How to Run Performance Reviews

In this video, Jennifer Bridges, PMP, offers practical tips for running performance reviews for your staff within your team.

In Review: How to Run Performance Reviews

Jennifer noted that performance reviews are ultimately about getting your team to work together successfully. By providing the right training, skills, practice and feedback individually you can assist in uplifting the entire group and benefit from greater project results.

The process for a productive performance review, as she outlined, follows these five points:

  • Defining
  • Preparing
  • Conducting
  • Writing up
  • Communicating

Not all project managers look forward to performance reviews. If that’s you, then these five tips can help you focus on the process and, in so doing, reap the positive results. In time, you’ll come to see the importance of performance review to the project.

When communicating it’s important that you remain respectful, regardless of the content of what you’re trying to communicate. It also helps to stick to the specifics as documented and agreed on.

Pro-Tip: The frequency with which you perform performance reviews directly impacts the results. Don’t wait until it’s too late. You don’t want to rush them, as your team likely looks forward at the very least to some one-on-one feedback from you.

For further reading, Jena McGregor’s piece in the Washington Post offers an interesting take on the whole process of performance reviews.

Thanks for watching!


Hello, I’m Jennifer Bridges, Director of I don’t know about you, but the comments I have is the worst, dreaded thing that a project manager hates to do besides give a presentation is to give a performance review.

So, why is that? Many times the whole goal of project management is building and nurturing relationships to get things done on our projects. So, therefore, we build relationships with our teams, our stakeholders and other people on our projects. When we feel like we have to give a performance review, we now are feeling like we’re evaluating someone we’ve now built a relationship with on our team. So it can become very uncomfortable whether it’s delivering good news or bad news.

Here are a few, five steps for greater results. When I think of performance reviews I think of sports because when you think of sports teams, the team members are actually on the team to all work together for the same result, and that’s to win. So, in the performance reviews, it’s all about, “How do we support each other, or how do we support you to do the best at the role that you’re doing?” Providing the training, the skills, the practice and the feedback to make that person better, the team member is better on your team for greater results.

So I try to keep that in mind when I think of a performance review, so that’s what I’ve tried to incorporate in these five steps. First of all, people ask, “What is a performance review?” Performance review is, not to be circular, if you Google it, it’s “reviewing of performance.” So, we’ll try to do a little bit better than that. If you think about what are the results that you’re trying to get on your projects, that’s the objective. The objective is you’re striving for results for a project and deliverables, and you need team members to perform to get those things done.

So you decide what is the role? What are the things that that person is to be doing? What are their roles? What are their responsibilities? What are the deliverables? What are the results that they’re responsible for doing?

A review is, in a periodic way, setting a timeline of different periods during the project of evaluating their performance review to see how they’re doing, and to always check in to see, “What do you need? How do I support you in getting your job done?”

What are the benefits? The benefits of that are, number one the end goal is getting better results. Number two, is when you’re always checking in with your team members to give a performance review, and if it’s done in a proper way, you’re letting that person know, “Hey, I support you. I’m here to help you. I’m here to give you guidance. I’m here to give you candid feedback. I’m here to get your input and feedback. But we’re both working together to get a greater result, so we’re both winning.”

So that goes a long way in a performance review in letting people know that you’re there to support them. Those are some of the tangible benefits and intangible benefits. But there are five steps, I believe, to this process. There’s defining the performance review, what’s actually in that that you’re going to review. Preparing, conducting, writing up, and then communicating to the person, the results of their performance review, so let’s break it down.

So defining, when you hold a performance review, you need to go by a formal, documented performance review. In that it’s documented, it’s agreed upon, it’s very specific, and it’s measurable so that the person knows what they’re doing. Have you ever been thrown into a job where you didn’t really know what your job responsibilities were and then someone coming up to you later to tell you that you’ve missed it and you didn’t even really know what you were there to do?

So we want to be sure that we define the role that the person is supposed to be playing clearly. What are the results and the deliverables that they’re responsible for and what are the metrics? How are we going to measure that to see how are they doing? We always measure, right? We start as kids and we measure the results of how maybe they’re growing. If you’re a swimmer, maybe you measure the time. How fast? Maybe you’re trying to get faster at swimming or biking or running.

So, we use metrics in our day-to-day lives. We want to set the metrics so that we’re measuring those activities, those results that we’re trying to get, and we want to reward that behavior when we’re being met. We want to support it when they’re not being met.

So, preparing, when you go in to give a performance review for one of your team members, then you want to start by the documented, performance agreement. It’s documented, remember. In the preparation, you sit down and you agree upon it in the beginning. So what you set is your baseline, and then in preparing you gather results. Maybe you ask the person that you’re evaluating to provide you results, “How are you doing? Show me the results or show me the deliverables that you’re going to be using for the review.”

Also look at the metrics. Pull any kind of metrics that you can use going into so when you conduct the review you have facts. You’re going by facts. You’re not guessing or just making things up or going by hearsay that you heard at the water cooler. So then you sit down and you conduct the reviews. So it’s important to let that person be relaxed. Remember after all, they’re one of your team members.

So if everybody is nervous or upset or defensive, that’s not going to lead to good results, right off the bat. So let that person know that you’re there just to go by the performance review and letting them know that you’re there to support them. Be respectful. You’re talking about deliverables and results, not attacking that person individually.

So if you leave off the attacks, be very respectful and just look at, “Okay, here are the things that we agreed upon. Here’s where we needed to be. So where are we really?” So it’s like, “Where are you now and where do you need to be, and what are the things that you need to put in place in order to meet those objectives. It’s important to look at next steps.

Then there’s the writing up of the review. So you document what you covered in the performance review. Always document so everyone knows, and then you can review it later to make sure that you do agree. So document the results, and you also get the input from the person you’re evaluating. Get the input from them because they may give you input on how you as the project manager can grow and develop and support them more, and/or they may have some other ideas on training or other items that they need in order to improve.

Then the metrics, you also want to document and write up the metrics so you see the baseline of where they were to be and where they actually were, and then documenting the next steps so you can review those and track those. Then, there’s the communicating. So after you’ve conducted the performance review, you’ve written it up, and then meet with them again.

So sit down and meet and say, “Hey, here’s what we covered. Here’s what we discussed. We documented it now, so just want to make sure that this was your understanding.” Do any tweaks along the way, and then once you both agree that that was the outcome of the meeting, also do the next steps.

Oh, okay. So the last step, number five, is communicating, going back to the individual. So if it wasn’t fearful enough to conduct the interview and write it up, now we have to go through and communicate to them effectively. So if we remember to always be respectful of the person and know that you’re looking at results and metrics and not attacking them as a person, then you’re better off and it’s less defensive.

But when you’re communicating it, be respectful. Be specific to the performance agreement. Again, the performance agreement is the documented, it’s the agreed upon, it’s the specific measurable document that you’re always measuring and tracking by, and just review the next steps and set another timeline to meet it again. Remember the more frequent that you do the performance review the better results that you can get all along the way, instead of waiting until the very end and not having any reviews in between. Then everyone has missed their objective.

So these are a few things, a few steps that I’ve found to get greater results. So if you’re one of those project managers who don’t look forward to conducting a performance review, I think if you use these steps, it’ll be much easier and you can gain greater results for your project and your team.

If you need any tips, tools, or techniques to run your next performance review and get greater results, then visit us at

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