Welcome to the final installment of our Talent Optimization series, managing performance to avoid the pain of “Performance Management.” For those of you who love doing annual performance reviews, skip this blog and write your own – we want to know your secret! But for the rest who find the reviews, and the conventional conversations that inevitably become about compensation (even when they are not), daunting, read on.
Performance Management is a process. Companies use it measure each individual employees’ [annual] contributions and impact. It supplies data to judge, plan, and compensate.
Managing Performance as a leader means being in tune with your team members. It requires you to understand;
With this information it is your job to help them navigate the work. This applies to all your team members, from the most junior to the most experienced. Autonomy does not negate the need for authentic leadership. Because, regardless of their skill set or experience, your understanding of each individual is essential to helping them grow and be successful. This will not happen through infrequent fly-by meetings, emails, form feedback, and/or occasional conversations when things get challenging.
Managing Performance effectively means supplying continuous feedback and coaching. Here are some ways you can ensure you are able to do that:
Schedule weekly or bi-weekly meetings to stay caught up. Monthly is not enough. These do not need to be long or complicated, you can even cancel them now and again by mutual agreement. But get them on the calendar and, most importantly, don’t marginalize the person by being consistently late, distracted, or by rescheduling.
Supply thoughtful, non-judgmental feedback based on your observations. Again, be specific. This is an area where the Situation-Behavior-Impact model for feedback may be a great place to start.
Do not overthink this step – simply ask the team member how they think things are going with a specific project or task. If you know there is a challenge in an area, try to surface it with questions NOT statements. Listening is the coach’s gold – so sit back, listen to hear and not to respond, and you may be surprised what you learn. Then work with your team member to incorporate growth areas into their ongoing development plan.
As a leader, you must also get feedback from those around you. That feedback, if you can consider it, will be invaluable to your personal growth. This is true whether the feedback is correct, or simply misperception. Because perception is reality to that person.
So, whether you accept it as truth in full or part, you are expected to handle feedback with maturity. Because to create trust you must provide an environment of psychological safety. That includes NOT showing behavior that makes your colleagues regret their honesty.
By putting your team members in the forefront, you can create an authentic and mutually beneficial partnership. Because while it is your job as a leader to get the work done, doing so in any way other than thoughtfully managing performance is short-term strategy. It will not inspire innovation, but it will tarnish your brand no matter how you slice it.
As we said last week when we talked about Rewards and Recognition, formal incentive programs are a foundational part of most traditional Performance Management processes. Because we expect to be paid in line with the quality, and quantity, of work we do. That is implicit to the agreement we make with our employers when we accept a position. The reality is that while incentives should not only be around your Performance Management process, if they are properly aligned to desired behaviors, they are the primary part.
This is not a challenge if you are Managing Performance, because the discussion is not an event but a culmination and summary. But if you are not supplying consistent, truthful feedback and coaching, surprises will happen. So, separating the time of the pay increase from the time of the formal annual review is nonsense, a device. Who are we trying to fool?
But, in regularly scheduled conversations about performance, you should never tie your feedback to ANY future reward or reprimand. If you are addressing current behavior, in-the-moment feedback or incentives are fine. But veiled threats or dangling carrots will not improve future performance. Not in a meaningful or sustainable way. It will, however, do a fantastic job of reinforcing the focus on $$$ and erode any trust you have managed to build.
Managing Performance is not easy. But it IS a leader’s primary responsibility to the organization and those they lead. It requires deep knowledge of the company, the work, and each of the individuals on the team. Therefore, if you are not talking in-depth to each direct report at least twice a month, consider whether the reporting relationship is appropriate. Everyone might be best served by them reporting to someone closer to their day-to-day. Because you cannot effectively manage what you do not understand.
We hope our Talent Optimization series has provided you with some helpful information. If you would like one-on-one support, please get in touch. We would be happy to help you get in the best position possible to attract, hire, and keep top performers!
Lisa Crockett is a leader and professional development coach with more than 20 years of experience in Human Resources, Learning, and Performance. To learn more about her professional career visit her on LinkedIn.