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How to Evaluate Manager Performance in 6 Steps

Reviews aren't just for employees — ensure your managers are effectively leading teams with this guide to evaluating manager performance.

By Shayna Waltower  •   December 12, 2023  •   8 min read

When you think of performance reviews, you might think of managers sitting down and talking with their direct reports. However, managers need evaluations too. Evaluating your organization’s managers confirms that they’re keeping their teams on the right track and being the best possible leaders to the people they’re directing. If you’re the leader of a leader, check out these steps to holding constructive manager performance reviews.

Why is it important to evaluate a manager’s performance?

Managers are equally responsible for dishing out day-to-day duties and developing and encouraging team members’ trust in their organization. According to research from Gallup, employees who trust their organization’s leadership are four times as likely to be engaged at work than employees who don’t.

As a supervisor, regularly evaluating your managers helps ensure they’re leading your team properly and in the right direction. It also demonstrates a sense of accountability to the rest of your team; you’re showing that you hold your managers to a high professional standard, just like everyone else in your organization.

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A healthy and strong culture starts with feedback. Fellow enables your team to share real-time feedback on meetings, projects, and performance.

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6 steps to a successful manager performance evaluation

Given the distinct roles that managers hold compared to team members, it’s important to tailor their performance evaluations accordingly. Here’s how to conduct a productive manager performance evaluation.

1Explain the purpose

Get into the meaning behind your meeting—that is, clearly communicate the objectives behind the evaluation. Explain to your manager that you want to identify ways they can better serve their direct reports and help them grow professionally. A well-defined meeting purpose sets the tone for constructive feedback and helps establish the evaluation as a developmental opportunity instead of a mere formality.

2Ensure confidentiality

During the evaluation, you’ll want your manager to share any challenges they’re facing and feel comfortable asking for guidance. After all, people are often more likely to open up when they sense they’re in a safe space. That’s why you should assure your manager that the conversation between the two of you stays in the room. This helps you build trust with them and allows for a candid exchange.

3Share clear performance indicators

There are several performance metrics you can use to evaluate your manager’s performance, including work quality, quantity, and efficiency metrics. Explaining the types of metrics you’re using to evaluate your manager’s performance creates a sense of transparency.

Defining clear performance metrics helps ensure you and your manager are on the same page about what counts as good performance. Each of these metrics also serves as a progress monitor for you and your manager to reference during your next review.

With Fellow’s Objectives tool, you can easily create new objectives, specify key results into metrics or quantifiable achievements, track progress, and update contributors on the status of OKRs.

4Reflect on their performance

Think of ways your manager has met, exceeded, or perhaps fallen short of your expectations. Consider their challenges, accomplishments, and overall progress so you have a balance of their strengths and the areas where they can improve. Similarly, you should invite your manager to reflect on their performance. This encourages them to take ownership of the evaluation while helping you understand their perspectives of their work and achievements. 

When you and your manager are discussing their performance, using direct examples can help them more clearly understand ways they can improve. For example, try to avoid saying, “I like how you manage your time” or “You need to work on delegating tasks.” Instead, you might say, “I like the way you redefined your priorities to make sure your last project was completed on time.”

For constructive feedback instead, you could say, “There may have been a better way to delegate tasks so everyone’s time was used effectively.” In either case, giving the manager tangible examples they can use as references can help them make meaningful improvements.

5Use a feedback tool

It’s important to discuss your manager’s performance and give them feedback on how they can improve. This keeps the discussion productive and ensures it’s not just a review of your manager’s work over the past few months.

When you use Fellow, you can easily integrate 360 degree feedback into your evaluation, so it’s more than a top-down assessment. Peers, team members, and other supervisors can all share their input to give a more complete view of a manager’s performance.

With Fellow, you also don’t have to wait until evaluations to give feedback. You can give feedback about projects as your manager is working on them. Fellow’s pre-built templates take all the guesswork out of asking for and receiving feedback so you can focus on the points that really matter.

6Create a regular cadence for evaluations

You’ve heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” Holding regular manager performance reviews is a great way to build a structured framework for ongoing feedback and give your manager space for timely adjustments and sustained professional growth.

There’s no perfect timeframe for conducting performance reviews. You might hold them annually, quarterly, or bi-annually—their frequency depends on your organization’s size and the amount of time you and your managers have between projects.

Criteria to use during a manager performance review

Evaluating a manager’s performance is about more than checking off boxes. Below are some criteria you can use to assess a manager’s performance in their role.

1Communication skills

Effective communication involves more than talking or sending emails; it involves accurately conveying information, actively listening to team members, and creating an environment for open and transparent conversations. Consider how your manager has provided clarity for their team. Do they clearly express their ideas? Are they open to different perspectives? 

To evaluate a manager’s communication skills, you can review presentations they’ve given, as well as their demeanor when communicating with their team. You can also assess how they explain complex topics to someone unfamiliar with them.

2Decision-making and problem-solving skills

Sometimes, being a manager is a lot like playing a board game—it requires strategy and the ability to make moves that count. A manager doesn’t need to be able to predict the future, but they should be able to plan for change and adapt to it when necessary. Does your manager tend to make decisions blindly, or do they carefully weigh the pros and cons? Part of being a good manager involves making decisions that are good for both the organization and the team.

Now might be a good time to ask your manager about the choices they’ve made or the problems they’ve tackled. Their responses can give you a feel for how they believe they’ve handled situations, giving you ample insights into their process.

3Project management

Managers play a key role in overseeing projects. From making sure tasks are completed to reinforcing deadlines, managers need to ensure projects are finished on time and at the highest standard of quality. 

With strong project management skills, a manager can effectively set goals and allocate resources. If your manager can minimize risk while keeping a close eye on the budget, they likely have strong project management skills.

Since there are many parts to managing projects, there are several elements you can use to gauge a manager’s performance in this area. Consider the number of projects your manager completed on time and within budget, as well as the amount of communication they maintained with teams in other departments.

4Delegation

Every good manager knows they can’t do everything themselves. Effective leadership involves knowing how and when to delegate tasks to team members. If a manager is drowning in their tasks while their team members are twiddling their thumbs, the manager likely needs better delegation skills.

Great delegation hinges on other essential managerial skills, too. For example, delegating tasks requires a manager to effectively communicate how the whole team can help complete certain action items.

To evaluate your manager’s ability to delegate, assess the level of autonomy they give their team members. You should also consider how well the manager balances the workload among all their team members. Assess whether tasks are distributed fairly to prevent burnout and promote a collaborative work environment.

5Conflict resolution

How well does your manager defuse tension in the workplace? Conflicts arise in even the most positive workplace environments, so a manager needs to understand how to respond to those situations respectfully and productively. 

To assess a manager’s ability to manage conflict, observe their approach to handling disagreements within the team. Evaluate how they facilitate open communication, listen to different perspectives, and guide everyone toward finding a resolution. You should also consider the manager’s ability to find mutually beneficial solutions that maintain positive team dynamics.

6Leadership skills

Successful teams have great leaders. If you want your organization to make continuous progress, you need to ensure your managers are properly guiding your teams. To evaluate a manager’s leadership performance, assess their ability to inspire and motivate the team.

Observe how your manager provides direction, the types of examples they set, and whether they foster a comfortable work environment. While your manager isn’t entirely to blame if team members have a less-than-positive attitude about work, they do greatly influence the team’s outlook.

Ask your manager about their vision for their team and the steps they’re taking to develop each team member’s skills. You should also see how well your manager understands the company goals to ensure they know where they’re leading the team. 

Parting advice

Manager performance reviews are more than formal assessments; they are tools for performance management that encourage continuous learning and professional growth. As you’re conducting these reviews, be sure to encourage a two-way dialogue—you want your manager to thoroughly share their perspectives and opinions. Celebrate your manager’s achievements, encourage them to keep improving, and emphasize that they’re a valuable part of your organization. You can also gather and track feedback in Fellow to make the entire process easier.

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