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Conducting an annual performance review meeting

'Coach Kriengsak, today I want to talk about annual performance review meeting," Sakda tells me. "This is the first time since I became CEO that I've had to do it."

"Khun Sakda, what are your concerns?"

"I have two issues. First, I'm not comfortable with the form that the regional office requires me to fill out. Second, how do I evaluate my direct reports who were my peers just a year ago?"

"Khun Sakda, let's talk about the first concern first. Could you elaborate more?"

"Coach, the performance appraisal form isn't very user-friendly. It focusses a lot on weaknesses and is quit rigid. I have seven unique individuals who have different functions. It would be very difficult for me to apply this standardised form to each person. What do other executives feel about similar forms in other companies?"

"Khun Sakda, you're not alone. The appraisal interview is the most distasteful job for any manager," I tell him, and quote from a passage in The Effective Executive by the management theorist Peter Drucker:

"Appraisals, as they are now being used in the great majority of organisations, were designed originally by clinical and abnormal psychologists for their own purposes.

"The clinician is a therapist trained to heal the sick. He is legitimately concerned with what is wrong, rather than with what is right with the patient. He assumes as a matter of course that nobody comes to him unless he is in trouble. The clinical psychologist or the abnormal psychologist, therefore, very properly looks upon appraisals as a process of diagnosing the weaknesses of a man."

"So what is Peter Drucker's solution?" Sakda asks.

I direct his attention to the following passage from Drucker:

"Effective executives usually work out their own radically different form. It starts out with a statement of the major contributions expected from a person in the past and present positions and a record of one's performance against these goals. Then it asks four questions:

What has one done well?

What, therefore, is one likely to be able to do well?

What does one have to do learn or to acquire to be able to get the full benefit from one's strength?

If I had a son or daughter, would I be willing to have him or her work under this person? If yes, why? If no, why?"

"Thank you Coach. What you just shared with me inspired me a lot," says Sakda. "I will fill the form as instructed by the regional office. But I'll also develop my own form by factoring in some ideas from Peter Drucker."

"Great. Let's move to your second concern."

"Last year I was friends with other seven C-Level members. But this year, I have to evaluate them as a boss. I have to admit I'm a little uncomfortable."


"Because I have to tell them directly about their weaknesses."

"And you're worried about what?"

"I'm worried that my direct reports won't like me if what I tell them hurts their feelings. It's very hard to deliver a negative message directly. I'm afraid that some might feel they're losing face."

"Khun Sakda, let's deal with each cause one at a time. How do you overcome each problem?"

"I'm not sure. I want people to feel good about me. I don't want to hurt the feelings of anyone."

"What makes you think that telling someone about their weakness will hurt their feelings?"

"Because that's the way I feel."

"How many time have you been hurt by your boss telling you about your weaknesses?"

"Many times."

"How did you recover?"

"I was hurt when I listened to what he had to say. Then, I slept on it. The next day I realised that I felt hurt because I associated the weakness with failure. Then, I realised that being aware of my weaknesses was helping me to grow to the next level."

"Good. How can you transfer your own experience to apply to the appraisals you have to do?"

He thinks for few seconds. Then, he says. "I think I'll start the appraisal meeting by telling them about the agenda first. There are three items: feedback on strengths, feedback on weaknesss, and discussion of the career development plan.

"For the feedback on weakness, please don't take it personally. Nobody's perfect. The benefit of knowing about a weakness is having better awareness. Then you will be able to search for a way to overcome it or try to minimise it in the future.

"I will make it seem perfectly normal by telling them: 'It's okay to feel uncomfortable with a negative message. I've been there myself. From my experience, I suggest you sleep on it and the following day you can reflect on what you've learned.'

"In fact, what I just said will help overcome the second concern as well. I'll be able to minimise the possibility of losing face."

Sakda smiles, pleased to have arrived at a solution. "That's great. Let's stop here and follow up in our next session."

Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under the brand TheCoach. He can be reached at Daily inspirational quotations can be found on his Facebook fan page: Previous articles are archived at