How to Give a Constructive Performance Review

How to Give a Constructive Performance Review

What’s that you’re saying? You love working with contractors because you DON’T have to manage them like regular employees? And the mere thought of offering performance reviews to your team members makes you break out in hives?

I hear you. I really do!

I know from personal experience that a huge upside to managing a virtual team is lack of office politics and interpersonal stress.

However, I also know that if you want your contractors to do their absolute best work, you must give them feedback. Otherwise, they’re forced to do a whole lot of guessing and improvising. A structured performance review is a fantastic tool for setting expectations, offering praise, and tweaking trajectory.

As a bonus, it gives your contractors a chance to improve communication in both directions by requesting changes from you. (Sounds slightly painful, I know, but it’s all in the name of effective, efficient collaboration!)

Here’s how to conduct actionable, productive performance reviews with your team.

Maintain an “open door” policy

One-way feedback is straight-up poison, gorgeous!

If you offer input on your contractors’ work but never allow them to voice their opinions, things will go south fast. Establish and enforce an “open door” policy and company culture of honest, respectful communications.

This will make the performance review process feel natural and constructive.

Ask for written input before the meeting

Offer a “pre-review” questionnaire to all of your team members so they can do some thinking and processing before the meeting begins. Ask for their input on:

• His or her greatest strengths and weaknesses. (If possible, ask that contractors avoid strengths-disguised-as-weaknesses like, “I work too hard.” Urge them to be honest and open.)

• Any additional duties he or she would love to take on

• Any tasks he or she would love to hand off to someone else

• What are his or her goals within the company? Where does she see herself in a year?

• What tools can you provide to make his or her job easier?

• Are there any things you do that make his or her job more challenging?

• What else would he or she like to learn that would make him or her better/more valuable? Are there trainings or classes that could be helpful?

• What are the best and worst (or most challenging) things about working for your company?

Ask to see this feedback one week before your scheduled performance review meeting. Then be sure to address everything in it!

If your team members feel like they’ve jumped through hoops only to see you ignore their input, that will erode trust.

Collaborate on an action plan

A performance review is a waste of time if it doesn’t yield action items, and it’s a one-sided process if you determine those items entirely on your own.

Instead, work together to create a priority list and action plan for your team, and make sure it feels feasible and strategic to you both.

Then set a date (or multiple dates) to review progress. Follow-up is just as important as the initial feedback!

Make it optional

Finally, remember that your contractor is not an employee, and a “performance review” may be seen as punishment.

Make it optional and frame it as an opportunity to improve, potentially with monetary rewards attached. Make it as positive as possible. Don’t omit negative feedback, but make sure to balance it with heaps of praise.

Make it fun and collaborative as much as you can, and next year your team will look forward to this annual check-in instead of dreading it!


PS – One of the biggest trouble spots business owners face with contractors is failing to set clear expectations. Without rock-solid project plans, you’re setting your team up for failure – or at the very least, a long learning curve. Solve that issue today with my  VA Templates Training Library. I’ve put together dozens of step-by-step plans you can simply hand off to your VA, complete with task-tracking calendars, and more!

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