Performance Review – No, There is NOT an App for That!
Pressure that has built over the last couple of decades to eliminate or make significant process changes to performance appraisals is peaking, for several reasons:
- Many (most?) managers dislike taking the time to do them, and the inevitable confrontations that can arise from critical remarks, and in particular, comparative numerical evaluations. Moreover, very few have had a good example set for them, and don’t feel well supported by either HR or their line management when someone decides to push back. (It almost always seems easier to resolve the matter by conceding a slightly better score, thus putting the manager in a face-losing situation.)
- Speaking as one who occupied an HR role role for longer than I care to admit, many HR professionals have grown weary of the whining and attendant compliance burden associated with keeping the review process afloat.
- On the surface, the emerging dominant generational cohort seems to value real-time applause more than oft-delayed feedback, particularly when it it’s critical.
Admittedly, doing performance appraisals well does take time, and lots of it. So does fixing unattended performance problems. And yet, one of the key factors that causes the aforementioned millennials to adhere to an organization (or a particular leader) is the prospect of solid career development, which, by the way, usually occurs only after an honest assessment of developmental needs and wants. It’s not unlike the sign in every dentist office that that reads something like this: “Do I have to floss my teeth and gums? No, just the ones you want to keep.”
Doing reviews annually, or even twice a year never made much sense. If you think about just how much potentially ratable performance activity occurs over a period that long, the task (never mind the outcome) quickly gets overwhelming. Yet, in an age when analytics are being applied to help manage nearly every process, it seems a little weird that some organizations are totally removing both rating and ranking from their performance management playbooks.
To be sure, some serious process redesign is in order, but in our zeal to bring about that change, let’s be very thoughtful, and careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. At a minimum, your decision as a leader about how to have meaningful performance conversations needs to be firmly rooted in well-considered beliefs about just what kind of manager you want to be. Seriously, do you want to be an average manager, who plays it safe, and doesn’t take a stand until you have plenty of company, or do you want to be a leader of choice, someone for whom people line up to be on their team? Only if you choose the later path should you finish reading the rest of this post.
Most of the organizations that we’ve seen taking the leap and pulling the ripcord have affirmed that they are migrating to a point where…
- The process is more spontaneous, much more frequent, and mutually induced – Yay!!
- The process is less formal, dispensing with some of the rigid ratings, rankings, and administrative burden – Yay!!!.
- More positive feedback and attendant coaching are added the mix. Instead of telling a teammate, “Here’s how you were rated… deal with it”, they are saying, “Let’s see if we can work together and help you in this area.”– Good, but let’s talk about this one.
Most people have never had an honest, well-done, developmentally-oriented performance discussion, a session that is at once honest, caring, relevant, timely, and helpful. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that most managers have never been shown (let alone trained) how to do that. So we stumble through it.
Spend thirty minutes watching game video of a really good professional sports coach interacting with players during a game or practice. Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs (NBA) is a good example. He’s a winner, and players love playing on Popovich-coached teams (even when they could make more money elsewhere). Moreover, he’s a winner. In nineteen years as an NBA head coach, Popovich-coached teams have won 68% of their games and no fewer than five (count ‘em) NBA titles.
Despite being loved by his players, Popovich is anything but a kinder, gentler guy. In an interview for the New England Sports Network (NESN) he said, “Our method is usually tough love. I don’t think coddling someone and blowing smoke at them really works, and beating them to death mentally doesn’t work. So to give them a clear picture of what’s demanded and needed is the first important thing, and then showing the care and concern after that. Being there for them on the court, caring for them off the court, understanding who they are on the planet, what makes them tick, you do all that.”
That kind of adult treatment, creates a platform from which Popovich can effectively coach on the fly. Regardless of a player’s star status, Coach Popovich is quick to sit a player (or an entire starting unit) down to give them time to think, refocus, and get a little coaching. And, he’s equally quick to give a pat on the back.
One thing that we’ve seen consistently from great coaches and leaders is that they care enough about the mission and their teammates to avoid withholding the truth, or worse, blowing smoke up someone’s nose. If you don’t care enough about your people to do it, you will suffer diminished performance and risk losing them.
- With the understanding that timely, honest feedback and coaching are not optional, find out what every teammate’s feedback and coaching preferences / needs are. Try to honor them.
- As best you can, keep feedback and coaching activities fairly brief, to the point, and positively oriented. As a rule, make it conversational, and don’t do more than 50% of the talking. Focus on stuff that matters.
- Be quick to “de-select” those who aren’t going to make it, don’t fit, or don’t want to be treated as an adult. And, as soon as you do that, do some self-assessment as to how they got hired in the first place.
On Wednesday, Sep 30 2015 4:00pm EDT you can attend the webcast, Building a Cycle of Engagement and Development with Re-Calibrated Performance Management, to learn more about how to retool performance management at your organization.
Bill Catlette is an executive coach who help leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance & Profit, eliminate blind spots, improve leadership habits, and build competitive edge. He is co-author of the critically acclaimed Contented Cows leadership book series.