Category Archives: performance management

The dreaded review!

h-WOMAN-TALKING-OFFICE-628x314A leader at one of our schools remarked that when done right, performance reviews can be energizing and uplifting but when done wrong they are demoralizing. It appears that the latter is what is happening in most organizations. David Ulrich, the Rensis Likert Professor of Business at the University of Michigan and the “Godfather of HR” just published an article in the  latest issue of Talent Quarterly titled “Resolving the Performance Management Paradox.” He cites that 90% of HR professionals are unhappy with their review system, only 14% of CEOs believe that the review system is working and only 8% of HR executives believe that performance management makes a contribution to the success of the organization. Yet, he also cites a long history of studies that clearly indicate that accountability makes a difference. In fact one study identified that just the presence of a performance review system is the greatest predictor of success for hospitals. What can a leader do?

Ulrich recommends that regardless of the process or forms used, leaders embrace conversations:  conversations focused on what he calls “positive accountability,” conversations emphasizing learning and improvement opportunities rather than evaluating what went wrong, and conversations primarily focused on the future rather than the past. He suggests that leaders look for opportunities to engage in “real time” conversations that are ongoing and revolve around work events (projects, semester start or finish, work cycle periods, annual milestones, etc.) Leaders should focus on asking questions to discover how employees can sustain success and prepare for the future and help their people look forward to apply what they have learned and address new opportunities or challenges that arise.

A simple conversational model for leaders to use with their performance review process includes the following three steps:

  • Know Yourself – ask about and discuss each person’s strengths, weaknesses, passions and interests.
  • Action for Growth – ideas and concrete action to leverage individual strengths and interests to support success and on-going development.
  • My Value – dialogue focused on the value that each employee provides to the work unit, institution, students, stakeholders or overall organization.

By focusing less on the process and more on the conversation we can make performance reviews a more uplifting experience.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

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High diving requires a deep pool

CNI nw_mf_danny_cox_0719.jpgIn one month high divers from around the world will be competing at the summer Olympics in Rio. If I was one of those divers I would hope that the leaders in Rio have done the work needed to build deep pools, even though these Olympics are facing budget, political, economic, environmental and workplace challenges.

Our organizations also need deep pools of talent to be successful when facing a future of changing demographics, fluid governmental demands, volatile customer expectations and a diminishing workforce. Creating individual development plans (IDPs) and continually developing your own people helps leaders fill their talent pools and keep their people engaged with the organization.

Paula Asinof, a leadership consultant, provides tips on how to use IDPs to fill your talent pool in her article, IDPs: Talent Development’s Superglue, in the January 2016 TD magazine.

  1. Start with a gap analysis and ask each employee:
    • where are your talents now?
    • what talents need to be developed or do you want to develop?
  2. Craft only one to three goals based on the answers (see previous post on SIMple Goals)
  3. Utilize a wide range of development opportunities:
    • on-the-job experience
    • coaching/mentoring
    • development-focused work assignmnets
    • training
    • education
    • interim assignments
    • temporary assignmnets
  4. Focus on outcomes and provide regular check-ins

Overall the IDPs you develop with your people need to be simple, clear and realistic. It isn’t the Olympics but a deep talent pool can help you win during challenging times.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

 

Too many words!

too many words quoteA colleague of mine shares a funny but helpful story on ineffective feedback. She was a co-owner of a small business and the co-owners decided they needed to terminate one of their employees after a long and unsuccessful progressive discipline attempt. Her business partner was a nice guy but had trouble delivering tough messages. Since he had hired the employee he wanted to deliver the news. He met with the terminated employee for an hour and later reported to my colleague that it was a tough meeting but it went well and he had asked the fired employee to pack up his office at the end of the day and wished him luck.

Much to her surprise the next day the “fired” employee was at his desk working away. Her co-owner had been so unclear, so indirect and so muddled that the employee had no clue that he had been terminated! Not effective feedback at all.

As this article in the New York Times reminds us, the purpose of feedback is to help people do better, not feel better. Both positive and negative feedback need to be straightforward. Being direct and clear is key to effective feedback and will improve leadership communication. The What and Why model I learned a number of years ago can help leaders overcome the tendency to over-complicate feedback and keep it focused. Effective feedback only needs to include – and must include:

  • What specifically the person did, said, or didn’t do. The behavior or action that you want to reinforce or needs to be changed. Stated directly, specifically and clearly. No extra explanations or editorializing – “just the facts!”
  • Why it matters. A short but direct statement that describes the impact or consequences of the action or behavior. Either positive or negative. Again, no editorializing or explanations at this time.

Nothing more and nothing less.

Todd Thorsgaard

Playing to your people’s strengths, part 2

strengths2Last week I talked about helping people identify their strengths. As leaders, we need to know our own strengths and also those of our team members. The second part of the equation is helping people to use their strengths. This includes a couple of key steps.

  1. Be a coach.  Ask good questions to help people focus on their strengths. Examples include:  Tell me about a success you’ve had at work. How did you accomplish it? What positive feedback do you often receive about your work? What parts of your job do you like most, and why?
  2. Identify their passions.  Those are the spots where you can tap into their energy and promote excellent performance. Focus on the emotions.  As people are telling their success stories, listen for excitement, enjoyment, and a sense of pride.
  3. Create an action plan. How, specifically, will someone develop their strengths and use them on the job?
  4. Provide opportunities. Where can you help people use and develop their strengths? Can they represent you on a committee, join a planning team, be in charge of a project? While you can’t necessarily change entire position descriptions, you can often make adjustments to leverage the best of what people bring to work.
  5. Hold people accountable. Follow up on the action plan. Recognize accomplishments and identify barriers that may be getting in the way. Ask how you can help.

Think about leaders that have helped you use your strengths at work. What did they do, and how can you do something similar for your team members?

Dee Anne Bonebright

 

The annual review!

time-for-reviewDo those three words cause your heart to race, a smile to creep across your face, or a panicked look at your calendar as you search for time to prepare? Well, either by luck or remarkable planning, I am scheduled to have my annual performance review later today and I have experienced all three in the last few days.

When you cut through all the information and opinions from the hundreds of articles, blogs, consulting firms, books, processes, procedures and policies on performance reviews you end up with two elements; the process and the people or human interaction. The process is usually determined by your institution, but you, the leader, can determine the quality of the human interaction with your team member. And a recent study by the Gallop organization indicates that the human interaction is what actually drives employee performance and the effectiveness of the performance review, not the process and forms!

The study found the following four managerial actions made a significant difference in the effectiveness of any performance review process:

  1. Clearly communicating performance standards and what good performance looks like
  2. Focusing on employee strengths rather than weaknesses
  3. Emphasizing that the purpose of the review is to support and aid their development and success, not just an HR requirement
  4. Communicating performance expectations throughout the year, not just at the annual review

Other tips that focus on the people or human interaction element include:

  • Make it a two-way conversation by starting with an open-ended question
    • Over the past year, what accomplishments are you most proud of, and why?
    • Describe how your work supported the mission of the college or of your department/office.
  • Keep your feedback:
    • Helpful
    • Unbiased
    • Balanced
    • Specific

And a final general rule of thumb that I have found helpful is to balance the focus of the review to:

  • 10% on the past year
  • 30% on the current expectations and needs of the department, team and institution
  • 60% on the goals, expectations and development over the next year

As I said earlier, today is my review and I am looking forward to a genuine two-way conversation with my manager, Anita. She demonstrates the importance of the human interaction and I always walk out of her office fully engaged and with a clear picture of the year ahead and how I can succeed!

Let us know what good ideas or tips you have used to improve the quality of the human interaction in your performance reviews.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happiness fuels success?

happinessAccording to Harvard researcher and author Shawn Achor, most of us have the formula for success backwards. We think if we work hard, we will be successful and that our success will lead to happiness. Think about it. Have you ever thought happiness would follow after getting that next great job or promotion? Maybe it did briefly, but was it really lasting?

Recent discoveries in neuroscience,  positive psychology, and management studies actually prove the opposite to be true. Our happiness fuels success. When we are happy, we are more productive and successful. In fact, being happy increases the levels of dopamine in our brains. And dopamine makes our brains 30% more efficient. So what does this have to do with driving performance, both our own and the performance of our teams? Quite a bit actually.

Achor explains in his 2011 Ted Talk, that only 25% of job success is predicted by IQ. The remaining 75% of job success is predicted by three key factors:

  • Optimism levels
  • Social Support
  • Ability to see stress as a challenge, rather than a threat

So knowing that optimism levels (aka happiness) fuels success, what can you do to increase the optimism levels of your team? Achor suggests that everyone needs to start with themselves first, saying that positivity and happiness can be contagious. He outlines several practices that can help you rewire your brain’s ability to see things positively.

  1. 3 Gratitudes – every day for 21 days, write down 3 new things you are grateful for
  2. Journaling – every day write down one positive experience you’ve had in the last 24 hours (this helps your brain re-live the experience)
  3. Exercise – choose something you like to do each day (exercise boosts mood and performance)
  4. Meditation – spend just 5 minutes a day meditating, praying, or just listening to yourself breathe in and out  (this helps your brain to focus)
  5. Conscious Acts of Kindness – write and send one positive email to a colleague each day (doing something good for someone else increases your own positivity)

This week I’m committing myself to the 3 Gratitudes and a Conscious Act of Kindness each day to increase my happiness and boost my performance. I’ll let you know if my team notices the difference and it begins to spread.  I challenge you to join me!  Go ahead, choose one or two strategies to increase your happiness and see what happens.

Anita Rios

Just do it!

Ignore-me“It won’t happen again,” “I’m sure he has it under control now,” “She does everything else so well,” and “I hate having to talk about this.”

How often have you had this talk with yourself? I know I have and many leaders I work with have shared that they also dread having tough performance conversations. We avoid the issue, we over-analyze, we search for glimmers of improvement, we obsess and over-prepare. And what happens? The performance problem continues or gets worse!

To drive high performance we just need to dive in and have the conversation. While that is easier said then done, the “Two Minute Challenge” (from The Practical Coach distributed by Media Partners) is a straight-forward guide to start the conversation and initiate improvement.

The Two Minute Challenge asks you to follow these five steps, in order, without skipping one:

  1. State what you have observed – only the actual behavior or issue. Be specific but concise with no extra details, potential motives or personal assumptions.
  2. Wait for a response – make yourself stop. Do not charge forward with your ideas. This clarifies that they are responsible for taking action, not you.
  3. State or clarify the expected performance or goal – focus on the outcome desired not explanations or unrelated issues.
  4. Ask for a specific solution that will meet the expectation – what specifically will they do differently?
  5. Agree together on the solution – clarify what they will be doing and establish a shared understanding of next steps.

Following these five steps doesn’t make the conversation easy but it provides a structure that can help you take action sooner. Recently a dean at one of our schools shared that he had been planning and planning a performance conversation with a faculty member and not actually having it. After I shared the two minute challenge with him he scheduled the meeting, followed the steps and agreed with the faculty member on a plan of action. It wasn’t the favorite part of his day but it was productive and started the ball rolling!

Most of us will never enjoy having tough performance conversations but the Two Minute Challenge can kick-start the action needed for a productive outcome. Give it a try when you hear yourself hoping the issue will go away.

Todd Thorsgaard