It’s time to shake things up, get rid of those standard annual reviews and use a vertical review to help your employees improve their performance.

Vertical reviews are great tools for managers at all levels of an organization. They allow managers to supervise their direct reports in a systematic and organized way. Once the vertical review is finished, the manager has peace of mind because an agreement has been reached as to specific actions that need to take place. He becomes informed of performance, of plans for improvement and of the commitments of the direct report. He has the opportunity to guide and develop the individual team member.

The vertical review is also a welcome opportunity for the direct report to gain clarity on what the boss expects. Employees get agreement and support from the boss on the lines of action they’re pursuing. They also receive needed encouragement and coaching on performance and competency as well as the opportunity to express any concerns.

There’s great power in the vertical review process as it serves to clarify the priorities of the month between a manager and the direct collaborator. For the manager, vertical reviews ensure that the delegated tasks are under control. This frees up considerable time to focus attention to his or her own scorecard and on future related projects for the company.

Vertical review process

Vertical reviews support individuals to improve their performance and increase their value to the organization. The name identifies the three aspects:

  1. Vertical. A vertical review is a one-on-one meeting between a person and his boss.
  2. Review. During the meeting, the performance and competency are reviewed.
  3. Process. This is not a one-time event; it’s a continuing process of improving results.

The vertical review provides the perfect forum for coaching the next level in the organization. Just as a coach in sports strives to develop the players to win the game, the manager in the vertical review strives to develop the collaborator to achieve great performance. The coaching emphasis is on two objectives: improving performance and developing talent. The manager becomes the coach and applies the appropriate leadership style to achieve the dual objective. This coaching opportunity requires attention to two important factors explained below.

Climate of the vertical review

When the individual comes to meet with you, his boss, he has the natural tendency of being on guard, especially in the first meeting. He doesn’t know what to expect and could arrive in a defensive mode. This mode affects your ability to coach. You should establish a safe environment where you can both converse and exchange ideas. Limiting distractions like cell phones is important as doing so encourages managers to take the meeting more seriously and to concentrate.

As the boss, you’ll act as the facilitator of the one-on one-meeting. You need to be aware of what degree of direction or support the other person requires. This can be determined partially by what skill level the person is currently functioning at. Be aware of the importance of listening. Start the meeting on time, stay focused on the purpose of the meeting, and be sure you’re not interrupted by outside demands.

If you’re the direct report, you’ll act as the recorder and capture the commitments made during the meeting. There are no minutes in a vertical review, only commitments assigned to the participants. Deadlines are also recorded.

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