5 Tips for Conducting Effective Virtual Performance Reviews

5 Tips for Conducting Effective Virtual Performance Reviews

Experienced managers know that offering sincere feedback face-to-face is an art form; when done via video conference or phone call, however, the exchange takes on another level of complexity. These virtual performance reviews can be tricky. 

The concerns are real: Will it seem too impersonal? Will something be misconstrued because we can’t really look at one another? How can I make this experience a positive one when personal interaction seems so far removed?

That last one is a real challenge. While many team leaders try to approach performance reviews casually, such meetings still often carry a negative connotation, almost as if a judgement is about to be entered. Looking at performance reviews as a conversation helps to remove some of the dread.

That said, it is possible to have an open, honest dialogue in an environment that builds trust—even if that environment is fully remote.

Here are five key tips for remote managers to keep in mind during virtual performance reviews:

1. Pay close attention to what your body language is communicating.

Nonverbal cues count! As Amy Cuddy explained in her TED Talk on body language, your posture can change your life. When conducting a performance review using video, this certainly applies. Be aware of the subtle visual cues that you give and receive.

Are your arms crossed? Does the other person seem closed off, with shrugged shoulders, or are their eyes looking down or away? Is their hand covering their mouth or neck? If so, you may be seeing signs of restraint or holding back, and you can use this awareness to ask more specific questions.

Pay attention to what their facial expressions and gestures are telling you and remember to project openness in your posture. It’ll pay off in this meeting and in future interactions.

2. Listen carefully.

We all know those people who seem to only pause to think of what they’ll say next. As a manager, you definitely don’t want to be this person, for several reasons.

Naturally, cultivating trust and respect among your colleagues should be a priority for you; being an active listener helps. This also allows insights that you wouldn’t easily discover otherwise.

For example, when reviewing an employee’s performance, give him or her the chance to explain their biggest wins or challenges without interjection. Take note of the words they’re using in their descriptions. Do they feel accountable, empowered, or judged? Seek to better understand their role from their perspective. It just might reshape your opinions and give you clarity in terms of how you can help them build their professional strengths and bolster their weaknesses.

3. Be appropriately direct.

Your communication style is impacted by the culture of the company and the country in which you work. Some parts of the world are “low context cultures,” which are renowned for direct communication, while other “high context cultures” favor a more subtle approach.

For example, a boss in the former scenario may cite statistics, saying that a recent campaign targeted the wrong audiences, while one in the latter might instead share a story that conveys the same impression without overtly stating it.

Values upheld by your organization’s leadership may reinforce or contradict these constructs. Know that employees are affected not only by the workplace but also in their dealings with people outside of it; so you’ll need to strike a delicate balance between what others expect in terms of directness and how to clearly get your message across.

4. Speak compassionately.

No matter how challenging a work situation may be, remember that everyone—so long as they’re employed at your organization—is on the same team.

Also, everyone is human, and therefore, regrettably imperfect. (This includes you.) With these things in mind, you’ll open a transparent dialogue to offer helpful advice, thoughtful recommendations, and constructive criticism, and will create a safe space for sharing information. You’d want to know if your employee is juggling a stressful personal situation that could impact their job, or if he or she is struggling with difficult coworkers or clients, right?

Every situation is multifaceted and complicated; if you approach a performance review with empathy, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to see the big picture.

5. Always solicit feedback.

As with any conversation, great performance reviews should be a two-way discussion. Wonder what your direct report thinks of your managerial style? Don’t overlook this golden opportunity to find out.

Begin by posing questions in the most nonthreatening manner possible, in order to ensure that the stakes are low. You don’t want your direct report to feel that he or she is risking anything in offering their opinions on your approach to leadership. Of course, receiving praise is wonderful. But when you do hear something difficult, take heart in the fact that your employee felt comfortable enough to trust you with the information.

Remember: feedback is a gift. What you do with it can change your productivity habits and your working relationships for the better.


By Kristi DePaul | February 17, 2017 | Categories: Remote Management


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