Leadership In Action

I’d Rather Have a Root Canal

May 9, 2013

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I'm Deb- CEO, worldwide executive coach, mentor, consultant and speaker. I'm here to help you take your leadership and impact to the next level!

Meet Deb




What one thing do employees dread more than any other?


A.      Going to the Dentist

B.      Attending Meetings

C.      Performance Reviews

You guessed it – “C” it is! At least, that’s the impression you get from a lot of folks. And managers, well, they dread them, too. It’s a once-a-year paperwork fiasco, followed by a five-minute meeting in which an employee finds out what they did wrong (six months earlier!), then three bullet points of positive reinforcements, and a two percent pay raise. Both parties provide the obligatory signatures, and another year of ambiguity ensues.

Now while I do agree that there needs to be measurable progress reporting, I would much rather see it done a little differently. Here are some ways to make performance reviews work more effectively for you and your team.

1.  When someone does something well, recognize it immediately.
Pay raises are great, but a good word or hand-written note of appreciation can be almost as significant. Plus, the immediate feedback guides the employee into knowing what type of work exceeds expectations.

2.  When someone does something wrong, deal with it promptly.
There may be a good reason for it, or it could be a misunderstanding. It could even be – brace yourself – the leader’s fault! Always attack the problem and not the person, and then move on. Dealing with it promptly helps the employee know what not to do going forward.

3.  Get to know your people, and communicate with them in terms they understand.
There’s a scene in the movie The Blind Side where the character playing Michael Oher is not performing up to his coach’s expectations. It appears he just does not “get” the game of football at all. Then Sandra Bullock (who portrays his guardian-mother in the movie), walks over to Michael and explains football in terms he can understand – that he is protecting his family.

I love the part where she says to the coach, “You should really get to know your players, Burt. Michael scored in the 98th percentile in protective instincts.”  

Once Michael understood football in his terms, his strength catapulted him into the record books. What happens when a coach gets to know his players? They do things like win the Superbowl. And, leaders, when your team members win, you win.

4.  Provide regular feedback to your team.
This comes in the form of daily interactions, weekly meetings, and monthly progress updates. Include your team in goal setting and review progress regularly. Once a year is not “regular.”

5.  Listen.
When you only meet with an employee once a year to conduct a performance review, you are not going to be able to give a true assessment, and you are not going to get honest, open feedback. But if you interact with your team on a daily basis and listen to their ideas and concerns along the way, you will be amazed at the results.

This approach to performance reviewing

beats a root canal any day!



  1. Deb, these 5 steps make so much sense, yet without a reminder of the overall game plan, it’s easy to focus on one or two of the aspects you mentioned. I recall a senior manager that I was coaching on performance. This large impossing figure of confidence experienced a tearful moment when he recalled the last time he was recognized for excellance, despite exceeding his goals each quarter for many, many years. It was over 20 years ago! He instantly recalled the place, people and the pride he experienced, which was followed by a metaphor of him feeling like he is now stationed in a far away desert outpost.

    Each one of these points balance the rest like a well constructed meal or the score of an orchestra. We are less likely to be drawn to listen for two hours to only the oboe section, yet when their rich deep tones are balanced with the entire orchestra the audience is conducted through the composser’s entire journey. We now experience the meaning behind the message and this creates a lasting impression.

    I enjoy your list and the clarity of your message because it provides balance for feedback. Thanks again for sharing your excellance.