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The 5 Deadly Sins of Performance Management

Enlightened leaders who want to grow their companies, know that to be successful it’s critical to tap into human potential in order to elevate both the individuals and the organization.

Enlightened leaders aren’t talking about whether this should be done, but only about how. They’re looking for a way to drive the strategy and culture down into the organization in order to survive and grow for the long term.  In Ram Charan and Bill Conanty’s new book The Talent Masters they write:

Managing people with precision is without question harder than managing numbers, but it is doable and gets easier once you know how.  Companies have disproved the myth that the judgment of human potential is a “soft art”.  Their rigorous, iterative, and repetitive processes convert subjective judgment about a person’s talent into an objective set of observations that are specific, verifiable, and ultimately just as concrete as the analysis of a financial statement.

Let me start with a disclosure.  In the years that I have been an executive management consultant, I have never represented any particular product that I recommend to my clients. Until now.   Now, for the first time, I do represent a business management system called Evaluate To Win. Why? Because, for the first time, I’ve seen a system that’s both simple and designed to help businesses succeed in this all-important area of managing talent.

And yet companies continue to fall into the traps of traditional performance management.  They invest time and money into systems that are all about box-checking. All about compliance. All about surviving the annual event and forgetting about it until next year.

I suggest you try an experiment. Ask any group of employees about their experiences with traditional evaluation systems. Hands will shoot up faster than you can write all their comments describing negative, counter-productive, de-motivating, and time wasting examples they will be shouting out.  The comments will likely include the 5 deadly sins of performance evaluation.

  1. The evaluation itself is more of a box-checking exercise to satisfy compliance requirements.  It’s not designed to actually help either the employee or the company to be more successful… it simply provides formal and legal data.  No wonder employees hate and dread it if the whole idea is not to win but simply to lose less!
  2. The evaluation process is all about what you did wrong   (woefully disguised as “improvement suggestions”).  This practice continues despite the overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrating that positive reinforcement enhances productivity and job satisfaction/engagement whereas negativity does the opposite.  Employees walk out of traditional evaluations feeling discouraged and deflated and ready to spread those infectious emotions to everyone around them.
  3. Evaluation time itself becomes a big deal when the original paperwork is located and the manager spends countless hours scratching his head and trying to remember what happened during the past year and how to fill in the appropriate boxes.  In the meantime, the employee is trying to justify all actions taken and the two people approach each other with a contentious mindset.  Feedback from both manager and employee becomes formal, stressful, and infrequent. Such conversations are more than just a waste of time. They actually cause harm and set the company back.
  4. Assessments are arbitrary and completely dependent on how individual managers choose to manage.  It’s very commonplace for people to move into the management ranks because they were excellent as an individual contributor, or managed in some other company with a different culture and strategy.  The company leadership can frequently see who were given high or low marks, but not why.  What was the basis for the evaluations and was the criteria straightforward, unbiased, and clearly understood in advance? Without a transparent system that allows employees the comfort of fairness, resentfulness and dissatisfaction are certain to thrive.
  5. System complexity threatens to dilute the important and disguise the priorities. Companies get caught up in suites of integrated processes that include a host of HR activities such as succession planning, leadership development, learning management, and recruiting processes.  These large and burdensome systems eat up resources and cause employees to lose sight of the things that will really make the company more successful.  With companies and employees being asked to do more with less, it has never been more important for everyone to be on the same page in respect to understanding the performance and behavioral priorities necessary to win.

Take a look at how your company manages talent. There is no greater responsibility leaders have than to get this right. Your company depends on it.

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2 comments so far

  • Lee Benson

    1

    Jane, this is a really great piece you put together!!! Lee

    Reply
  • Tiffany Tobol

    2

    This is very insightful, I will now look at performance evaluations in a whole new light.

    Reply

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