Transforming Performance Reviews

Peter Bregman wrote another great article that I just came across, Stop Worrying about Your Weaknesses, which prompted me to think about performance reviews. So often, especially in small to mid-size businesses, performance reviews are treated as a necessary evil. Many businesses don’t invest in a formal review process. The owner/manager knows they need to be handled, but they resist them because they take both preparation time, and time out of their days. Employees often consider them a waste of time, or worse. As Peter points out in his excellent post, the conversations that take place in a performance review often focus on the employee’s perceived weaknesses. Peter states, “you won’t fix his weakness. You’ll just reinforce it.”

Performance reviews done poorly are costing companies their talent. The focus on weaknesses leads to  “The Vicious Circle of Turnover,” wherein a  manager focuses on fixing what they perceive is wrong with their people, until that is all they can see. Turnover is costly, and smart managers know the value of retaining their top talent.

A great manager recognizes the strengths of their people, and then puts them in position to win. A performance review serves the company better if it is less a report card, and more of a coaching session. The manager should focus on providing the necessary resources to the employee, and removing the obstacles so that the employee can win. Given that the employee is in the right position, it is often the manager that is the obstacle to success. An analogy I like to use centers on the Arizona Cardinals. In 2001, the Cardinals selected offensive lineman Leonard Davis, nicknamed “Bigg”, with the second overall pick in the NFL draft. Davis was moved around on the line during the course of his career with Arizona, settling in as the left tackle his last three years. When he became a free agent after his 6th season, he was picked up by Dallas and Coach Bill Parcells, noted for being a great judge of talent. Parcells moved Davis back to his “natural” position at right guard, where he promptly became a Pro Bowl selection.

How do you transform the performance review process, so that it is an enriching experience designed to, dare I say, capitalize on their strengths? I recommend that our clients use the ProScan at least annually with all of their employees, as part of the review process. When properly utilized, the ProScan report provides a structured conversation that reveals the employee’s strengths and natural talents, along with the obstacles that are in their way. The manager has a timely snapshot of the behavioral adjustments the employee is making in response to the stresses they are experiencing, enabling an action plan to address those circumstances. Finally, the Motivation Worksheet provides for a rich conversation about what is most important to that individual, now. A great manager will use that conversation to empower and support their people in fulfilling on their dreams.

The typical performance review today focuses far too much on what is wrong with the employee. Attempts at fixing and changing others rarely succeed. Most of us struggle when we try to change our own behavior, let alone that of someone else. Today’s great managers understand this, and know their success is dependent on putting their employees in position to win. If you are interested in transforming your performance review process from one you and your people resist, to one you can relish, the ProScan provides a great path to performance review enlightenment.

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