I enjoy mid-year reviews as a supplemental form of feedback that reinforces discussions had during one-on-ones with direct reports. A mid-year review should never be a surprise to anyone. The teammate should already know how they’re performing and what areas they could be improving on. The review is effectively a summary of the critical and positive feedback given during 26 (half a year, if held weekly) one-on-ones. Reviews help people ops and senior leadership with visibility into individual performance. This visibility is critical for calibration which affects compensation and promotions.
Every team member needs feedback to develop, grow and feel valued at their jobs. Honest and frank feedback engenders trust and engagement at work and results in greater happiness and productivity. As engineering leaders, we have a wealth of experiences and knowledge that can help our teams grow. We can share more than what we need to achieve short-term objectives and goals. We can share behaviors, traits, and skills that are valued by many teams and organizations. The impact quality reviews can have on a person’s career can’t be overstated. Devoting time and effort to expressing how a person can grow in their career is appreciated and valuable. It demonstrates how much you care and how committed you are to that person’s success in their career.
As a leader of a team, you have a responsibility to those people. They are trusting you with their career development. Respect that trust and operate as a servant leader. A manager serves the best interests of the team both collectively and individually. Collectively by ensuring a clear vision and direction that are aligned with the business and also getting the right people in the right positions. Individually by helping everyone achieve their full potential. A manager is a trusted conduit of information to senior management about a team. A servant leader’s first responsibility is to advocate for the team. A leader also has a responsibility to senior management to provide an accurate and unbiased assessment of performance.
A senior leader, a manager’s manager, often doesn’t have an understanding of everyone’s performance. A senior leader should hold skip-level one-on-ones periodically, but this approach doesn’t scale. Skip-level meetings primarily exist to check on the performance of line managers. Instead, the senior leader should rely heavily on the line manager to provide an accurate and relevant summary of each person’s performance. The primary source of this information is the review process. The line manager’s one-on-one usually involves tactical and strategic discussions about roadmaps and hiring priorities. Line managers should invest heavily in this communication to senior leaders so they can advocate for the people they lead. Reviews should contain facts that can be corroborated by others in the company. The facts in the review you write will help the senior leader tremendously during calibration meetings with their peers.
Finally, putting words down on digital paper solidifies your views and communicates what you’ve observed and learned about these people that put their careers in your hands. Writing a review is extremely valuable as a mental exercise in communication. As a leader, communication and the influence you can project using it is vital to getting the best from your team. Many managers and direct reports dislike writing reviews because they don’t realize these values. Ultimately, it falls on leadership to set the example and demonstrate the value of reviews. Managers must not see writing reviews as a chore. Writing good reviews is the best thing managers can do for their team.