Why Performance Reviews Suck

thumbs-down1Ok .. it’s not really that performance reviews suck; it’s that they are very often completed poorly.  Some of my personal pet peeves when it comes to performance reviews are:

1. They are considered stand-alone tools.  Instead of coaching, mentoring, training and supporting on an on-going basis, notes are kept in the file (or even worse, in the head) as to all the things not being done well and then brought up during the review.  Years ago, my husband started a new job.  He walked into his three-month review feeling pretty good only to walk out completely deflated because his supervisor spent the entire time telling him all the things he wasn’t doing right. Why in the world would she have let him continue perfecting incorrect behaviour for three entire months instead of helping him successfully transition into a new job?  From a purely selfish perspective, a well-run department would make her look good to her bosses, right?  At the same time, waiting three months or a year to let someone know when they did something well is also not a good idea.

2. Supervisors / managers buy into the “never give more than one exceeded expectations, if any”. Really?  Why?  If someone is performing above standard, if they shine in particular areas, why in the world should that not be acknowledged? Some people subscribe to the belief that the employee will no longer care and stop working.  Who the heck are you hiring then?  If someone is rocking in a certain area, let them know. Provide examples and discuss how to get other areas up or perhaps take on more responsibility based on their particular area of amazingness.

3.  No specific examples are provided.  Not one single example provided should be news to the employee (see point one). But if you are going to indicate someone is still not meeting expectations, know why and be able to provide specific examples. Same holds true for exceeding expectations.  Providing examples brings validity to the review and demonstrates you took the time to really think about this.

4.  Nobody really knows what “meet expectations” means.  If categories are included on the performance review, at some point during orientation and training, each employee needs to know what is expected of them in order to at least receive a “meet” and what could help them get an “exceed”.

5. It’s a “listen to me” session as opposed to a discussion.  When a performance review is considered a stand-alone tool, there is really no reason to spend time discussing how to move from unmet to met or from met to exceeding.  There is no reason to ask “How can I help you?”.

Stand-alone performance reviews, completed only because it is a task on the to-do list, get stuck in a file and are never looked at again.  Everybody hates them and they are pretty much a waste of time.

I am not advocating throwing out performance reviews. I am suggesting using the performance review as a time to review successes and plan for future successes is time well spent.

What do you think?  Have you ever walked out of a performance review going “that was time sell spent”. What made it valuable for you? 



Do You Really Need to Give Away Stuff to Keep a Customer?

“Give them something” is very often the answer to the questions “How can we show our customers we appreciate them?” and “What can we do to get that unhappy customer back?”

How many of your customers need another pen, another golf shirt, another mug or another hat?  How many other logoed items are they receiving from other companies they do business with?

It’s not that all customers hate stuff.  What customers like better than stuff is:

1.  Being treated like an individual person.  Smile.  Acknowledge them.  Offer to help.  Ask for their name and then use it.  Tell them your name.  Work to create a relationship over and above the dollar sign.  Recognize that some customers want to chat, some want to get right down to business.  Adapt your service delivery so that it’s great in their eyes, not yours.

2.  Hearing ‘thank you’.  A sincere thank you is a lot more meaningful than a pen or t-shirt.  Take some time to use that company pen of yours to write and mail a thank you note or a “we’ve missed seeing you” note.  Personalize the notes to that customer.  Use their name and incorporate one other piece of information specific or unique to the individual customer.

3.  You owning your mistakes. Customers don’t expect perfection all the time.  They want it, but don’t necessarily expect it.  What they do expect is recognition and acknowledgement when something does go wrong. They want to be listened to. They want you to understand their disappointment and they want an apology.  Yes, some people may want more than that, but a t-shirt or coupon for 15% off their next visit without empathy, understanding and apology is not enough.  You may  be surprised at how many customers are satisfied with sincere acknowledgement of their concern, an apology and a thank-you for sharing comment.  Those three things are in short supply. Giving them out freely, without reservation, means more than stuff to a whole lot of people.

It’s not that giving away stuff is a bad thing.  Some customers appreciate and expect the freebies, the extra little things they receive from you on an occasional basis.  It’s just not THE answer.   There are a lot of other companies doing that. Become the company your customers would come back to even if you never gave away ‘stuff’.

P.S.  These three tips also apply when discussing internal customer satisfaction strategies.

10 Tips to Build Strong Healthy Relationships

Strong, healthy personal relationships are built on strong foundation of communication, trust and mutual understanding.  So how do you build those qualities and relationships with your service team?

Here are 10 suggestions:   

  1. Recognize that successful relationships take work. Trusting relationships don’t happen overnight.  They take time to develop; there needs to be a desire to develop a successful relationship and a commitment to dedicating time and effort to make it happen.
  2. Understand and celebrate differences. Strong service teams are made up of individuals with unique skills, weaknesses, likes, dislikes and personalities.  Recognize and acknowledge the unique contribution each person brings to your business
  3. Acknowledge each person in some way every day.  Start off each morning with a smile and a brief check-in.  Find something positive to share every day, either to individuals on the team or to the entire team.
  4. Don’t speak while angry. Reacting to annoyances, missed opportunities or poor performance with anger shuts down communication.  It also means you are focusing on your frustration instead of the problem or the solution.  The next time you are frustrated or angry, take a moment to calm down before addressing the situation.
  5. Get regular tune-ups.  Molehills, small frustrations and annoyances, turn into mountains if they are not addressed early on.  Set aside time to meet with your team members on a regular basis.  Find out what is going well and where they need additional support.
  6. Be responsible for your own behaviour.  If there is conflict, don’t assume it’s entirely the other person’s fault.  Instead of focusing on their behaviour, make sure you are not contributing to any negativity.  Find out what changes you can make in your behaviour and then make them.
  7. Give what you want to get. Treat your service team the way you want them to treat their customers. Be the example.
  8. Set goals together.  You expect your service team to work in such a way that goals are met. Invite them into the process of setting the goals, the strategies and tactics on how to achieve those goals.  That makes your goals, their goals.
  9. Stop talking and listen. Don’t provide all the answers. Ask questions and then wait for your team to come up with ideas. Ask for feedback, comments and suggestions and then stop talking. Give your team the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas freely.
  10. Be willing to compromise.  There are some things that can’t be compromised. Honesty, safety, integrity and service standards are just some examples.  But there are times when compromise is very possible. Don’t get hung up on “my way” instead of the end objective.  Rigid schedules that don’t recognize a full life outside of work can kill a relationship. Rigid adherence to outdated, unnecessary policies damage morale.  Look for common ground wherever possible.

People in strong,healthy personal relationships feel better about themselves and life in general.  People in strong, healthy service teams also feel better about themselves, their customers and the company they work for.  Building strong, healthy relationships is hard work, but worth the effort.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


What are some things you do to build a strong foundation of communication, trust and mutual understanding at your company?

Three Ways to Appreciate your Team All Year

The holiday season is upon us and for many companies that means it’s time to thank employees for their efforts.  Some companies hold an annual holiday party; others provide gift certificates, turkeys or perhaps an annual bonus.  Any and all of those ideas are appreciated by the recipients.

But what happens when the holiday party is over, the gift card is redeemed, the turkey is gone and the bonus spent?

What are some things you can do to demonstrate your appreciation on a day-to-day basis?

Care about your team members, not just the work they do.  Make time to get to know them.  What do they like to do outside of work?  Movies, reading, gardening, writing?  Knowing this also helps you customize gift cards to specific interests, which makes gift cards that much more meaningful.  Be aware of special events happening in their lives, both the good and the bad.  Births, deaths, weddings, separations.  Letting your team know they are more than a time slot in the schedule matters.

Recognize everyone’s contribution and accomplishments.  Everyone starts at their own place and everyone has their own unique challenges to overcome.  Don’t compare team members but instead recognize individual accomplishments and personal or professional growth.   Also, be sure to recognize successes along the way instead of waiting for the final goal to be achieved.

Ask for and listen to suggestions.  Value the knowledge and insight your team members have.  After all, they are the ones doing the job. They hear the frustrated remarks and the positive remarks their internal and external customer share.  Asking for and listening to their opinions, their ideas and their suggestions creates an environment of trust and mutual respect.

What do you think? What are some other high value, long-lasting gifts leaders can give their team members?

Are You Rewarding the Right Things?


Customer-focused companies put the customer at the centre of their business and business decisions.  Customer-focused companies concentrate on long-term goals, like customer satisfaction, retention and repeat business instead of short-term goals like “increase dessert sales by 10%”.

Teaching your team to effectively up-sell is important.  Those skills help grow your business and improve your bottom line, but not to the same extent as loyal, repeat customers who keep coming back to your business and refer their friends, families and colleagues to you.

Customer-focused companies:

  1. Live the customer experience.  In some of the hotels I’ve stayed at, I’m pretty sure the manager has not actually tasted the coffee put in the guest rooms.  As a woman, I appreciate a full-length mirror in the room.  How is the lighting?  Is there room on the desk for your customer’s laptop or is it covered with promotional materials?
  2. Look for ways to make the customer feel special.  Making your customer feel special can be as simple as addressing them by name or by remembering that they like their breakfast with eggs over-easy and lightly toasted rye bread.  It could be putting fresh flowers in the bathroom, speaking directly to the children when taking their order or offering to carry a senior’s tray to the table.
  3. Encourage customer feedback.  Customer-focused companies want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly from their customers. They want to know what their customers like and what they don’t like.  They take the information they receive seriously and use that information to maintain and improve their customer’s experience.
  4. Reward employees for service excellence.  When customer satisfaction is the main goal of a company, it doesn’t make sense to reward product sales.  Rewards based on the number of desserts or upgrades sold send the message the sale is the priority.  Customer-focused companies recognize and reward initiatives and actions that improve a customer’s service experience.

The bonus is that customers who feel valued, customers who believe that their satisfaction is your number one priority are more likely to stay at their table a little longer and enjoy dessert and coffee.  Customers who trust you and respect you are more likely to pay an extra $20 for the upgraded room.  The up-sell happens naturally when you focus on the customer first, instead of the sale.

What do you think?