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Make It a Point in 2017 to Ask, ‘Are You Doing Okay?’

Early in my career, I worked for Will Keiper. Will was one of my first managers and in many ways, he taught me how to be a manager. He knew the fine balance of being a friend and also a tough manager.

In the late ‘80s, I left the company where I worked for Will to work for Compaq Computer in Houston. I had been working for Compaq for two years when Will let me know he would be attending a meeting at our office and wanted to catch up. As I walked into the room to say hello, Will remarked, “Isn’t that a tie you wore years ago when you worked for me?” Two weeks later a box came in the mail for me from Will. It had a dozen ties in it.

Will Keiper did another thing that made him a good manager; whenever he saw me in the hall, he always asked, “Are you doing okay?” Most people ask, “How are you doing?” and for some reason it doesn’t get the same reaction as, “Are you doing okay?”

Try it in 2017.

I received a call this week asking me if I had any advice for a small business group for 2017. After considering the usual things like making a budget, looking at the business plan and objectively assessing the 2016 results, I settled on a very simple thing: give your employees a performance review and make sure you ask them if they are okay when you see them.

I find it odd that managers don’t give annual performance reviews. It isn’t about the money or a pay raise. It’s about taking an opportunity to let your employees know they are valued, you appreciate their contribution and you have some thoughts about helping them grow and succeed. It is also the time to ask for their feedback on how you are doing as a manager.

Recently in Arizona, a new minimum wage was passed. An additional $2 per hour was tacked on to that for businesses in Flagstaff. We as business owners and business leaders have ourselves to blame. Maybe if we were more like Will Keiper, and took the time to motivate, encourage or ask our employees if they’re okay, it would be different.

If you take the time to give performance reviews, do them correctly.

The only thing worse than not giving a performance review is giving one incorrectly. Try to remember these three simple rules when giving performance reviews:


  1. No surprises – The performance review should never be a surprise. You should be giving feedback (both positive and corrective) to your employees on a regular basis. If you are doing this right, anything that is communicated in the performance review will be old news. If your employee is nervous going into the performance review, you have done something wrong.


  1. Don’t put the burden of writing the review on your employee – I once knew a manager who would say, “Just write your review for me and I’ll make some changes.” I had another employer recently who gave me a low performance review stating that I had failed to fill out several self evaluation forms properly. Be a real manager and know what your employees are doing so you can give them a proper evaluation.


  1. Treat the process professionally and seriously – Treat the process like any other business process. Schedule the performance review and sit down with employees to properly cover what needs to be covered. I once had a manager tell me as we walked by each other, “You’ll see your raise in this paycheck. You’ve done a good job.” While I appreciated the pay increase, I would have preferred to hear what he thought I did well and where I could improve.

My daughter had her one-year anniversary with a company this summer and her manager keeps telling her she is really going to be happy with her pay increase.

The lesson I hope you take from this is that giving annual performance reviews is an important part of being a manager. The burden of a performance review shouldn’t fall on the employee. Hopefully you know your employees well enough that you can accurately write a performance review and it will be a positive thing that motivates and promotes loyalty. At the very least, ask your employees if they are okay.

On a personal note, thanks to everyone who has emailed me questions, comments, suggestions and support in 2016. I hope you have a healthy and prosperous 2017. FBN

By T Paul Thomas



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