I recently got called in by a long-standing client, for what I assumed was a project update meeting. After the formalities and updates were completed the CEO told me how much value had been added by the work I was doing, sought my opinion on a couple of thorny issues – making notes on some of my suggestions and asked me to pick up the biggest piece of work yet for this client.

I’ve had worse client meetings!

Why does this stand out as a great performance review?

  1. The feedback was freely given and not driven by a form or a sense of having to do it…
  2. The conversation was timely, I’m currently half way through an important piece of work for the client
  3. My sense is that the feelings expressed were genuine – as a client, there’s no need for fake praise
  4. Few things buy commitment and rapport like being asked for advice
  5. It’s hugely encouraging and an obvious sign of listening when your suggestions are written down by the requester
  6. We all want to make a contribution and getting this affirmation from the most senior stakeholder in the organisation is obviously powerful
  7. As well as validation of the work done to date, being asked to pick up the new, strategically important assignments was a very real demonstration of trust
  8. The relationship is deepened and I now feel empowered to offer bigger and more far reaching suggestions to the client

I guess it’s all a little bit more meaningful when you’re working independently and your clients are ultimately buying “you”, but how many of these principles can be adopted into the performance management thinking of any leader in any organisation?