I HATE Doing Reviews

By Tim Slapnicher, ABOC

Release Date: February, 2013

Expiration Date: February 6, 2018

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this course, the participant should be able to:

  1. Implement a team-driven TSBE ("Tizz-bee") review system to achieve desired results and behaviors.
  2. Develop a plan for collecting authentic employee artifacts to support growth and accountability more frequently.
  3. Reduce stress for both employer and employee during review periods.

Faculty/Editorial Board:

Linda Conlin Tim Slapnicher, ABOC, CPO is currently the practice coordinator at Rivertown Eye Care in Hastings, Minn., where he lives with his family. He uses his experience of teaching kindergarten to bring a fresh perspective to management in the optical industry.

Credit Statement:

This course is approved for one (1) hour of CE credit by the American Board of Opticianry. Course SWJMI500-1.


As a teacher, I LOVED review time. This was my time to shine. For the first three years of my teaching career, I was observed three times each year. I brainstormed all the amazing things I could do to show my administrator I was worth holding onto and was deserving of the elusive "tenure" status. During these reviews, I made sure to be as creative and innovative as possible to show my principal the amazing ways I was teaching and engaging my kindergarten students.

The setup for my observations was very predictable. I received an e-mail stating that my review would be next week. I chose one of three options for the day and time. I also chose the subject and lesson that I would be teaching. My principal and I met two days before the review to go over what I was going to do, and if there was anything specific that I wanted him to observe. Then it was showtime.

On the morning of my review, I looked and smelled real good (thanks to a calculated mist of Aqua di Gio). I wore a "trendy" outfit that portrayed my approachable and sensitive "Mr. Rogers" kindergarten side (conservative khakis and brown slip-on shoes) mixed with an up-and-coming style—a V-neck sweater and hair that was flipped up in front... think "Joey" from the TV show "Friends." I portrayed an image that would entice every parent to request me for their teacher next year. ("I want my kid to be in his class... he seems so nice, yet hip and on the cutting edge of great teaching methods and ideas.") I sat at my desk, took a deep breath and slammed a Red Bull to make sure I had plenty of energy and enthusiasm for the day. I brought my "A-game" and I was going to rock it.

The review would turn out stellar. I would knock it out of the park with my cool science experiment, my groovy guitar song to introduce a new sight word or my humorous puppet show skit to teach subtraction. I would meet with my administrator the next day, and we would talk about how innovative my methods were, and how the kids were grasping the curriculum through my enthusiasm and creativity. I loved it; I knew how to play the game to get a solid review. I was safe to "coast" a bit until my next review.

Of course, I strived to "bring it" all the time, but this was not always the case. There were times I taught sans Red Bull and scraped by to pull together enough energy to make it to lunch. There were times when I wore my faded navy blue Polo shirt and jeans while forgetting to spray on my cologne. And there were times that I stayed up late the previous night and showed a "Winnie the Pooh" video about being a good friend so I could buy 45 minutes to figure out how to teach my math lesson... forget it, I would do a math coloring sheet. I wasn't proud of it, but it happened once in a while. I continued to strive to be the best teacher I could be, but I was not always professional in the way I attacked my planning and delivery on a consistent basis.


I found myself as the office manager at my family's independent optometric clinic. Teaching kindergarten definitely prepared me for my new role. (Don't tell my staff I said that.) I gained skills that taught me how to motivate, encourage and support my team. I love to give my team ownership in their path here and in our direction as a clinic. We try to have fun here and give our patients a red-carpet experience. But I often heard the same question from my team: "When can I have my review?"

How do I give my employees a review? I didn't even understand what they all did. I knew we had patients that would check in, go with a tech to do some tests, see the doctor and then buy glasses or contact lenses. Our staff guided the patients through these processes, and they seemed fairly happy. Things were cool here. That is, until they wanted feedback. I had no idea where to start... so I did what I always do when I don't have a clue—I googled: "How to do reviews."

The Internet is good and bad for the same reason: There is a ton of information. I found lots of templates and review samples that I could cater to my business. I found many options including tips to make it go well and things I should avoid with performance appraisals.

During our monthly team meeting I had an honest conversation with my staff. I wanted to give them feedback and learn about their goals but I was still learning about this industry. I asked them to fill out a standard 1 to 10 scale on basic office-wide procedures and their efforts and attitudes, and asked them to rate themselves. They then handed it into me that Friday, and I scheduled a day and time to meet the following week to go over their "review."

As these self-rated forms trickled in, I realized something. Apparently, I had the best staff ever—10s across the board. We were a well-oiled machine. When I met with them individually, I realized something else. They were definitely playing the ever-familiar review game. They came into their review looking their best: sparkling jewelry, professional suits, thick scented perfume and cologne, and fancy shoes. I went over their self-review form and they proceeded to tell me how great they were and why they deserved at least a $1.00 raise right away. I had no authentic feedback as I had no real clue on how they were doing. I was not measuring any part of their performance. After all, they looked and smelled good, they were 10s, and they had ambitious goals. Why wouldn't I give them at least that much? What did I get myself into? I had a stomachache.

I couldn't give them all a dollar raise, and I couldn't come up with a reason for it. I told them I was going to do my best to meet with them on a weekly basis so I was more in touch with the pulse of our office. This fizzled pretty quickly. I was able to connect with some of them sometimes, but my duties as a manager made it difficult to connect with 15 employees on a weekly basis. I was a bit overambitious and couldn't follow through. It was time to take a step back and figure out how to give them feedback, support their growth and find a way to follow through for them.


img2I definitely needed to become more familiar with the systems and processes we had in our office before I could give authentic feedback. Becoming certified as a paraop-tometric and an optician would certainly help. I trained hard to become certified in these areas so I had a better understanding of what we were doing and how I could support the growth of my team. In that time, I met with my team members more frequently to get a good pulse on how things were going from their perspective. (See the 3-2-1 formula in the December 2011 CE course "How Teaching Kindergarten Prepared Me to Be a Better Optical Office Manager" at 2020mag.com/CE to see how I did this.)

However, I don't believe that you have to know everything about every position in the office to give feedback. One of my favorite books "How to Win Friends & Influence People" by Dale Carnegie does a great job describing how Andrew Carnegie viewed his assistants. Carnegie wrote an epitaph for himself on his tombstone which read: "Here lies one who knew how to get around him men who were cleverer than himself." Our job is to put amazing people in a role that allows them to do amazing things. Know enough to help support growth, but get out of the way to let them shine.


While I am able to meet with team members individually a couple times per month to discuss things that are going well, their frustrations, as well as goals, I am finding that it is just as helpful for me to monitor team goals. During an optical team meeting, we discussed creating team goals for shorter spans of time (four to six weeks) so we could really focus on a handful of things to strive for mastery. We brainstormed some of the things we thought we could improve as a team. The following day, we started doing our first TSBE (we pronounce it "Tizz-Bee"): Targeted Skills, Behaviors and Expectations.

The purpose of TSBE: This review is a tool used to provide valuable feedback to employees regarding their ongoing job performance and achievement of pre-established goals and targets.


Even the most skilled opticians have areas where they can fine-tune. For our team, I wanted to see improvement with our adjustments and repairs as well as verbalizing frame quality to our patients. We were seeing a few returning patients complaining about their adjustment just days after the previous one. They were too tight, loose or uneven on their face. Our target was to slow down and give a perfect cus tom fit adjustment.

Adjustments: Adjusts frames to fit patients and instructs patients on wear and care of eyeglasses. Addresses and provides solutions to patient concerns.

Another area where we had room for improvement was with how we speak to our patients about our frames. I would hear phrases such as: "That looks so cute on you" or "That's such a pretty color on you." That wasn't differentiating us enough. We needed to polish up on some "frame-speak."

Verbalizing Frame Quality: How you communicate frames to patients. What is the frame made of, why is it unique, what's the story of the frame company, why should the patient purchase it?


img3This category is a bit abstract, but it is extremely important to me. How we act, portray our brand and treat one another can be more important than how good an adjustment is. If an optician is technically sound and superior at sales, yet is moody and produces a toxic vibe, it doesn't fly. We are human. We work with the same people every day. We have good days and bad days. However, we need expectations in place with how we treat one another.

Adversity: Displays appropriate attitude and actions when met with adversity. Gives the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a negative conclusion.

Cohesiveness: Are you committed to building a great team with your words and actions? Are you supporting, encouraging and allowing your team members to be successful?


If someone new started tomorrow, what expectations would you have for him or her? Would you want them to come in a few minutes late? Is it fine if they are zeroed in on Facebook while a patient roams the optical floor?

Urgency and Awareness: Are your blinders on? Do you have tunnel vision? Are you assertive and proactive in helping your team and our patients?

Walking with the Patient: Consistently accompanies the patient to their next destination in the office (back to the exam rooms/ to the front of the office) after fulfilling obligation of optical duties.

These are all concepts that were brought up not by me, but by the team. They have 100 percent ownership in our team goals and our focus. We come up with two to three concepts in each section (skills, behavior and expectations), and we are obsessed with them for six weeks. Each optician fills out a self-review form that defines each goal and expectation. They circle where they think they are on a 1 to 5 scale (see below) and write a few sentences stating why they feel that way. I fill out a form for each of them to see if we are on the same page. We meet one-on-one to discuss where they are and what they hope to accomplish in the next several weeks.

What makes this so unique is that they are all focused on the same thing at the same time. Immediately, I observed our team taking more time on adjustments, walking every patient to their next destination and researching www.opticianshandbook.com to get great information on frame-speak. They were also much more aware of creating a positive and supportive work environment. I started seeing lots of smiling faces, and there was a good vibe in the air.


img4This type of review is meant to be ongoing. It is a piece of the puzzle in the big picture of giving reviews and holding team members accountable. Doing the TSBE helps to create unity, and it battles a lukewarm/ content/average environment. It keeps the team on their toes and on the same page, and they are coming up with the goals, so they seem to care more.

In the grand scheme of authentic feedback, it is important to keep many things in mind. Monitor time cards, absences and observations of how employees treat patients, etc. You can never document too much. Also, track numbers on capture rate, multiple pairs, sun sales, etc. You can have an optical shop filled with happy campers, but that is only part of running a successful optical shop. Finally, do one formal review each year. This is the time to review their ongoing TSBE records, their 3-2-1 meetings and other documented artifacts. This formal review should comply with the language in your policy manual for legal reasons.


Raises aren't necessary or don't have to be, at review time. There are so many things that happen throughout the year. Don't get suckered into "Tim the Teacher" (trendy clothes, guitar music and a smooth talker) as you may be seeing an employee presenting what they want you to see. However, if you are continuously collecting artifacts and giving constant feedback, the formal annual review is not an event to feel sick over. There are no surprises. No one is caught off guard. Give that pay raise on a random day when you have consistently observed how well they have been responding to those TSBEs, and how often you witness that chipper smile. Add that to their growth with multiple pair sales and their willingness to help their team and grow the business. Then everyone is a winner... and without that stomachache.