There’s a sense of finality that can come from finishing up writing reviews. Whether you hit send weeks ago or you edited your team members’ review until the last moment, you have earned a breather. Take a breath. Heck, take two. All set? Good because next we do the work that counts: delivering the performance review.

The writing is the spark. It starts as a forcing function for you and your team to reflect on the past many months. It eventually creates the space for you and your team to do something with this feedback. But in between, you and your team member need to make sure you are seeing things the same way. And the method in which you do that becomes a multiplier for everything you’ve done so far.

The Delivery is the Multiplier

Feedback is meaningless if no action is taken in response. To take the inverse, feedback is only meaningful if meaningful action is taken in response. The delivery is where you do the work to enact change. It’s a critical moment where you get to ensure all the hard work everyone put into writing matters.

There’s a sliding scale to this. Your feedback can be incredibly energizing, it can land flat or it can be demoralizing. You need to put everything into the proper context. And this contextualizing can set the tone for the next few months.

There are a few things to put in place that can help you make sure you’re delivering a great review to each of your team members.

The Set Up

There exist different schools of thought when it comes to how managers should structure the review discussion. Some managers will spend the entire discussion reading the review with their team member. Other managers will read the review and set goals in a single, longer session. I find benefits in something in between: a shorter session that’s focused entirely on discussion and alignment. To do this, your team member will have to read their feedback package before the discussion. In order to allow for this, you need to send the feedback package to your team member prior to your meeting. Collect the feedback you have and share with the person about a half day before you connect with them. If you’re meeting them in the afternoon, send it to them first thing in the morning. If you’re meeting with them in the morning, send it to them at the start of the afternoon the day before. To be extra considerate, take a peek at their calendars, and if you see they’re going to be busy for all of the half day before, send it a few hours earlier than you normally would. A half day ends up being just about right. It gives the reviewee enough time to read over all the feedback, time to digest it, but not so much time that they stew over it without any additional context.

When you send out the feedback package, ensure they have access to all relevant parts. The package is the combination of your review, their peer feedback, and their self-review. The concept of a feedback package can be powerful. People will have baggage on what exactly the review entails. Lots of that baggage is centered on the idea that the manager’s review is the only review that matters. You can begin to dispel them of that notion by referencing the feedback package: your write up, their write up, and their peer feedback. Once you’ve sent the package, confirm the person can access all three parts. You want to minimize the chance that they missed a part before the discussion.

Regardless of what you do for your 1:1s book a room for the review discussion. You want to give the discussion an air of something a notch more serious than normal. Assume you will need 45 minutes, and break after 30 if you find the two of you are on the same page. Bring a laptop to take notes, and urge them to bring a laptop or some copy of the various reviews.

Reinforcing “the Why”

Before you dive into the discussion, take three minutes to set the stage. You and your team member spent a fair amount of time writing and reflecting, and that hard work can be grounded by the context for why all that time was spent. Also, make sure to set expectations on what the goal is for this particular session. This is an important discussion, and you want to do everything you can help keep the discussion focused.

The goal of the discussion should be for each of you to leave the room with a shared sense of what was in the package. Try and pull out the tough topics so you can wrestle those early. Some good questions to have in your back pocket include: “what struck you?”, “what surprised you?”, and “what were some themes that came up across reviews?” Remember that people always go negative first. That’s human nature. So midway through the discussion, make sure to pivot to the positive. Lastly, if you feel your core takeaways aren’t being discussed, make it a point to bring it up. Lastly, it’s ok to summarize a key part of the review and share verbally. It’s the last lever you have to make sure you two leave the room in closer alignment than when they came in with only the reading.

Preparing for Action

While you’re discussing the feedback package, try and pull out the keywords and themes that are coming up. Replay what your team member is saying, and make sure you’re encapsulating the concepts well. These high-level themes will come back into play the next time you two meet for the last part of the review process: creating a plan to act on this feedback.

Next time, I’ll go over how to take everything you have so far and point it toward the future by goal setting.