10 Performance Review Tips Every New Manager Should Know

Posted by Tyler • March 22, 2016 (Last modified February 1, 2023) • 7 min read

Any new management position comes with an onslaught of responsibility, and while it helps to have experience in management, it still doesn’t guarantee the transition will go smoothly. First-time managers have to build trust in their working relationships because it’s one of the most fundamental pillars of a successful manager-employee relationship. In fact, a survey by Interaction Associates discovered trust in one’s manager is crucial to employee performance.

So how are new managers supposed to build trust when they’re new to the job?

The answer: effective performance management. Managers, especially new ones, have the unique opportunity to provide and receive feedback to better understand how employees work best. This exchange of feedback and continuous tracking of performance, whether it’s through employee evaluation software or a 360 review, gives managers the insight they need to build productive relationships with their team.

Being a new manager is tough. Being a new manager who employees can trust is even tougher. Start off your new management role on the right foot with these 10 performance review tips for managers to effectively lead your team to performance success.

#1 – Nail down the basics

Whether you’re new to the company or not, you’ll want to nail down the basic performance management process. Find out if your company only conducts annual performance reviews and start planning how to put your own spin on the current structure. New managers have a chance to bring change, but tread lightly. Get your footings, then implement practices on your own time (like the rest of these tips) to make performance management more ongoing rather than stagnant. Some mainstays? No matter how often you implement any new process, ensure it’s consistent, so team members know what to expect

#2 – Share expectations

Make a good first impression by being enthusiastic and friendly. Don’t be afraid to set expectations with your team. How can direct reports know how to approach you or work with you if they don’t understand how you work? Let people know how you operate by sharing a few pointers on your communication style.

If you know people have commonly had a misconception about you in the past, it’s likely your new team will pick up on it too. For example, if a common performance issue is that you’re too vague, address this when you introduce yourself to the team and give your team permission to request more information when needed. Give your employees a clue as to who you are, how you work, how you expect to be treated and how you manage projects and deadlines. Let them know the best ways to contact you, email preferences and the tools you use. The more you share the better, and remember: Actions speak louder than words!

#3 – Note personal details

Pay attention to your employees. Do they mention things about their personal lives or seem to be really passionate about something outside of work? While it would be creepy to keep a file on what Julie in Accounting eats for lunch, it’s not crazy to take notes of employees’ spouses names, kids or other things important to them. You can use these notes to jog your memory in check-ins and performance reviews and get to truly know who is working for you. This is a must in larger companies, where employees can end up feeling like just a number. We’ve all seen those horror stories of the boss who doesn’t remember a longtime employee’s name — don’t be that boss.

#4 – Don’t be a flake

Do what you say you’re going to do when it comes to performance reviews. Constantly rescheduling, showing up late to the performance review or cutting it short shows employees you don’t value their time. A workplace survey by the APA Center for Organizational Excellence found that employees who feel valued by their employer are 60 percent more likely to be motivated to do their very best at work. If flaking out becomes a habit, your team will begin to take you less seriously and this can trickle into any constructive criticism you have as well, undermining the entire performance management process.

#5 – Be transparent

Let your team in on what you’re thinking by making your notes, strategies, outlines, etc. available to them. Hoarding information doesn’t help anyone, and it won’t help you get to the top. Share information and be transparent in your thoughts and actions concerning projects and goals. The more information employees can get from you, the better they’ll be able to do their job. When it comes time for the performance review, your employees will be on the same page as you. Consider this: Only 32 percent of employees in a survey stated their manager helps them set performance goals, and less than 40 percent feel their manager supports them in setting work priorities. Be transparent to support your employees in reaching goals.

#6 – Interact continuously

“How are you?” It’s the famous line we ask anyone and everyone. It’s safe for strangers, passersby, and small talk, and you’ll normally get the I’m good, wells and fines, but your team deserves authentic two-way conversations. Employees can see right through this. Conduct review meetings with your team on a regular basis (pull out those notes) to see how they’re doing, address concerns they have, and even chat about things outside of work. Employees want to know you care about them and their lives too. See what John Hall, contributor to Forbes, did:

“When one of our employees postponed a honeymoon, we set up a little beach retreat at the office as a substitute. The trick is to let your team know that you don’t just see them as worker bees.”

#7 – Be thorough, be competent

70% of employees who lack confidence in their leader’s abilities are not fully engaged, according to a study from Dale Carnegie. Show your team you’re adequately prepared for the performance review by sending out an outline or point of discussion. Include review questions you want them to start thinking about so they don’t feel put on the spot and conversation can flow smoothly. Use this in your everyday management practices as well, like before meetings or during long-term projects, to show the team you’re on top of it and you care.

#8 – Give praise and recognition when due

There is such a thing as giving too much praise. It loses its luster when it’s handed out to everyone for everything and not balance with constructive feedback. Make your praise meaningful and genuine, employees will know if you’re just pulling something out of your hat because giving recognition is what you’re “supposed to do”. Have you seen our post on employee happiness and productivity?

#9 –  Don’t go back on your word

One of the biggest ways to damage a manager-employee relationship and hurt performance is to go back on your word. If you recount a situation differently and there’s a discrepancy that you are actually wrong about, it will make employees feel helpless. When employees don’t feel empowered in the employer-employee exchange, it can destroy performance. Bonus Tip: a cloud-based performance appraisal system can help managers keep track of goals and KPIs so nothing is overlooked.

#10 –  Earn their respect

One thing you can’t argue with is data. There is power in numbers, literally. Use job performance analytics to support your decisions and employees will value and respect your logical, factual decision-making process. Nobody wants to work for someone who makes subjective decisions with no value behind them.

As a new manager, you’ll be busy juggling your new tasks and projects, but you can’t get so caught up in your own work that you neglect employees’ performance needs. Don’t place your employees on the back burner while you acclimate to being their manager. Use these tips in your everyday management practices to make your employees appreciate and trust you more.

Bonus Tip!

Performance appraisal software like Trakstar enables managers to give real-time feedback, plan for better performance reviews, and get the entire team on the same page with organizational goals. Request a Trakstar demo today and learn how your organization can implement a successful review process.



Don't Miss Out on More Great HR Articles!

Subscribe to get the latest, greatest HR and Talent Development content straight to your inbox.