Too many bosses are so fearful of conflict or hurting people’s bad behaviour and poor performance even when it’s detrimental to the organization.
On the list of things that are done for all the wrong reasons in organizations, performance reviews would have to near the top.
They end up being “Check the boxes” exercises that have little influence on performance because they take place after the fact the typical performance review is the equivalent of landing an airplane and asking, “Now, where are we?” It’s a little in the game for that question.
One of the worst things about reviews is the use of numerical values to rate performance. You have probably met more than one manager who refuses to give the highest rating to anyone using the excuse, “I don’t believe in giving perfect scores.” Recently an employee of a major corporation related the bizarre example of this attitude he experienced in his most recent performance review. After the end of the evaluation, his manager said. “Nobody scores that high!” and then proceeded to lower the employee’s scores.
If the scale is 1 to 5 and no one ever gets a 5. then that means you ‘re a lousy manager. Why can’t the people who report to you ever hit the mark? What’s sad is that the boss who is afraid to acknowledge that someone has met or exceeded expectations never understands why people quit trying to meet or meet expectations, If you never give 5 (or even a 4) when it’s deserved, you create a culture where 3 becomes your standard of excellence. Mediocrity is not only acceptable, it’s as good as it gets.
On the flip side is the failure to let someone know that they’re just not getting the job done. Too many bosses are so fearful of conflict or hurting people’s feelings that they ignore bad behaviour and poor performance even when it’s detrimental to the organization. Once people understand that no one will ever call their hand when they fail to meet expectations, the tail starts wagging the dog. Guess what happens when a supervisor gives a 3 or a 4 when the employee deserves to be shown the door? Pretty soon you end up with a group of employees that makes the three stooges look competent.
The annual review is not going to go away, but the real performance review should be taking place in real time every day. Good or bad performance needs to be recognized immediately and consistently. The manager’s role should be like that of a fight instructor. The employee’s role is like that of a student. The instructor and student fly side-by-side.
CLEARLY DEFINE EXPECTATIONS
First there has to be a flight plan with clearly defined expectations. To establish the plan, as manager you should ask your employees to complete a list of expectations of their job from their perspective. This should include what they believe their responsibilities are and what authority they possess. You should do the same from your perspective, Then, set up a discussion to reconcile the two lists until both are in agreement. You also need to learn what the employees believe they need from you to successfully do their job.
MEASURE BEHAVIOUR, VALUES, AND SKILLS
As well as establishing these expectations, you should complete assessments to measure behaviour, values, and skills required for the job. Then your employees should complete corresponding assessments to see how they compare. This establishes a benchmark that helps you understand their strengths and helps you understand how to capitalize on these strengths. It also identifies areas that need strengthening. It’s important to remember that the employees have to be a good behavioural fit for the job. No amount of coaching can remake people into something they are not.
COMMUNINCATE CONSTANTLY AND CONSISTANTLY
Now, that there is a fight plan in place. It is your responsibility to provide a system and process for constant and consistent communication. You have to coach the employees, not just evaluate their performance to keep the plane on course. In my first job out of college, my sales manager called me every Monday morning. His questions included: “What’s going on?” How are doing? What can I help you with?” This provided him with what he needed to know to help me do my job. It provided me with the help I needed do my job.
PROVIDE SPECIFIC FEEDBACK
When employees meet or exceed expectations. tell them they are on course. Be specific. There is nothing in the world that will inspire them more to keep doing a great job than to hear from the boss that you are doing a great job. The only exception is when those words are either insincere or untrue.
When employees fail to meet expectations, you need to tell them that they are off course again, be specific. If they don’t hear what you need to improve on, the only assumption to make that they are doing what you should be doing — or you don’t care what they do. I know of a case where employees describe their manager as a wonderful person but do not think he is a good manager. They like him but dislike working for him because he gives them no direction. They feel like they are flying blind. This creates a high level of anxiety for the employees and the manager.
CHOOSE YOUR DIRECTION
Employees need and want direction. How and when it is done is what makes the difference — for the employee, for the boss, and for the organization. Like flying a plane, reviewing performance should be a matter of constant course adjustments. If you wait until the end of the flight to make adjustments to the course, you will always be disappointed with where you land. Worse yet, someone else will probably be sifting through the wreckage to figure out why the plane crashed.