How Keeping Notes Makes Performance Conversations More Effective

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Oct 22, 2018

Successful teams are made up of individuals with unique ambitions, strengths, and personalities. The secret to being a great leader is the ability to identify and leverage these differences to create a complementary and motivated workforce.

In the last few years, enhanced performance management technology has made it easier for  managers to review each team member’s past feedback and goals prior to 1-on-1s and reviews, resulting in more insightful performance conversations. One convenient new feature is the addition of personal notes – we call ours “Private Notes” – that allow managers to record notes on 1-on-1 conversations, post-review reflections, and important insights and observations about each individual.

While it’s important to remember what was discussed in your meeting last week, it’s also essential that your notes help you to keep up-to-date with changes over time. Keeping in mind, that as your team members grow and develop, their coaching needs will also evolve.

Using notes

1-on-1 conversations

Rather than relying on memory to retain important insights you learn about each individual, make notes of the key points you discussed.

  • What are they concerned about?
  • What are their current interests or challenges?
  • Where do they want to go in the next year?
  • How could you better support them in reaching their goals?

Review these notes before your next 1-on-1, leading you to richer, more insightful conversations. What should you be talking about during these meetings? See: “A Manager’s Essential Guide to Holding 1-on-1 Check-Ins

After reviews

Performance reviews shouldn’t be a one-time event where people receive feedback and move on. There should be time to reflect and reassess on how you and your team have grown and to build an action plan for what you will focus on.

Reviews can also be used to gain deeper insights into employee strengths. According to a study by Gallup, people who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged, 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs. In addition, knowing your team members’ strengths will enable you to leverage the unique skill sets in the most effective way.

After each review, set time aside to help each team member analyze and discover their strengths. Here are a few questions to facilitate further reflection:

  • Is this a skill they would be interested in developing further?
  • If not, which skills would they like to invest time in improving?
  • Is there anything in their report that surprised them?
  • Be sure to also record ideas for potential stretch assignments to help them build on these strengths.


Years ago, Google researched what it was that made for effective and great managers. From Project Oxygen it found that aside from strictly career focused exchanges, one of the top 3 things their best managers did was to express an interest in their team’s personal well being. This doesn’t mean you have to know the intimate details of your employee’s life, but it is important to know that they prefer having the morning for high concentration tasks and the afternoon for meetings. Or that they value public recognition of their achievements.

Show that you listen, pick up on, and care about creating an environment for them to succeed is a sure way to get your team to go the extra mile for you. Discover and note:

  • What time of day are they most productive?
  • How do they prefer to receive feedback?
  • Are they comfortable sharing feedback?
  • Do they like receiving praise in public or private?
  • How often do they want to check in with you?
  • Do they like talking things through or do they prefer to gather their thoughts first?
  • What’s their learning style?

Give effective feedback

Giving constructive feedback is hard. Keeping in mind that everyone prefers to receive and give feedback in different ways, follow a few simple rules to make sure your feedback is delivered effectively. When giving constructive feedback you want to:

  • Be thoughtful and understanding
  • Make sure it’s not a one-off situation, but a recurring theme that needs attention
  • Never give it in public, pick the right time and place
  • Provide context, referencing specific situations and actions
  • Base it on facts, not assumptions
  • Include the receiver, leaving room for discussion
  • Make it actionable, ending with next steps

While written feedback gives you time to formulate what you want to say, it can often be difficult to recall specific details when giving feedback in person. Keep notes to collect insights to better prepare and remind yourself of the questions you would like to ask when sharing feedback, and additional comments or context you would like to provide.

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