrink time there. And I actually try to synthesize in the conversation, I'll gather feedback from one person, in my conversation with the next person, I'm synthesizing that person's feedback in real time with the feedback that I've gathered to date. And so that that's my approach. It's like I synthesize as I go as I get more feedback. And there's,

Igor Geyfman 8:38

I'm curious, Charles, does that

impact the way that you order? Your interviews? Yes. He talked to certain people before others.

Charles Knight 8:45


absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And I am very intentional about the order. And I also, I start with the person self assessment, right? That is the baseline. Like I don't do any gathering of feedback until I have that. Because I, I start off with, here's self assessment of the person and how they're doing and how they've grown and what they should be focusing on. Next, I then synthesize that with my own experience, and understanding through conversations to date. And what I know about the person and I go in to feedback sessions, where I'm gathering feedback, I already have a hypothesis. And so a lot of the feedback how I guide my feedback conversations is around confirming denying hypothesis, and, hey, what am I missing? Tell me what I've missed. And so I have, I usually have very targeted questions, as opposed to, hey, it's just a blank slate, tell me anything and everything that you want, which oftentimes results in significant overlap in feedback between people, because people on a team observed the same behavior and they observe the same events and they, which is good because you get a confirmation, but too much of that and then it's just inefficient, and so I try to preempt some of that through how I order interviews and stuff like that.

Robert Greiner:

Really important points here I want to pause on one is when you're getting feedback to write a review, interviewing other people in person is important body language, tonality, you can ask probing questions, you can triangulate, it's more of a discussion, things emerge from that instead of just asking someone to give you a list of bullet points and, and then you can build off of them as you go through interviews, to dig a little deeper. And then the self assessment, you should, if you're being reviewed, you should be giving someone a self generated assessment of how you think you did during that period against the criteria you have for your job. It's a way to tell your career story to get full credit for the work that you've done to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. But it's also an indication of how self aware you are. And you can use that to for reviews that you're writing as well, it's okay, does this person have good self awareness of where they're really at? Are they just trying to magnify the good stuff so they can make more money.

Igor Geyfman:

And whether this is fair, not my mentees? I don't know if they listen to this or not. But it also shows me how invested you are in your career by the quality of your self review. And you can tell pretty easily if somebody has given thought and intention and energy into writing your self review, or if it was an afterthought, and just a couple of bullets. So it's also an indication of how invested somebody is into shepherding their own career


Charles Knight:

unique process for performance reviews. But I think this idea of a self assessment, coming up with your own narrative for what you've been focusing on the goals you've accomplished, where you want to grow next, that's a really powerful, even outside of our system that I think everybody should adopt, whether or not the company that you work for, really embraces that, or requires that or even does anything with it. Because what I will, the way that it works for me, right now I'll talk about my experience writing self assessments. And now for us, they call them introspections. It's so helpful for me to look back and reflect on where I've come, what I've done what I've learned, it solidifies it for me, like it and it is even if none of that makes it into the final review. Oftentimes it doesn't, right, because it's just raw input. It's up to the mentor who writes our reviews and our company to distill that down, integrate it with other people's feedback. And so it sometimes it's hard to tell, did they even read the self review? I know they did. But it is a helpful and useful exercise, regardless of if it ever makes this way into your review, because it really does help you gosh what is the word I'm looking for here? make sense of what has happened? Right? take stock of just like we do every every year, where we kind of plan review the year, look ahead a year, this is a this is another opportunity to do that. And get

Igor Geyfman:

Yes, that's a moment of reflection.

Charles Knight:

Yeah. And looking forward to because we get so caught up in the delivery of the day to day, this is an opportunity to say, hey, six months from now, 12 months from now, 18 months from now, what do I want my trajectory to be. That can inform how we adjust our time and energy expenditure, which goals we focus on and prioritize and things like that. And so it's just a wonderful moment of reflection that we don't get enough of, we're always forward looking. And we miss so much by not looking back. And so highly recommend people do that. Even if you're not asked to, there's a lot of power in that for yourself.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, and the world of professional sports can teach us a lot about World Class performance. And if you want to be a world class performer, you can maybe take some behaviors and practices from people who are world class and a lot of them review game tape everybody, right? Here's the second by second frame by frame breakdown of how you reacted in a situation. And you can look at that and modify future behavior by looking at past performance. And so it's a way to make your own game tape. And I think that's a practice that's well proven, helps increase performance.

Charles Knight:

Yeah. Can we maybe shift gears a moment and talk about, like our role as mentors and review writers in terms of having that hypothesis? Like around what, where's this person heading? And what are they capable of? And really trying to push them? Can we talk about that? Or is there anything else we want to

Robert Greiner:

that's, that would take up the rest of the episode? So let's do that. And then we'll do like a part two, next time maybe trying to do

Igor Geyfman:

Can I do a quick little bonus thing? Because it's related to our series.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, go for it.

Igor Geyfman:

And so reading the book, the nine lies inspired me to make a very tactical change in my review, writing process. And it really has to do with I think it's line number three, which was the best companies cascade goals. And so one of the iterations on my review process is that I started asking all of my mentees to tell me what cdps development opportunities they want to work on. And before I wasn't doing that, I was assigning Things that I thought would be good for them based on feedback and career growth and all that sort of stuff. And I guess, because of reading this book, I modified my process and started co creating, and the CDP process a lot more than I did before. So just a little inflection because of this book that relates to our topic.

Robert Greiner:

So part of your self review or introspection, is creating your own hypothesis about where you should grow.

Igor Geyfman:

Yep, exactly.

Robert Greiner:

And then that ties in Charles, I think, to what you were saying, which is as a leader, as some someone's manager, mentor, whatever, whoever you are, if you're in a review writing role, you have an obligation as part of this to not only accurately assess the performance over a review period, but also spend some time intentionally thinking about how to help your direct to get to the next level.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, yeah, there's when you start off as a mentor reading reviews, you have to get the fundamentals down of accurately gathering feedback representing the facts, evaluating them against the objective framework. So that's foundational stuff. And then from there, it's the learning how to learn what your mentee wants to do, and encouraging them and pushing them in ways that are in alignment with the firm, which is challenging at times. And then beyond that, it's an oftentimes that takes the form of over the next six months, or to get you to the next major promotion, we'll talk there, then the next level is think five years out. 10 years out, think about your entire career overall. So that there's a, as you mature as a mentor and review writer, if you do have that obligation to look further out ahead, right, because especially for those people that are doing well, before we started recording, Robert, you're talking about how sometimes it's hard to find constructive feedback for those people that are doing so well, in their role currently, oftentimes, the way out of that is to think farther ahead, think two promotions from now three, five, and widen, the time horizon and oftentimes that can provide that can provide really interesting insight as to what they should be thinking about right now. And I think that's what the best mentors do. And that's what I strive to do. And I oftentimes fail. But I'm reminded by some of my great mentors that I had, because they were really good at helping me to look ahead and avoid, avoid mistakes in difficult situations, and take that time to not only look back, but look forward as well, like far out farther out than we're used to as humans.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah. And on that note, too, that this is especially more effective, if you're close to level of the person you're writing a review for, it's very hard, the farther you get from a level, to understand what it was like to move from one to the next, or the kind of issues that you're going through right then in there. So if you're three to five years ahead of your direct that you're writing reviews for, that's a sweet spot, where I think that the ability to do that would be pretty poignant. And then if you have much more of a time gap or experience gap, that can really help think through that sort of decade or more timeframe, which could glean some interesting insights. So you probably need a good mixture of both inputs going into like a very serious contemplation of how to help your direct grow.

Charles Knight:

Make sense?

Robert Greiner:

Okay, cool. So why don't we end this one here? And then we'll pick up next week with maybe an observation or two from each of us around what we've experienced around writing reviews, receiving reviews, those kind of things and make some actionable? advice, guidance, thoughts, ideas on each of those. Does that sound good?

Charles Knight:

Yeah. Yeah.

Robert Greiner:


Charles Knight:

Love it.

Robert Greiner:

Cool. Cool. We'll do that next week. And then the following week, we'll close out. Nine lies about work.

Charles Knight:


Robert Greiner:

Nice little detour with you. I'm glad we had a chance to get together today. It almost didn't happen.

Igor Geyfman:

For sure. Yeah, for sure. Love it.

Charles Knight:

Alright, take care, guys.

Robert Greiner:

Have a good one. Bye. That's it for today. Thanks for joining. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter@wannagrabcoffee or drop us a line at [email protected]

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