About this time each year, employees in many organizations receive an annual review of their performance. It’s something that most people hate. Managers hate it because they have to take time to actually think about their employees and what they’re doing wrong. Employees hate it because every year they’re informed of their flaws. And who wants to hear that? Most of us get enough of that at home. But many employees love it, as the review is often connected to a pay increase. So it’s a love-hate relationship, isn’t it?
I recently read an article in The Wall Street Journal Sunday that slammed the entire system of performance reviews, calling it “a pretentious, bogus practice that produces absolutely nothing that any thinking executive should call a corporate plus.” Wow. That’s pretty strong. The author’s (UCLA Professor Sam Culbert) recommended solution is to create an environment in which managers focus on the results, rather than personalities, of their employees, and they try to make all employees successful. How? By asking, “What do you need from me to deliver what we are both on the firing line to produce?” Make it a joint responsibility. Which is exactly what it should be.
A few months ago, I participated in a conference call with Marshall Goldsmith, a recognized expert in leadership development. While I left the call with several take-aways (I’ve always been a “take-home kind of guy”), the one that relates closely to this topic is what Goldsmith calls Feedforward. Think about it. Performance reviews are focused on what already happened; that’s why it’s called feedback. Feedforward, as the name implies, is focused on the future, where it should be. Here’s how it works: first, identify a couple of skills you want to improve, such as “I want to be a better listener” (I hope my wife doesn’t see this one) or “I want to be a great presenter.” Then ask other people – preferably 4-5 people with whom you don’t work on a regular basis – for 1-2 ideas to help you with improving those skills. At the end of the exercise, you’ll have 5-10 impartial ideas you can use, and all of them focused on the future. That sounds a lot better, doesn’t it? Then try it!
The article also included a self-test called “What Do You Think?” to check your attitude toward performance reviews. While it’s very humorous, it’s also very insightful. I’ll include that test in another post…
Feel free to leave a comment, and please come back often – I write and post every day! And if you like what I have to say and how I say it, you’ll probably enjoy my novels as well. They’re listed below, and you can read more about them on my website, http://www.randolphmase.com. In the near future, I’ll have excerpts of my books that you can read, accessible on my site. I hope you check it out!
Randolph Mase, Fiction Writer
Death on Broadway
Death Beneath the Streets
Death in Central Park
Death in The Cloisters (under construction)