Performance Review Template

As you scale your startup beyond 20 people, you will start implementing a formal performance review process. The cadence could be once a quarter, once every 6 months, or sometimes, once a year.

The rule of thumb is that if your direct report is deeply surprised by the content in your feedback, it means you have failed to manage the person in the first place. The feedback and iteration should be a constant on-going process, so that you and your team member gets a chance to stay in sync, course correct, and improve each other continuously throughout the year.

Regardless, having a formal and structured review in a written form is still great for putting things into perspective, recognize the progress, and also reiterate on the important areas for improvement.

I’ve put together a relatively extensive performance review template that can be used with your direct reports. This may feel a bit longer than what startups use company-wide on a quarterly basis, but I’d encourage any committed professional to take the time to write a review of themselves, and get feedback from your leaders or people you collaborate with so that you can increase awareness, find the gaps between your understanding and others, and get to an alignment or agreement in terms of your goals, the state of your performance, and the direction for improvement.

For those in a hurry, here’s a google doc version of the template that you can “copy” to make it your own and use at your convenience.

  • Ask the reviewee to write this and share with the reviewer. The reviewer can provide feedback.
  • For “top 3” items below, it can be just one or two items. No need to make it three items unnecessarily.

Below is the list of questions for your reviewee to work on:

  • Goals & Results
    • What are your current top 3 goals?
    • How have you performed against those goals in the last week/month/quarter? Provide metrics
    • What successes and challenges did you experience? What was the most difficult problem you had to solve that you are proud of?
    • What can you do to ensure that those challenges won’t occur again in the future?
    • What are your new upcoming top 3 goals?
  • Organizational Awareness
    • What is the top priority for your company this quarter & this year?
    • What is the top priority for your team this quarter?
    • What is the primary constraint to achieving the top priority for your team? (note: It can’t be just “budget”)
  • Self-awareness
    • What are your top 3 signature strengths? How are you utilizing your strengths today?
    • What are your deadly weaknesses that’s preventing you from making greater progress?
    • How do you plan to augment or improve such weaknesses?
  • Feedback & Improvement
    • Feedback to others
      • Are you providing constructive feedback directly to people you work with in a timely manner?
      • Are those feedback also being delivered in a personally caring way? What went well vs didn’t go well?
    • Feedback from others
      • What constructive feedback have others been giving you?
      • How are you addressing that feedback?
    • Improving
      • What are the top 3 areas of improvement that you’ve been working on?
      • How is your progress in those areas in the past 3-6 months?
  • Leadership & Managing
    • How would you assess your leadership capabilities and social capital today?
    • Identify your leadership strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities to grow.
    • What challenges are you experiencing in communicating, supporting and getting what you need from others?
    • [For people managers]
      • How many direct reports do you have?
      • How often do you hold team meetings? What is the agenda/length?
      • How often do you hold 1-1 meetings? What is the agenda/length?
      • Who are your top performers on your team? How are you coaching & retaining them?
      • Who are your bottom performers on your team? What is your plan with each of them?
      • What key lessons have you learned or reminded as a people manager in the past 3-6 months?
  • Core Values
    • How strongly are you aligned to each of our core values? Rate from scale of 1-to-5, with 5 being the highest. Why did you rate them that way?
      • 5: I’m certain I’m within 1% of the people here with company-wide acknowledgement
      • 4: I’m within the top 10% of the people here and my manager and peers would endorse
      • 3: I’m within the top 25% of people that I believe I can demonstrate with strong examples
      • 2: I think I’m above average among the people here
      • 1: I think I’m at or below average here, so will need to improve on this
    • If you were to pick top 1-2 core values to improve or double down on, what are they and why? If you’d like to improve them, what are your action plans or rituals?
  • Innovation to the Organization
    • What have you done to make your role, or the company operations, more efficient or effective in the future?
    • What new ideas have you brought to the company that changes the trajectory of the company for the better in a significant way?

I hope the readers will find the template to be useful in helping your direct reports grow and become better contributors & leaders. 🙂

On Motivation

Someone recently asked me “how can I motivate my team member when the market is down and the value of their stock options may not grow as quickly?” I initially tried to answer the question by focusing on the odds of startup valuation still growing faster than other asset classes, and other non-linear & intrinsic value of social capital accumulated at startups that may introduce new opportunities later in life. But I didn’t find my answers satisfying at all. I thought about why.

Over time, experience has taught me that more often than not, defining the right problem to solve is far more important than the solution itself. Perfect solution to a wrong problem is just plain wasteful.

So how can one motivate their team member when things are getting tough? What are the mechanics behind motivation that can give us insights into finding the right solution to the problem?

Continue reading “On Motivation”

The Four Layers of 2020 Goals Hierarchy

While I was setting up the goals for 2020, instead of grouping to traditional categories (areas of goals) like before, I’ve layered the goals based on the impact across the different layers of society.

There’s a phrase “修身齊家治國平天下” from an ancient Chinese classic “大學”, which translates into four phases of ruling the world:

  1. 修身: Developing and disciplining yourself to raise your intellectual and moral capacity
  2. 齊家: Taking care of your family and organizing your household
  3. 治國: Ruling the country
  4. 平天下: The world will be peaceful

Inspired from this phrase, I’ve organized the goals into the following four laters of 2020 goals hierarchy:

Continue reading “The Four Layers of 2020 Goals Hierarchy”

The Art of Setting Personal Annual Goals

People tend to be a bit skeptical about setting a personal annual goal. Plans often don’t align with your reality and we’ve all experienced the frustration of setting a goal and giving up a few months into the year, unintentionally hurting your self-esteem.

But, if we don’t have a goal and a plan, we don’t really know whether we are headed in the right direction nor whether we’re making a progress towards a goal or not.

I deeply believe one of the core purpose of personal goal setting is not only to achieve them, but to build up your confidence and increase your self-esteem.

Continue reading “The Art of Setting Personal Annual Goals”

That Extra Bit of Focus

‘The path of least resistance leads to crooked rivers and crooked men.‘ — Henry David Thoreau

Like water, our attention flows in a frictionless world. Real-time updates on social media, constant push-notifications on our mobile phones, and so many entertaining contents devours our attention little by little.

Attention, like time, is really a limited resource, varying perhaps among individuals, but finite as a person. One app might fight for your attention from the other. If you place the Kindle icon next to your Facebook icon, I can bet the Facebook icon wins your touch nine out of ten.

Continue reading “That Extra Bit of Focus”

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