The Performance Management Revolution
June 14, 2019 by Nic Stephen
Someone a few years ago finally pointed and said, “Hey, this really doesn’t work.” and now, no one can un-see the flaws in their organization’s approach to performance management. But while we know what doesn’t work, we’re all still trying to figure out what does. We know organizations are experimenting, testing and iterating
- How much do you get out of a standard appraisal?
- What is the purpose of performance management?
- Does it grow and develop your people?
- How do you give effective feedback and measure progress?
- What is the most effective way to manage the performance of the workplace in 2017?
We like to think we have the solution, in fact… we’ve tested it again and again, and know it works!
Here’s why the traditional approach doesn’t work
The traditional performance appraisal instils feelings of being dominated and controlled. Formal reviews send employees the message that the boss’s opinion of their performance is all that matters – and will, therefore, determine what tasks are assigned, promotions offered, favours and pay.
And while that opinion pretends to be objective, it is rarely so. The over-riding message is that the boss’s assessment is in truth about whether they ‘like’ you, and feel ‘comfortable’ with your approach.
This often has little to do with how your team members are performing!
At SRA we believe performance management needs to have at its core, a focus squarely on an individual’s development.
- A regular system that keeps your leaders in touch with the needs of the individual and their team.
- A system that proactively encourages staff to focus continually on improvement.
- A system that keeps the leader’s finger on the pulse of how performance is tracking on a regular basis.
Traditional performance reviews wait for a point in time, often every year or 6 months, to discuss a problem or performance-enhancement opportunity. The key problem here is that the time has passed, and the opportunity to take advantage of an improvement is long gone!
We believe that discussing performance should be something everyone has available to them at all times, influenced by circumstance, opportunity, need, and (most importantly) the relationship between two people with a common purpose.
Most work undertaken in organizations is underpinned by each person’s individual context and perspective. The perspective we have of every situation we experience has a direct correlation with the contextual factors (age, gender, experience, pressures, health, etc.) that influences our ability to be objective.
We all have a vested interest when at work in the appearance of objectivity. The combination of perspective and opinion during a traditional performance review leads to what is often a difficult conversation in which limited objectivity is possible because each party is having to justify their perspective.
“Most of us think of ourselves as objective,
it’s the other guys that aren’t!”
Studies have concluded time and time again, that what an individual sees, reports about, interprets and pushes for cannot be separated from that person’s background, interests, skills, and motivations at that moment.
In an organization, personal and subjective factors influence and determine our view of what’s objective. They influence how each event and problem gets portrayed, and they influence and determine the actions we push for.
The implication is simple.
If you want to influence peoples’ performance at work… you need to have an adult conversation with them at the time it’s needed!
That’s why we’re so passionate about implementing systems that move away from subjective, vested interests that are shared poorly once or twice a year in an artificial, awkward appraisal meeting.
We have developed a number of programs, one of which is called “The Circle of Performance”. This approach involves 6 conversations, each building on the one before, progressing in a full cycle over 3-6 months, after which they simply begin again (after all a lot happens in 3-6 months).
Let me give you a quick glimpse of the approach…
Each conversation involves 3 phases for both manager and team member to prepare & reflect;
- Pre-conversation (enquire & plan)
- The conversation
- Post-conversation (reflect & act)
- Enquire & Plan
This first phase consists of a set of themes to consider and reflect on prior to the performance development conversation. These are directly related to the meeting topic and ensure both parties are prepared.
- During the Conversation
This second phase is the ‘main event’. We provide a series of questions to consider in drawing out insights, ideas and the flow of the conversation.
We believe the most effective conversations are open-ended, through which information flows proactively instead of reactively. This style of conversation can cause hesitation at first, but individuals can be coached through this process with gentle prompts to elaborate on short answers, for example ‘go on’ or ‘tell me more’.
- Reflect & Act
The reflection part of this approach directly reinforces the conversation itself and is an essential part of leading people through the process. We provide points for consideration and encourage:
- Following up the meeting with an email summarising the conversation and any action steps. Getting back to them with any opportunities you can implement to begin their development.
- Including points to consider and where to for here/what to consider for the next review.
- Ensuring you include timeframes for action and the next steps.
- Sending the employee an invite with plenty of notice for their next conversation. Include in the invite the conversation card, which provide things to consider.
We believe performance issues should not be raised for the first time during the development process. People are sensitive, and it can personalise the issue, which in a worst-case scenario can lead to claims of bullying, harassment and discrimination. In terms of effectiveness, it not only distracts from the focus of the conversations but also works against the strengths-based forward-focus of the circle.