Defining thePerformance PREview
As it is now the New Year we cannot ignore business news for long and survive. Well-run organisations must look unflinchingly at the future and plan for it the best they can. The times demand regular adaptation and adjustment to survive.
So here are two thoughts for leaders to take into the new year:
- To survive, the very best workers available need to be running our organisations.
- We need to spell out for ourselves and our workers what the future will look like.
At Profiles, we have begun a campaign we believe stresses these ideas. We are asking managers to think of employee performance in terms of describing what they want to see instead of looking back on failures. This concept is behind the slogan "replace performance reviews with performance PREviews."
You may be asking just what we mean by preview, and how in the world an organisation is supposed to get rid of performance reviews. What we mean is that organisations:
- should not be looking back, but forward;
- an employee’s performance must always be noted but in a way that achieves something positive for the organisation;
- surviving and thriving organisations must recognise that employees will always be the heart of business.
Often when leaders and planners talk about getting rid of the performance review, their colleagues feel threatened and wonder whether they will be forbidden from noting behaviour that does not benefit the organisation. Indeed, some even think they won't be able to terminate poorly performing employees.
Let's try to put those misconceptions to rest. Performance previews, with emphasis, on the pre, are designed to get the manager to talk about what he or she wants to see. They are a crystal-ball look into the future, if you will. They are important because talking about what we would like to see happen offers a more constructive approach than discussing what has already happened that we disliked. Describing what we want requires us to discuss ideas, not just behaviour.
Ideally, this look into the future must occur before poor performance happens, and the discussion of ideas requires the participation of both manager and employee. This behaviour also occurs regularly – unlike the performance review, which occurs annually (if even then).
The concept is not a new one for forward-thinking organisations that want to retain high-performing workers and rely on a collaborative model, thrive on teamwork and know that one person cannot stoke a powerful engine. Forward thinking organisations are ahead of the game. They focus on coaching and forming teams that work together synergistically instead of relying on top-down directing to build, at best, mediocre teams.
Using our crystal ball, let us imagine how such a preview would unfold
Manager: Melinda, let's talk about how to handle the new client. They are a company with a reputation moving fast, and the management team expects attention to detail as well as great ideas. What are your thoughts on getting started?
Melinda: I'd like to put Josh and Carol on the project. Carol has great big-picture ideas, and so does Josh. But he is strong on the details, too, and I will need him to double-check me as I plan the rollout.
Manager: Yes – all of you worked well together on the project you just finished. I wonder if you would also consider bringing in Katy on the financials. She has strengths that we need. And let me have a look at the proposal, too, at regular intervals. I need to build up the team as much as possible. What else do we need to talk about before we get started?
Melinda: You know that juggling multiple projects might get in the way of meeting deadlines. Could we set some priorities and plan our deadlines from back to front so that we can break this project into pieces?
Do you see how a forward-looking approach that requires contributions by both the manager and Melinda can get this project off on the right foot? Meanwhile, the manager is spelling out exactly what behaviour this project requires while asking Melinda for her thoughts. For the relationship and the company, this is much more productive than rehashing what did not work six months ago.
Of course, it's also useful to bring in what you would like to see in the future in terms of what did not happen last time. Imagine the manager above Melinda asking how she should have avoided the issue of the final product being completely opposite of what the client wanted. That would not be nearly as effective as having Melinda might create a draft six weeks before the final deadline to make sure everyone is on the right track.
The point is to direct behavior and actions by visualizing what you want to see, and it’s more effective than haranguing an employee about what went wrong. If the manager had told Melinda that her team had botched a project six months ago and that such errors could not happen again, what would the outcome have been? We can all imagine a number of scenarios. Perhaps we can envision Melinda's furrowed brow as she tries to remember the project, exactly how it was botched, and wonders why the matter did not come up at the time. Then we can imagine her disappointment at her paltry raise, which probably was not dictated by her performance anyway. Finally, we can imagine her walking out the door to a new job a few weeks later.
Unfortunately, all of those scenarios are byproducts of a system which relies on a an annual review where one person holds all the power and the other says what he or she thinks she is supposed to in order to get a raise or a pat on the back.
This concept of the performance preview is not new at Profiles. We have focused on this topic often in different ways; it includes all the caveats that bear repeating here: one size does not fit all where employees are concerned; coaching, not directing, is the most productive way of obtaining the work performance your organization requires; job fit is crucial to good performance; the annual performance review is an ineffective, one-sided game with one person holding all the marbles.
FROM JIM SIRBASKU’S DESK