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« So you want to be an excellent manager? | Main | Treat colleagues like customers »

Working with others

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Appraise what’s going right, not wrong

Performance appraisal does not have a great record. Studies show it can curb performance rather than enhance it. Control groups free of such practices regularly outperform those subjected to it. There can be fear around it for the employee. The person charged with carrying it out is often untrained and finds it little more than a time-consuming irritation.

So, should you do it? 

If you feel any of the above, and have no training it, the answer is probably no. Handled badly, it can work against relationships rather than enhance them. There is an unfortunate tendency to focus only on history and what is going wrong.

The opposite view is this

Take a positive approach to the issue. Drop the word appraisal and take a mirror image of classic techniques. Reverse the ingrained emotions you have around the process and focus on personal development rather than performance appraisal. Look at how to go forward.

Performance management expert, Robert Bacal, puts it this way. Appraisal programs fail because:

“...they’re focusing on the wrong things. They focus on appraisal rather than planning. They focus on a one-way flow of words rather than dialogue. They focus on required forms rather than communication. They focus on blaming rather than solving problems. They focus on the past rather than the present or the future.”

An appraisal meeting too often starts by focusing on a problem. No one in the process is going to feel particularly comfortable with this. The employee may be fearful or angry about it; the manager may feel discomfort in addressing it.

Start instead with something that is going right. No matter how small the example is, ask how they can build on that success in other areas. Search for an individual strength and start there. Everyone has one somewhere.

If there is a specific issue you want to address, focus on the solution. Ask not what the problem is, but what outcome would resolve it.

A solutions-focus generates positive thinking. A problem-focus breeds blame and negativity. Neither party could be expected to enjoy this experience, let alone produce a good outcome.

To work positively with your employees, listen to them.

The best way to start listening is to ask questions. Don't stick to some pre-determined formula based on filling out a form. Start a dialogue. How can they take what is working and apply it to what is not?

Ask for their solution, not yours.

There are simple step-by-step prompts for this approach. Go to the Recharge Workshop and download the module "Maintaining Employee Performance".


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