Summary: Are you worn out by ineffective performance reviews? Try a career discussion. Be careful – there are 3 catches you need to be aware of.
Every year we sit down with people and have a “performance review” where we are giving a piece a paper (or on-line survey) to complete on each person who works with us. It if hasn’t been updated in a while, most likely there are numbers on the page to let people know how they “rank” on a scale. These scales come in many different forms, either using words “average, above average, needs improvement” or numbers “1, 2 or 3″ – either of which remind you of the report cards you got in school. The only difference this time is you don’t have to show them to your parents.
Those of you who know me and have been following this blog, know that I do not like performance reviews. How is anyone supposed to be motivated after receiving a 1 or needs improvement? The worse part is that you didn’t know about these areas. Managers have a tendency to save all the “bad” or “negative” information for review time – no wonder no one wants to do it.
Why not have a Career Discussion? Talk to your people about where they are, what they like to do and don’t like do, what they want to be when they grow up (yes, I ask this of everyone regardless of age). During this talk you can draw on what you see as their strengths and what needs to improve in order for them to reach their goal. However, don’t leave it there – help them! Give them the extra training, guidance, projects, etc. to achieve their goal – the rest will work itself out.
As you can imagine, there is a catch to this situation – actually there are several.
Catch Number One – Trust. If you don’t have their trust they are going to wonder what you are up to. Are you trying to get them to quit, move departments, or take a step back. No trust means meaningless discussion.
Catch Number Two – Listen. You may or may not like what they have to say. Possibly you thought they wanted to be CFO only to learn they want to move into sales. It can be crushing – remember it’s not about you. Who knows? Maybe after trying the other department they will come back as a stronger person with a wider view of the company.
Catch Number Three – Honesty. You have to be honest in your assessment of what the other person can or cannot do, also about what the company can or cannot do. You don’t want to provide false hope (don’t crush their self-esteem either), be gentle and honest. If you show empathy and understanding, they will be more willing to receive your honesty and will take is from a place of caring.
The best part is the career discussion don’t have to wait to be a once a year event, do it now and do it regularly (may I suggest once a quarter). Watch the improvement in morale and performance.
Have you ever been part of a career discussion?