Posted: 1/09/2015 3:51:14 PM by
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So the talk around at the moment is all about the end of the Performance Appraisal process … …
Well that was a long time coming! Because there’s nothing we love more than those heart felt words “it’s time for the annual performance appraisal!”
Yay, thank goodness, because this is that time when we get to sit down across the table and have those wonderfully awkward discussions about me, my ranking and whether or not you agree with it, and how I’m going, because there’s nothing more productive than picking up on that conversation we had umm 12 months ago! … said no one ever!
Let’s face it these things are generally not enjoyed by anyone, they take up valuable time, are awkward, and are often more about filling in some stupid form than actually having any worthwhile conversation about deliverables. Who on earth did this process ever serve, and what did it achieve?
We’ve been reading about all the great innovations that are going to be replacing this review; you know, regular catch-ups, a 10 minute review, and some great IT packages that are going to drown us in graphs and figures so that we can keep our fingers forever on the pulse that is our people’s performance. Is it really more information that we’re missing?
Aren’t we really missing something more meaningful? Is not the actual conversation where the value lies and where there is any possibility that outcomes can be delivered, agreements reached, and accountability owned?
There’s not anyone among us that enjoys being judged. Yet, the start of a performance conversation often sounds like ‘So how do you think you’ve gone over the last period?’ And of course, we have no idea what ammunition our manager’s have in that file sitting menacingly next to them, so we’ll say something safe like ‘umm, well, not too bad’. You see, we don’t like to be hurt or disappointed so we think, "I’ll play it safe just in case I’m in for a fall".
We all want to maintain our autonomy, we actually want to be given the opportunity to own our role and be in charge of how we deliver the accountabilities of that role. When the conversation is all around the person being assessed rather than the desired outcomes then there is always going to be push back … … even if what’s being said is the truth. We’re humans and our responses are not always logical. Effective leaders understand that, and change the conversation.
What if we were to begin a performance conversation like this; ‘Sue, what is it that I or the company could do to assist you to deliver your objectives?’ Now the conversation is shifted from Sue personally to her objectives which is actually what it’s about, and we can now have a less threatening conversation about the objectives. We are able to have a look at the objectives with Sue and ask things like ‘how do you believe you can best deliver this?’ This will allow Sue to own her role and if she was actually having some difficulty, you’re more likely to hear about it from her which then opens up a comfortable conversation about how we could close any gaps.
Another skill practiced by effective leaders is to ask a question and then allow time (even if it’s uncomfortable) for a response! Unfortunately we have a tendency to ask a question and as soon as there is that awkward moments silence, we then fill the silence ourselves, in effect answering our own question and letting people off having to own their accountabilities.
We believe that when people master the art of having effective performance conversations based on outcomes and not the individuals themselves, then poor performance can simply find no oxygen - and then exceptional performance can thrive.
We believe that people do, actually, want to make a valuable contribution, but are often prevented from doing so, and conversations handled incorrectly can destroy productive relationships.
Remember that people join organisations but leave managers; and we know why.