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.

Suppressing Your Natural Talents?

Are you suppressing your natural talents, without realizing it? It’s more common than you might think, even among highly successful and productive executives. Suppressing our natural talents and behaviors comes at a direct and personal cost, typically in the form of reduced vitality, lost productivity and lower job satisfaction. I recently began working with a company that is one of the top performers in their industry, owned by a gentleman I’ll call Alan. We are implementing the PDP ProScan solution for Alan’s company (see my ProScan here), creating a Job Model for his Service Technicians, and reviewing the profile of a candidate for Service Manager, a role that Alan has filled personally. To understand the behaviors necessary to succeed as a Service Manager, we decided to profile Alan, using a ProScan. When we reviewed Alan’s ProScan report we uncovered some great behavioral insights for both the Service Technician and the Service Manager roles. As a bonus, we also discovered that Alan has been suppressing one of his natural behaviors for years, unbeknown to himself. Let’s take a look at Alan’s traits, and discover how his ProScan report unconcealed the suppression that was taking place for so long.

Alan has high Dominance, higher Extroversion, low Patience and low Conformity as his natural behaviors. The trait we’ll focus on for this discussion is his high Dominance, making him naturally competitive, confident, and in charge. In addition to capturing our natural behavioral traits, the ProScan also captures both how we adjust our behaviors to the stresses we encounter in life, and how we come across to others. Those two sections of Alan’s report indicated that he was pushing his Dominance down, becoming more supportive, collaborative and modest. Initially Alan thought this adjustment was non-work related. However, with some digging, it became apparent that he had been making this adjustment at work for so long,  it didn’t even occur to him as an adjustment!

How does this happen? In Alan’s case, he managed a large staff of service technicians. To support, coach, and mentor them effectively, Alan learned to adjust his dominance down to become more supportive. Over the years, he became quite adept at suppressing his dominance, to the point that he comes across to others as being very supportive.

We all have natural talents and behaviors that allow us to win in life. It makes sense then, that we are happiest and most productive when we are in position to use those talents freely. Circumstances and stresses in life cause us to adjust our natural behaviors. Over time, if those same stresses persist, we can lose sight of who we truly are, and unconsciously play a role that is not natural for us. Doing so costs us our vitality, productivity and satisfaction. Using the ProScan tool, we can discover our natural talents, learn where we are suppressing those talents, and create an action plan to get back on track. In Alan’s case, he is hiring a Service Manager with traits that are a fit for the position, allowing him to delegate an aspect of his business that is causing him significant stress, and freeing him to focus on areas that provide greater satisfaction (and profit). That is how you Capitalize On Your Strengths!

The Vicious Circle of Turnover

“Square pegs don’t fit into round holes, but managers keep pounding away at their people, until something breaks. Then they hire someone new, and start all over again.”

Does this sound familiar to you? Most of us have been that square peg at some point in our careers. Some of us have also been the manager in this scenario. However you relate to it, it is a scenario that plays out all too often in businesses both large and small. Someone is hired who isn’t a fit for the position. All the manager can see is what’s wrong with this employee, and proceeds to try to fix and change them. Eventually, the employee leaves, either voluntarily or involuntarily, because they weren’t a fit for the position to begin with. Over time, this takes a toll on the organization. As the poor hiring continues, the manager already knows that the chances of the new hire sticking around and being successful are nil, so why bother investing your blood sweat and tears in developing someone who won’t make it anyway?

This is the Vicious Circle of Turnover. It is more extreme in some industries and businesses than in others, but the signs are obvious: high turnover and resignation about solving the problem. Why would a business resign itself to operate in this manner? There are three reasons I’ll explore here. The first two are related. Number one is that the business doesn’t understand the true cost of their turnover. The second, which follows naturally from the first, is that they simply don’t value their people. For these businesses, people are disposable, a dime a dozen, so to speak. If it only costs $400 to replace that salesperson, why not just hire them en masse, provide a couple days of training, and see who sticks to the wall? Hard to believe? I’ve actually worked for a company who operates in this exact manner. The salespeople who have been around resent the new people, and treat them as though they won’t last. The new salespeople don’t like the working environment, and move on if they aren’t finding sufficient fulfillment in other aspects of the job. The management makes it clear that if you don’t like it, you’re free to move on.

So what is the true cost of turnover? Others have covered that ground in depth. If you want a full and detailed picture of the actual costs, just do a search of “employee turnover costs” on Google, and you will be stunned by the information and statistics available. I usually quote that a bad hire in a $10/hour position will cost a business around $5000.  Suffice it to say, it is far more costly than most businesses estimate, in both dollars and morale.

This leads to the third reason why businesses continue to operate in this manner. They don’t know how to break the cycle. Many businesses with enlightened leadership who truly value their people as human capital still suffer from the Vicious Circle of Turnover. It’s likely a nicer version than the one I described above, but it is no less costly. It only takes one or two bad hires to get the cycle going, and once you’re in it, it isn’t easy to see the way out, because we already know how employees are.

There is a way out, though. Change the context of how you perceive your employees. Invest in your human capital, starting with the hiring process. Read the Dale Dauten book I referenced in my earlier post, “Great Employees Only: How Gifted Bosses Hire and De-Hire Their Way to Success”. Start hiring for behavior, rather than skills. Skills are teachable and trainable, most adults’ behavior is fixed. You can hardly impact your own behaviors (the things you try to fix and change about yourself), much less the behavior of others.  Find a behavioral assessment tool you like, learn it and use it, or delegate that task to someone in your organization who would be better suited to implementing it. Those square pegs won’t fit into the round holes no matter how much you pound, so why not hire some round pegs, and free your business from the Vicious Circle of Turnover.