Are you ready for end-year performance reviews?

Are you ready for end-year performance reviews?

Year-end is busy in most organizations: While finishing off current projects and closing a few more deals you’re also planning, budgeting and getting ready for next year.

Whether you call them check-ins, evaluations, reviews or appraisals: Structured individual conversations to evaluate everyone’s contribution and growth this year are crucial to shaping your team for 2020!

Here are the key objectives for these conversations:

  • Evaluating past performance and growth: What contribution did someone make to their team, department and overall company? Were goals and expectations met? What lessons will be taken forward? And how are we all feeling about the work in the past period?
  • Gather upwards feedback: How did we do as management this year in terms of helping each person succeed? What should we continue doing? And what can we do better next year? Gather suggestions from people and see what matters to each person.
  • Shaping and adjusting roles and planning everyone’s desired contribution towards the overall goals and journey.
  • Setting the bar afresh: What major shifts or changes are coming up, and what will it mean for the expectations towards the team?

As you prepare for the reviews, ask yourself how much conversation time you think should go into each of these topics with each team member. Then give them a tailored list of questions to prepare, allowing at least 3 working days.

Keep in mind that many of your end-year conversations will lead to follow-up conversations at the start of the new year:

  • For the new performance and development goals you set, more detailed plans will be created and milestones set. Don’t miss to draw up detailed development plans, otherwise, the learning goals will remain fuzzy and not reached.
  • If someone’s performance was below par, you might want to draw up a Performance Improvement Plan to ensure a turn-around in the upcoming period.
  • And those who got new roles will now need clarity on their goals, the desired approach, available resources and the collaboration and approval points and lines.

Making it work in start-ups, where realities are a bit different!

We collected FAQ from managers in smaller and sometimes chaotic organizations, and are sharing our advice on how to get started if your scenario is less than perfect (is it ever?).

Scenario 1: Well, we didn’t really set goals or the ones we set weren’t so relevant, looking back. Should we skip the reviews and simply do a better job next year?

No. When you read the list above, you realized that reviews can serve so much purpose besides just going through a 12-month old list of goals. Find your own meaning in the reviews based on how the year in your organization went!

For example: Was it a year of client-orientation? Discuss learnings and results in terms of adding value to the client, then.  Or did you talk about picking up speed and increasing results the whole year? Then sit down and dig into everyone’s contribution to efficiency and effectiveness.

Scenario 2: We have never done that. Where do we start?

Excellent. You don’t need any special templates to get started on this. All you need are 4-6 meaningful questions. Share them with the team at least 3 working days before the one-on-one meetings so that everyone has time to prepare. Then simply listen to your team members evaluating their year and answer any questions they may have. Also, share your observations about their contributions this year (ideas and numbers just as much as softer aspects) and what you’ve seen as their strengths.

You can plan to follow-up in January with goal setting to add the next level of structure to your talent management.

Scenario 3: I haven’t really spent much time with the team members this year on one on one.  Which topics should I choose?

You might be tempted to try and accomplish a lot in little time. But instead, pick not more than two of the above listed goals for these conversations and avoid rushing things. You’d rather follow-up with another set of conversations and give yourself and the team time to digest in between.

A related scenario is the “I don’t really know my people well enough to review them scenario”.  In this case it’s worth seeing who else might have insights, and collect feedback from them before. You can also simply go with a self-assessment (Here are the department results. Tell me all about your contribution, challenges and learnings.) and then move to the forward-looking topics.

It’s also worth asking yourself why you haven’t had time for the team. Write down all your reasons and tackle them one by one in preparation for next year.

Scenario 4: I’m worried about the questions or requests I’ll get from the team

To build a winning company you’ll need dialogue. Reviews are therefore not a one-way street, where you get to talk about your expectations only! Some team members will raise grievances, share challenges faced with colleagues or expect salary increases or bonuses being communicated in year-end reviews.

The key is to take everything you hear serious and to make sure you really understand what your employee is trying to convey. You can brush up your active listening skills before. Don’t feel the pressure to react in the moment or make promises, but be clear on whether and when you will pick these topics up next. If you can, make clarifications in the moment.

Have fun! It’s your team

Gauge the passion and energy people have. How do they feel about their work? Where are they in their lives? Find out who is perfectly positioned in your organization, who needs more support, and who might be disengaged?

Make sure to note down all comments coming from the team, arising questions, ideas and priorities, so that you can analyze what happened afterwards.

Need more support? Talk to us!

We’ve helped dozens organizations think through their performance management process: Whether it’s to translate the gibberish of this blog post for managers without much HR experience, or to take your existing processes to the next level, our tools and support promise a smooth and effective approach.

Do you need a break?

Do you need a break?

There, it happened again: Another weekend that you worked through. Or maybe another week without any time for yourself.

You feel like you’re getting into that robotic state where you just tick to-do lists but you’re losing touch with the joy you used to derive from your work. You’re in one meeting, but already thinking of the next one. You drink the coffee, but you can’t taste it actually. The team sits together, but you don’t connect the jokes.

A friend or colleague asks you: Maybe you need a break?  “Not now”, you say.

This has happened to many entrepreneurs or managers. Work becomes life. Then work takes over. You feel like you can’t take a break, you’re not replaceable and things won’t move without you. 

Take a quick self-test:

  • When was the last time you took time off for yourself, and truly disconnected from being ‘the success of the company’? Was it more than 3 months ago?
  • In all honesty: Does your heart still jump up and down with the same excitement when you think of your job, as it did before?
  • Are you coming up with all kinds of reasons to explain why you can’t take a break (no money, big project, unique opportunities coming up, team needs me)?
  • Are you irritated and impatient with your team at times, because others seemingly aren’t in the same hard-working zone as you?
  • What are the 2 main traps you keep falling into when it comes to overworking yourself?

If any of these warning flags apply, then the truth is: You need a break, whether you like the thought or not. 

Some of these themes might be helpful for you to play with: 

  • Intention setting: What is the experience you want to live? How do you want to FEEL at the end of the day? 
  • Think Personal Effectiveness: If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of business. You slow down, are less creative and miss important details! And let’s be honest: As your grumpy self, you are probably not the most inspiring boss or persuasive salesperson or fundraiser either!
  • Consider Opportunity Cost: It’s October already. Can’t I power through until the end of the year? Maybe you can. But how much MORE could you get done in November, if you took a much-needed break in October?
  • Don’t be that boss who can’t let go: Your team needs to be entrusted with business results for them to grow! You want to build a business that outlasts you, don’t you?
  • Challenge your ego: It gets a lot of gratification from your job but builds a prison for you in the process. Define who are you when you’re not working! If this is a big theme for you, here are a few more tips on overcoming your ego. 

Want to start today? What you can do right now:

  • Write down your fears: What’s the worst that will happen if you take a week or two off? Then look at the list, and see which ones are crucial to manage, and which ones are unrealistic, ego-made ones.
  • Strategize: What 3 main changes would need to happen in your team for them to survive for 2 weeks without you? What first steps could you take to lead the team in that direction?
  • Who in the team can you talk to, who will understand how you feel and support you in planning for your break? Ask them for coffee in the next days.
  • Start small: Take a long weekend! Book a few nights away in a beautiful place, pack your bag with that book that you bought last year and switch off your emails. Draw up a simple leave handover plan, and leave your people with clear instructions and specific goals to achieve during your absence.
  • Re-Wire your brain: Come up with simple affirmative sentences that you will tell yourself when you are falling into your traps. (No, it’s NOT crazy to talk to yourself! It’s crucial to living the life you want)
  • Invest in yourself, and come for our entrepreneur’s edition of our Career Masters. We’ll be talking about aligning your personal values to your business, finding the right role for yourself in your start-up and managing your energy. Email us on if you’re interested!

How edge can support? 

First of all: We’ll send you for leave, if no one else will – we’ve done it before 🙂 

We can also help you think through your leave transition plan, and advise on any processes and structures you may want to set up to avoid frantic phone calls by the team on Day 3 on the beach.

In 2020, we’ll be running more senior leadership career happiness camps, learn more about them by messaging us under

The work environment at edge

edge is growing! To help more businesses grow and impact more workplaces, we’re hiring new team members!

Have you ever thought about working in talent acquisition or a business advisory firm? Ever wondered what it takes to help organizations build high performing teams and how you can make your strengths count in this mission?  If your answer to these questions is yes, we are looking for you!

You’re interested, and we know you are cautiously thinking through which work environment fits you best and brings your talents out to shine. This article should answer most of your questions, but in case you’ve got any extra ones leftover, feel free to tweet us @edge_kenya  and we’ll be happy to respond! See all open jobs on our join-us page.

So, how is edge’s work environment like?

Actually, you have to come and experience it! But since you asked, here is a three-word summary:

Fast-paced – We support entrepreneurs in building great teams! Sounds easy? At edge you will need to stretch yourself and think outside the box to come up with and use creative approaches to address our client’s needs.Strategy Conversations Sometimes we have 2 hours to build something great for a client that others may require a week for. We work with mindsets like lean and prototyping to achieve our goals and deliver great value in no time.

Constant learning – We are constantly seeking knowledge that enables us to improve our services and be our clients’ best partner. Key here is self-driven learning, being curious and inquisitive, using online resources, peers and the larger community to be at the top of new industries and trends. Together we develop specific skills that would be useful in our work. For example, we have jointly taken courses on project management and design thinking and have turned newly learned theory into new improved approaches and products immediately! (See more about how we learn in this article)

Flexible – We place more emphasis on your productivity and contribution, opposed to what time you arrive at the office. Everyone has daily and weekly outcomes set, and arranges their time in a way that works best for them. We collaborate using virtual tools and value creativity in meeting client needs. Nobody looks over each other’s shoulder. We own our stuff and strive for excellence in our work. This requires you to be highly self-motivated and self-organized.

Are you the kind of person who thrives in such an environment? Please take a look at the open jobs on our Join Us page!

Getting defensive a lot? Break the vicious cycle!

Getting defensive a lot? Break the vicious cycle!

Ever had an emotional response that was immediate, overwhelming and disproportionate to what the other person did or said?

Did the situation feel like a significant emotional threat?

As if there was a snake lurking next to your chair?snake-579682_1920

“Now you’re overreacting. I think you’re getting defensive!”

“YES!   I TOTALLY AM!!  BUT I CANNOT STOP IT! Oh, and I won’t admit it either!”

And when you think about it later, you can’t even remember or factually describe what worried you exactly! It’s like you had a total loss of brain capacity.


What is happening in these moments?


Your ego is trying to defend you! It wants the best for you and preserve you from harm. To avoid serious danger from hitting you, it uses a flight, a fight, or a freeze response.

But guess what: In 99% of cases your ego is over-reacting, seeing snakes and dangers where there are none. Then all that adrenaline comes in between you and your talents, your best self, and your success!

Here are a couple of real life examples:

  • The client says: “Oh, maybe Manuela can tell us more about XYZ topic (not related to the context of the meeting), given that should really be YOUR expertise.” My mind going into overdrive: “Oh my God, I’m not prepared for this. No matter what I say now, they’ll think I’m stupid. But how can she do that? She always puts me on the spot. In fact, why are we working with her organization in the first place?” (Black and white thinking)
  • Boss asks: “Why is this concept note late? Please make sure to get this to me by 9am tomorrow” – At 9:30am the boss will find a document full of typos in their inbox, with key sections missing that were agreed on earlier.
  • There’s a guy in the office, who naturally connects well with people and has great ideas of fun team activities. And to put the icing on the cake, he loves food! When he’s asked to organize an office chill-out for end month, he agrees, but goes quiet until the day of the event.
  • Watching colleague making a mistake, bad decision or just be really slow in solving a challenge. Thinking: “She’s been here much longer than me. If I tell her now that I have an idea for her, she might take it badly. Let me play it cool and not offer my advice.”
  • Over coffee with a colleague: “Hey! I need your advice. My manager always does a, b and c“. “I think you should try to look at it from their perspective. That day he really needed that report from you, and I imagine that he was disappointed that you didn’t….”   “No! You see the problem in that situation was actually that my computer wasn’t working and also on that day, … (Goes on with endless rationalizing until the other person gets frustrated and mentally checks out.)

Sad, right?

To make things worse, being defensive also sours your relationships over time. Here is an interesting medium post talking about how these impulsive moments (also called amygdala hijacks) create toxic workplaces.

It’s time to stop the vicious cycle!

We believe that you have great talents, and that they want to come out to shine!nathan-dumlao-378988-unsplash - small

You have weak areas (sure thing, we all do) and should be developing them instead of fighting the process.

No matter if you’re 25 or 65, you can work on your ego defence mechanisms!

The first step is to recognize your signs of defensiveness: What do you do and how does your body feel, when it happens? Through self-observation, over time you become more and more aware of what triggers you. Don’t blame yourself, just observe it. Then you can transform your reactions to these triggers, by staying level-headed in the moment and asking yourself if this is really a snake, or possibly simply a colleague who’s trying to succeed on a joint project with you.

At edge we’ve been working on this topic for a few years now. We regularly sit together and reflect on our signs of defensiveness. We tell each other what happens when we get triggered, and what we want to work on. We celebrate progress and make fun of ourselves. We discuss our triggers in the team and we show support to each other when the amygdala shows up.

These conversations create truly collaborative environments, where we easily ask each other for help and ideas. Where asking for clarification is standard procedure, and making assumptions around the other person’s intentions happens less and less.

Do you think you or your team would benefit from this conversation as well?

Get in touch!

Intercultural Teams: The magic ingredients for success

Intercultural Teams: The magic ingredients for success

It is hard to imagine the social enterprise and venture capital ecosystem without cross-cultural teams. In our work with startups and organizations across East Africa we interact with multicultural teams on a daily basis: Local and foreign founders, team members from different East African countries, local and foreign investors and board members, international fellows and consultants, you get the picture!

While the day to day in the office with each other can sometimes be puzzling or draining, this diversity is an incredible opportunity to build innovative, winning and competitive models.

There are many reasons to invest into building a balanced culture and help teams leverage their diversity!

First of all, working in a multi-cultural environment is a huge selling point for this generation! Organizations that succeed in building a fun, well-functioning diverse work environment are very attractive employers and are likely to attract and retain top talent!

quoteAlso, you can increase your company’s ability to innovate and create products that last and faster and better problem solving by representing views and insights from a wide range of stakeholders into decisions. Leveraging different life and professional background improves business results in the short, mid and long-term.

There is ample research showing the business opportunity diverse teams have, but also the challenges associated with diversity, such as inconsistent norms and assumptions, which might reduce collaboration.

We asked around: How do different styles, beliefs and concepts shape workplace interaction?

We discussed this question in our session at the Sankalp Africa Summit 2019. We started the workshop by asking participants to share experiences where intercultural aspects caused tension and reduced productivity.

Communication styles always comes up: What one person calls an animated conversation, someone else might find an aggressive shouting match. Speaking loudly and talking over each other is perfectly normal and welcome in some countries but signifies lack of respect and decency to others. If contradicting the CEO in front of a group if they make a suboptimal suggestion increases your worth to the company in some places, speaking up to your boss can get you fired elsewhere. Even the preference of written vs. face-to-face communication is raised as an area of tension.

Some of these beliefs go deep to shape workplace interaction:

  • “People at my workplace tend to be more accepting of advice and guidance from expat colleagues, sometimes completely ignoring ‘local’ contribution altogether”.
  • “My boss keeps asking me to speak up. I am very soft spoken, and I know that he considers me less confident or even clever because of that. But in our culture, we believe that people who talk less are wiser! Equally, he insists on me keeping eye contact with my audience, yet when I grew up that was a sign of disrespect.”
  • “The concept of taking leave is very different here, for example, someone asking for (often immediate) compassionate leave of a family member is hard to question. Where I come from, there is an unspoken commitment to always finish work first.”
  • “Our junior team members do not ask questions to their superiors, even when specifically given the opportunities in team forums!”

It’s easy to imagine that some of these hesitations will affect an individual, a team and therefore organization performance.

Make it work through self-awareness and designing systems!

  • What on earth do you mean with systems? We think that in no fast-growing and ambitious company should decision making, communication style, information flow, and management and hiring approaches rely on any one culture or an individual’s preferences. Instead, teams should come up with agreements and build the culture and standardized approaches that will truly serve their mission.
  • Do so by pressing ‘pause’ if faced with a business challenge before jumping to action and evaluate the situation: Identify assumptions you’re using about how “things are done”, and think about what the ideal approach would be for a given situation.
  • Relying on diverse input to designing these systems might take longer in terms of initial design (imagine simply typing out a leave policy on your laptop vs. designing it in a team conversation) but is much more likely to be robust, a winning strategy AND implemented by everyone.
  • Keep it lean: Pick a pressing and contentious topic, gather input, then come up with a simple draft and agreement. Communicate that the agreement is open to change based on experience.

An illustrative example: Peter talks a lot in team meetings, to the extent that it becomes a dialogue between the boss and Peter. They take a big product decision together that pretty immediately backfires on the company. Anna takes the boss aside after a team meeting and shares her observations. She mentions that she personally prefers thinking things through before voicing her thoughts, and requests that the main discussion points be shared on email one hour to the team meeting. She also mentions that other team members may have thoughts, but feel shy to voice them in a group that’s seemingly in agreement. The boss then starts a new habit where at the end of a team meeting he invites worries, concerns and questions to be raised and reserves five minutes in the agenda for it, which results in a few moments of silence at first.  But soon, meetings become more lively, and after a few months, the five-minute rule is abandoned again, because criticism is now raised directly in the moment.

Edge Perfomance website pictures-23 square small

Another crucial piece of diverse teams is cultivating and continually growing self-awareness in every team member. With high self-awareness, you’ll be able to take a nuanced approach in situations, listen better and communicate more clearly. Therefore you contribute to better decisions that will result in action.

In developing self-awareness, lead by example: After becoming more aware of what drives you, and communicating more clearly, you can ask and inspire others to do the same.  Debrief situations with yourself through self-reflective questions:

  • Why am I feeling and acting the way I am? Which written, unwritten or self-prescribed rules am I following in this moment?
  • Which assumptions am I basing my thoughts and decisions on? Could those be wrong? What am I unaware of in this moment that ought to be considered?
  • Whenever I feel in disagreement about someone’s opinion or behaviour, how can I invite and facilitate dialogue? What do I need to share about where I am coming from? What do I need to know about where someone else is coming from and how can I show that I’m truly open to understanding them?

Self-awareness is closely linked with intercultural competence, a crucial comptence for all teams that want to succeed in business. Four aspects are linked to intercultural competence: knowledge about different cultures, an attitude of openness, readiness to interact and learn, ability to show empathy and tolerance and willingness and ability to change own perspective.culture day

To develop these in yourself and the team, tap resources like trainings, workshops, webinars, videos and online resources, conversation & self-reflection guides!

And remember to make it fun! At edge, we hosted culture day recently, where team members present a culture other than their own, values, dress and food included. (I represented Pakistan which I’ve also found fascinating and that is in stark contract to my German fatherland 😉 )

Would you like support in building your own organization culture that truly serves your mission or want trainings to increase self-awareness or intercultural competence in your team?

Reach out to us! We look forward to hearing from you!

PS: Part 2 this series is coming! Another important question raised was how to avoid bias during recruitment, especially if you’re assessing candidates across cultures. For example, a manager feels more drawn to job applicants who provide answers quickly to everything, as this is closer to behaviour expected in their own culture.

We will share more insights in another article soon!