Every year people across the globe go through the process of creating and giving performance reviews. These are meant to be tools to drive performance and measure progress. Regardless of the name we give them leaders and managers hunker down with staff to discuss Personal Growth Indicators, Key Performance Indicators, Stretch Goals - you get the picture. Everyone does this in one form or another regardless of the pain and awkwardness of it all. What’s more is that we all know that the process is significantly flawed and that rather than driving performance in many cases it inhibits it.
Don't believe me? Well let’s look at just one simple example and see if it resonates with you. The majority of personnel performance evaluations involve a scale typically between 1 and 4. (There are many scales out there but this will serve well for our example) One is the danger zone and is bad news. Two is usually needs improvement in a number of areas. Three is meets expectations and usually involves a healthy discussion around just exactly what those expectations were and four is the “no go” zone that only those rare (and I mean rare) individuals get. It is understood by all that “4” never happens. Sound familiar?
Here is the problem, approaching performance from this perspective does two things; it frustrates the high performers who know that they will never break that ceiling past a “3” and it comforts the under achievers who know that unless they are truly catastrophic in their work they will always get between a two and a three. Additionally, depending upon the company, these get done once or twice a year and those are the only times performance gets examined in any detail. In all cases performance is inhibited.
A big reason this happens is that we typically like to evaluate people based on the actions or activities that make up a role. Often the KPI’s are simply a breakout of the job description. Sometimes these describe behavior most often they simply describe a role.
This is where the distinction between role and behavior become paramount. Behavior is something you can observe and can count. An example of a behavior related to engagement would be arriving to work on time and leaving on time. Or as a case in point only just yesterday a major health provider was in hot water around paid sick leave. The rationale around this concern focused on the idea that managers and above seemed to max out their sick days every year. It is a “behavior” that points either to high levels of engagement or high levels of disengagement. (I will let you decide which it is in this case.)
Another example of a behavior related to engagement would be tracking contributions to the advancement of the department through input of ideas and suggestions for process or client experience improvement. You can count the number of times someone submits an idea or makes a suggestion for positive change. Not only can you count it but if you have identified that as something you want your staff to do you can recognize it when you see it happening and reinforce that behavior. The key to success then is that you have to identify the behaviors you want (or don’t want), track them and reinforce or extinguish them as the case may be.
Performance Leadership is rooted in understanding what behaviors you want from your staff. The other part of that process is being there to recognize and acknowledge that behavior when it is happening. This is a deliberate and methodical process and is a habit that needs to be developed. Once it is though you will find yourself marveling at why you never did it sooner.