Effectively managing performance today is a bear. It’s tough. And can feel thankless… sometimes even pointless.
It’s also one of the most important things we do as senior managers – setting, and managing to, performance expectations.
Why, then, do we anguish about it so?
The problem, of course, is we frequently confuse performance reviews with performance management. We make the appraisal process so onerous that no one wants to do anything but the appraisals… forgetting, of course, why we do those troublesome things in the first place.
It’s because we don’t take ownership of the process. It’s not the form we use, the rating scale identified, nor the percentage of pay increase associated with various rankings. It’s that we just don’t see the process as significant in our pursuit for business success.
It is, however, as necessary as breathing for an organization’s success, so let’s stop complicating it unnecessarily. It’s actually pretty damned simple.
In that vein, I’m not going to offer some academic treatise BS here; I’m just going to share what I believe are the components of applying successful performance management. Here goes:
There are three key components to this stuff: Communication—Feedback–Assessment.
Communications are the foundation. Negotiating, then setting, clear expectations is where it all starts. Frequent follow-up conversations are essential, as is some method of tracking so all can keep an eye on progress. Your regularly scheduled 1:1 conversations are a big part here.
You are having regularly scheduled (weekly preferable, no less than monthly) 1:1 discussions, aren’t you?
Feedback is essential for calibration. This includes briefs and debriefs of events, like key meetings, project completions, necessary interactions, obvious conflicts, etc. This event feedback is some of the most valuable fodder for learning – don’t miss out.
I had a board chair once tell me his role was to simply “tap the rudders” behind the ship. This is what feedback does. It allows for target assessment, recognition of successes and opportunities, and allows us to use “tracer rounds” to focus our efforts.
Assessment occurs as an amalgam of expectations, tracking and feedback, Here we determine “good,” or “needs improvement;” “on target,” or “3 inches to the left;” “success” or “do-over.” It must be clear that assessments use clear expectations as the yardstick, and that well-intentioned failures are a path to success, not a clear shot to termination.
But Kevin, what about our corporate Performance Review form? Where does that fit in? Well, frankly, it doesn’t. At least it doesn’t need to. All that form should be used for is to memorialize the ongoing communication—feedback—assessment that occurred throughout the year (quarter, month, whatever).
Nothing new. No surprises.
Realize that the goal here is not a form… it’s managing/improving performance. Oh, yeah… we sometimes get so lost in the process, that we forget the real purpose. To manage and improve performance.
Let’s not lose sight of that objective.
And as presented in a recent AMA on “Should Performance Reviews be used for Layoffs?” – No, that performance review should not be the sole determinant for a layoff, nor should they be “shifted” in focus or substance at the end of a review period.
Performance management is essential for growth, improvement, and success. Performance reviews are a repository; a memorialization of ongoing performance management. Know the difference.
Performance matters. We all know this intuitively, yet we wrestle with the best way to manage that performance in our workplace. Own the process, decide that it’s about success, not perfection, and schedule the conversations.