Ask Ken Blanchard, author of the famous One Minute Manager books, what a supervisor's job is, and he'll answer you in four short words:  "To help people win." 

Blanchard says that everything supervisors do should help people become "10's."   He also says that good performance is a journey, not a destination.  In his book, Leadership and the One Minute Manager, Blanchard tells how his experience as a college professor taught him about performance planning and feedback. 

Life is all about getting "A's" he says, and if you think that doesn't apply to employees, Blanchard says you're mistaken.  He compares performance reviews with final exams; only the difference is you're not out to fail anyone. 

Passing Out the Exam - Performance Planning

The first step toward success is performance planning.  Blanchard says good performance planning is like passing out the final exam at the beginning of the semester.  In business terms, passing out the exam ahead of time means defining performance expectations for each employee that are specific, achievable and clearly understood. 

Teaching the Answers - Coaching

The second phase of performance review, daily coaching (which Blanchard says is the most critical and the least practiced), is like teaching people the answers to the exam.  In other words, the supervisor  makes sure employees have every opportunity to make the grade and pass the test.  The supervisor does this by communicating work assignments in an understandable way, recognizing and rewarding performance, and coaching, correcting, and consulting when appropriate. 

Making the Grade - Reviewing and Rewarding

After passing out the exam and teaching people the answers, the final exam should be a cinch, and a success.  And that's just the kind of performance reviews we should produce.  While all employees may not earn "A's," they've been given every chance to succeed. And when they succeed, they're rewarded for it! 

So, passing out the exam ahead of time and teaching people the answers means setting goals and staying in touch.   People need to know how they're going to be graded, and sometimes they need help along the way.  If you're with them day to day, the review meeting shouldn't be a surprise for either of you. 

The performance review is not the goal of performance planning and feedback; good performance is.  Performance planning and feedback is an ongoing process, and performance review measures the success of this process.