Performance Appraisals: More Harm than Help

Man&WomanMeeting1I started my career in HR. I was educated in, and then spent years staunchly supporting, a core foundation of effective HRM practice; Performance Management.

Every year or so, we HR Practitioners rolled out the Performance Plan to the leadership team, and then relentlessly chased them down to get their performance appraisals done on time. Then, after hearing months of griping from leaders and employees alike, we’d re-develop, re-design and then re-launch the ‘new and improved’ form, the more stream-lined process and we were sure we’d be met with enthusiastic cheers from all involved.

Inevitably, the process of chasing leaders and dodging complaints continued. No form, no annual process, no amount of encouraging, berating or rewarding leaders worked; performance time was the bane of our existence. We detested it as much as everyone else did (and does)!

Then, along came the Neuroleadership Institute, and everything started to shift. Their research supports what many of us know is indeed the right thing to do: Kill Your Performance Ratings. Not only are most organization’s performance management systems cumbersome and incredibly time-consuming, they are often counter-productive. And, that’s not even the worst of it. They do more harm than good. “In the context of neuroscience research, most PM practices turn out to damage the performance they are intended to improve. That’s because they are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of human responses, as revealed in recurring patterns of mental activity.”

Performance discussions, as they are traditionally formulated and administered, automatically put people in a threat state (also known as ‘fight or flight‘ response). Think about it, if someone says they’ll be evaluating you, aren’t you automatically feeling a little on the defensive? In fact, that notion alone – being evaluated or appraised – will likely be enough to distract you away from the performance itself and toward the instinct to protect yourself. When you are in a threat state, your goal is survival…not learning, not growing, not appreciating…just surviving.  An entire organization focused on surviving is not one that breeds the collaborative cultures required for today’s workplaces. Instead a ‘kill or be killed’ mentality permeates the organization. People move away from each other, rather than toward teaming and co-creation.

All sorts of media, including CNN, are picking up on the idea of dismantling performance management as we know it. Not only is it completely demotivating for people, it is also a “colossal time-suck’ for managers.” So an increasing number of companies — including Accenture, GE, Microsoft, CIGNA, The Gap and Deloitte — have decided to overthrow the annual review in favor of monthly, bi-weekly or even “on demand” conversations between managers and employees.”

Human beings benefit far more from real-time, ongoing dialogue between managers and staff. Goals stay front of mind, appreciation is provided often, and possible ‘issues’ are addressed and re-directed promptly. Everybody wins.

Since people do better when dialogue is open, continuous and positive, why would we not have the key communication system about performance be that way as well?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life at work, at home and at any age!

Women in Leadership: It’s a Matter of Life and Death

BusinessWoman_outside2Close your eyes. Bring into your awareness the face of a person in your life who you believe is a great leader. As you see that person’s face in your mind’s eye, think about what it is about that person that had an impact on you. Remind yourself of those things; say them quietly to yourself.

Open your eyes.

My guess is that no matter who you saw in your mind, their impact on your had nothing to do with what the person has on the outside (financially, educationally, or anatomically) and had everything to do with what the person is like on the inside. It was likely someone whose passion, purpose and positivity were contagious, and you wanted to be a part of whatever that person was creating.

Leadership is everything. It is critical to any well-functioning organization, university, community and family. When it is done well, it’s the reason people are attracted to join, and to stay. When it’s off course, it’s one of the key reasons that people leave (or otherwise disengage).

I happen to believe that effective leadership is also a matter of life and death.

There is an interesting phenomenon in typical organizations. As you move up the ‘ladder’ from entry level positions to more senior leadership roles, the importance of technical skills goes down, while the importance of self- and social-awareness goes up. The importance of self- and social- awareness at higher organizational levels is not new; what might be new is the realization that the way we are working is actually making our capacity for self- and social- awareness go down! Constant multi-tasking, crushing workloads, and long ‘break-less’ work days are taking a toll on our ability to regulate our emotions and build meaningful relationships.

What’s also interesting is that women?almost?completely vanish from the picture at higher organizational levels!

While women make up 50% of the workforce, and earn 50% of university degrees, they comprise only 18 % of executive roles and hold a mere 5 % of CEO seats. ? Yet, there is so much evidence that women make effective leaders. Last year,?Zeneger Folkman, a company that studies leadership, found that women rated higher than men on 12 out of 16 attributes tested. After analysing 7,280 of their clients’ performance evaluations, they found two traits where women outscored men significantly: taking initiative and driving results.

And, there is some evidence that organizations with more women in leadership positions perform better financially.

Every organization, no matter what their purpose for existing, needs to be productive and sustainable. And, productive, sustainable organizations need people who are engaged and energized around their purpose.

Sadly, both productivity and engagement are at an all time low in our country, while stress and mental illness are at an all time high. People are working longer hours, and feeling less satisfied with their results. If extreme stress is not causing premature death (and it clearly is in some cases) it is certainly contributing to mental and physical dis-ease.

I think there is a connection between all of these factors. We need to change the way we work and live. And, we need more chicks in charge!

More women need to step up, lean in, and otherwise support and encourage each other to assume more leadership roles. Not only because we are 50% of the workforce, but because it only makes sense that we will create a happier, healthier, and more productive country when we – all of us – men and women – together – utilize our collective intelligence and maximize our opposing strengths.

Some of the reasons that women do not step into leadership includes a concern about being able to maintain work-life balance while holding senior roles. It is exactly that concern for balance that organizations need today.

Perhaps I should have started with this disclaimer: This post is not anti-men. Nor is it pro-women. It is, instead pro encouraging the right women and men to lean, step and jump into leadership opportunities – and to create positive, productive and prosperous workplaces.

March 8 is International Women’s Day. The 2015 theme is ‘Make it Happen’. So, I invite you to make it happen! Let’s change the way we work and live and make this a happier, healthier, more humane world for us all!

And…the next time you close your eyes and think of a great leader, I hope you see yourself.



T.H.I.N.K. Before You Speak

Recently, a colleague – who ?I believe (or, at least, hope) had good intentions – said something to me that was meant to be some feedback to me. ?She did it in front of another person – someone that I barely know. It threw me off, I must say.

You’ve likely guessed that the feedback this person shared with me was not positive feedback. It was, instead, a bluntly delivered message about something that she thought I had said to which she took offense.

It reminded me that many people do not realize that there are some cardinal rules of giving and receiving feedback. ?I have blogged about feedback in the past, and this experience reminded me that it might be a good idea to revisit the topic.

Firstly, the most basic foundation of effective feedback – especially if it is less than flattering for the person receiving it, should be done only in private. ?I felt very uncomfortable hearing something that this person thought about me, in front of another person who had no context for hearing that message (and no relationship with me in which to evaluate the message). ?(In fact, I did not have a significant relationship with the person delivering the message either – which is a good segue to the next point.)

Secondly, feedback should only be shared if the giver asks permission of the receiver. ?That did not happen in my recent situation. ?Asking permission respects the receiver. ?Perhaps it is not a good time. Perhaps the receiver is feeling vulnerable for unrelated reasons, and the last thing he or she needs to hear is something negative.

Thirdly, before you even decide to deliver feedback to another human being, make sure you are clear on your purpose for delivering it. ?Your purpose might be that you care about the person and want to share something with them of which they might not be aware. ?Your purpose might also be that you have noticed that your relationship is being adversely affected, and you want to clear that out of the way. ?Another purpose might be that you are a leader who needs to share some feedback with a staff member to enable their effective development in the organization.

Many years ago, I developed an acronym for a client who asked me to provide a keynote for their leadership team on Effective Feedback. ?The Acronym I developed is P.O.I.S.E. ?I love it because it also reminds us to be ‘poised’ for respect in all of our communications with others.

It goes like this:

P: State your Purpose, ask Permission, and ensure you are in Private

O: Share your Observation of the other person’s behavior

I: Exchange Information. ?Share your interpretations, thoughts, and/or your feelings. ?Check in with the other person to confirm their intention.

S: Develop a Solution for moving forward in your relationship.

E: End on a positive note

It might go something like this:

  • P: “Hi Bob. ?I have something that I would like to share with you that is affecting my relationship with you. ?Is now a good time for you?” ?(Make sure you are in a private location, with a door that shuts.)
  • O: “Yesterday, in our staff meeting, you interrupted me twice during my presentation.”
  • I: “I thought it was because you do not value me as a professional, and I felt very disrespected.” ?”Can you help me understand what was going on from your perspective?”
  • S: “So, from now on, you will hold your questions until the end of my presentation. ?And for really large projects, I will run them by you before the staff meeting in case you would like to clarify key elements ahead of time.”
  • E: “Thanks, Bob. ?This will certainly help to ensure we maintain a positive work environment, and keep being productive as a team. ?I appreciate your time.”
Remember that there is a difference between an observation and an interpretation. ?It is very important that, when you deliver feedback, you separate them. ?The observation is the other person’s behavior. It is objective. ?The interpretation is the meaning that YOU add to the behavior. ?It is subjective. ?You are entitled to your interpretation, and you can own it; the key is not to assume that your interpretation IS the observation. ?In the example above, the observation is “you?interrupted me twice during my presentation“, and the interpretation is “you do not value/respect me“. ?The observation is concrete and observable, the interpretation is not – it is personal to the deliverer. ?Imagine how different it would sound if the deliverer above said “Bob, you are disrespectful.” ?That’s what it sounds like when someone is assuming that their interpretation of another person’s behavior is the objective part – “the truth”. ?And, that kind of feedback (and that kind of assumption of truth), generally causes great damage to the relationship.
P.O.I.S.E. is both simple, and effective. ?I was reminded of a similarly simple strategy, in Elisha Goldstein’s book The Now Effect. ?The acronym for this strategy is T.H.I.N.K. ?This is a great reminder to always T.H.I.N.K. Before You Speak, whether giving feedback or not. ?So, next time you need to deliver feedback, or to speak to another person about just about anything, ?ask yourself:
  • Is it True?
  • Is it Helpful?
  • Is it Inspiring?
  • Is it Necessary?
  • Is it Kind?

I think this strategy, combined with some tips from P.O.I.S.E. would also help you avoid the uncomfortable, and often very damaging effects of ineffective communication.

Even though the feedback I received from this person was not in private, not provided with permission, and with an unclear (unstated) purpose, I am still happy that I heard it. ?I believe that I can always learn something from feedback – it does not mean that it is ‘true’, just that it is true for the person delivering it in that moment. ?And, as a professional who wants to respect others and be respected back, I honor people who share their truth with me.

Now imagine, if you chose to regularly T.H.I.N.K. Before You Speak. ?Would you have more P.O.I.S.E.? Would your relationships be positively affected?

Deri Latimer, B Mgt, CSP, is an expert in positive possibilities for people! She is one of fewer than 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of Certified Speaking Professional. Deri combines a Business degree in Human Resources with experience from business sectors including health care, manufacturing, education, agriculture, government, mining, transportation, tourism, and professional services. Deri provides practical strategies for mental health ‘at work’; impacting individuals and organizations?to increase resilience to change, energize engagement with the organization, and propel meaningful performance results that last!??