Use Growth Mindset to Conduct Smarter Performance Reviews


The performance review — historically a stressful and potentially threatening event for both evaluator and recipient. With many possibilities for unconscious bias throughout the review process, it’s no wonder that 77% of HR executives feel that performance reviews don’t accurately reflect employees’ contributions.

But there are tools to help us give fairer assessments, and to deliver them in a non-threatening way. In the NeuroLeadership Institute’s latest white paper, “Transforming Performance Management with a Growth Mindset Approach,” we explore how growth mindset can help us to avoid the pitfalls of unconscious bias. By adopting a few key strategies, we can create a better and broader picture of a reviewee, and be prepared to deliver a stronger and more accurate performance review.

Avoid the first impression trap

As the saying goes, you never get a second chance at a first impression. However, we also know that first impressions can be misleading. As we continue to work with a person, and get to know them better, it’s important that we allow our picture of that person to grow and change with the new information. Otherwise, we risk holding a performance review that doesn’t capture their current skills and contributions.

Growth mindset, the view that skills are fluid and can develop over time, can help an evaluator do just that. An individual with a growth mindset is more likely to be open to new or contradicting data about a person, and to integrate that new information into their perspective. To avoid the first-impression trap when preparing for a review, take steps to limit the data you use to the specific review period in question, and form a new picture of your team member using only that information.

Collect better data

When we assume that we have the full picture of a person or a situation, we’re falling prey to what scientists call experience bias — the idea that our personal perceptions are complete and accurate. By using the tools of growth mindset, we become more comfortable with the idea that our perception might have gaps or inconsistencies. And by becoming aware of these blindspots, we can take steps to mitigate our bias, and ultimately provide a more informed and accurate performance review.

When preparing for an employee’s review cycle, be deliberate about gathering better and broader data. Speak to other team members and managers, and ask for their thoughts on the employee’s contributions, strengths, and weaknesses. By seeking out feedback from others, we can create a more robust and holistic picture of an employee’s performance throughout the workplace, and ultimately provide a more accurate assessment.

Prepare your assessment with a growth mindset

Once an evaluator recognizes their impressions may not be complete and accurate, and has taken steps to collect the extra data they will need for a successful review, the time comes to plan the review itself.

When reviewing your team member’s strengths and weaknesses, be sure you can provide context and examples for each one. If you don’t have a concrete example of a specific behavior to support your review, consider gathering more data, or reassessing that particular impression for bias.

Finally, by using the language of growth mindset throughout a performance review, we can reduce the threat imposed by the review process on our team members. Celebrate growth, effort, and successful journeys across the review period, and frame weaknesses as areas to develop and improve in the coming months.

Next steps

These tools and strategies are just a few of the many ways in which growth mindset can help to improve workplace culture and collaboration.

Transforming Performance Management with a Growth Mindset Approach” explores how three well-known companies have started using growth mindset to update and improve their performance management processes, and the rewards that each is seeing across their organization.

Pick up a copy of the white paper today, and learn how to bring growth mindset into team dynamics, everyday feedback conversations, and more.

Author: Emma Briggs