The One Thing You Need to Know: Strengths and Performance Reviews

“How do you use a strengths-based approach at work if your company uses a traditional annual performance review?” – Jay from Atlanta. Here's how to make the dreaded annual performance review actually beneficial. Click To Tweet

The point of performance reviews is to accelerate performance. At least that’s what we’re told. Companies tend to use them to evaluate their employees’ performance against old goals and determine what knowledge or skill “gaps” need to be filled. So if you’ve taken a strengths-based approach to your – and your team’s – life at the office, how can you make the dreaded annual performance review actually beneficial?

Spend most of your time on what works.

If you’re a team leader, ask your team member what worked best for them last year. Change follows the focus of your attention – so focus on what worked. Change follows the focus of your attention, so focus on what works. Click To Tweet

It’s okay to spend some time on high-priority interrupts

A “high priority interrupt” is when something is going so terribly wrong, or has the potential to have such disastrous consequences, that you are forced to stop everything and address the issue. Many people think that focusing on strengths means ignoring every problem, and that’s simply not the case – especially for problems like that. So if your team member is doing something that hurts the team or decreases productivity, it is entirely appropriate to discuss that issue with them. Just try to give them coaching, not feedback.

And if you’re wondering what the ratio of “high priority interrupts” to positive attention should be, the answer is 5:1. You should be discussing what’s working about your team member five times for every one behavior they need to stop or change.

Know how to make goals work for your team.

There is an all-too-common misconception that goals are an excellent way to evaluate and track people, as well as stimulate performance from them. Unfortunately, goals cascaded from above just don’t work as a way to get more performance out of a company’s talent. (They also don’t work as a measurement tool, but more on that in my book). Goals only work when they are ways to manifest things you value. Therefore, the only way you’ll know if your team members are setting “good” goals that will accelerate their performance is if they set the goal themselves, voluntarily.

What that means if you’re on the employee side of this conversation you should come prepared with goals that you want to aim for.

Hopefully this will make the giving and getting of performance reviews slightly less dreaded. And if everyone on the team approaches it from a strengths-based perspective, it might even be enjoyable, motivational, and effective.



  1. Molly June 5, 2018 at 6:11 AM - Reply

    So many great nuggets in this video! I will be ruminating on these before my next company mandated performance review cycle.

  2. Erin June 6, 2018 at 1:33 PM - Reply

    I love what you shared about goal setting. It not only makes sense … it really works!

  3. garrett November 27, 2019 at 12:17 PM - Reply

    Marcus, love your content! I saw you at the Entreleadership summit last year and dove DEEP into the book. Great stuff! My organization is currently going through a people development transformation and one area we are stuck is how to untie merit increases to our previous traditional rating system and performance evaluations. We have untied competencies and began discussing values and strengths during these conversations, but there is one roadblock to getting unanimous alignment on our leadership team: How do we give merit increases without labeling people “exceeds expectations, meets expectations, below expectations” or the 1,2,3,4 ratings that you talk about.

  4. JoAnna March 22, 2020 at 5:12 AM - Reply

    OKRs work well for me and believe that integrating what I value/believe in OKR structure helps accomplish and increases talent activation as they are completed and adjusted as needed.

  5. Boniswa tweyi January 25, 2021 at 3:51 AM - Reply

    Spend a time with your team leaders approach them nicely do they can understand when agent work and orders have to go

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