5 ways to…help people take responsibility

Taking control of your annual review

Performance appraisals are here again, with most managers hoping to make it through without tears and tantrums. But instead of a necessary evil to be endured, performance conversations offer a rare opportunity to help employees reflect, refocus and take responsibility for their career path. Here’s how.

1. Sell the benefits.
What does the individual want most out of life – to earn more, grow faster, get promoted, worry less, learn? Identify what drives them and explain how taking control of their own performance will help them get there.

2. Hand over control.
It may come as a surprise to some employees that they have more control over their career path than you do. Assign tasks which make it clear that the ball is in their court – for example, ask them to come prepared with a view on their own performance complete with evidence, and a set of draft goals.

3. Focus your feedback.
When reviewing performance, focus feedback on what the individual did to influence a certain situation and what it tells you about them: ‘you spent more time following up leads and expanding your network, which led to you creating more accounts’. When giving development feedback, ask what they could do to positively influence the situation. It will emphasize that they have more control than they may like to think.

4. Collaborate.
Employees will be more willing to take responsibility if they’ve helped to shape their goals. Ask for their input and agree objectives together – but beware of low-ballers. If you suspect that they’re trying to under-promise in order to over-deliver, be clear on what you expect them to achieve and specific about why. A little flattery goes a long way.

5. Show them where to look.
Encouraging employees to take responsibility doesn’t mean going completely hands-free. Adopt the role of facilitator and sponsor, showing them where development opportunities lie and introducing them to relevant colleagues. Be clear that the onus is on them to follow up and make the most of these breaks.