Our current financial performance were not looking pretty which made for a rather difficult review session with my direct reports. When we regrouped for dinner later that evening, I could sense a thick air of gloom at the table. The Head of Sales was far more disturbed than the others; he took me aside and asked, “Boss, am I in trouble?”
Truth be told, the reviews were “officially” over for me but adamant in NOT wanting to dilute the possible perils of our weak performance, I retorted “if the numbers don’t improve, all of us are in trouble!”
I regretted my words the next morning when I got to know that my upset colleague drowned his disappointment over one too many drinks that evening!
You see, in the world of work (as in life), there are ups and downs; some days being far better than others; and a few others when we aren’t in the best state of performance. Reviews on these dampest of days can be to be more of a torture than help!
So, what are your thoughts of reviews? Could it be either one or more of these or none as you don’t care for it?
- It’s a tick ‘√’ for organizations or supervisors that they are aware of your current “state of performance”. Why can’t they save your time (and theirs) by simply reading your XL sheet/PPT?
- It’s a pressure building tact by organizations for non-performers to get the message to “shape up or ship out”. Ironically, there’s also messaging for performers to NOT drop the ball and to keep the numbers moving upwards! How long will this game continue?.
- Ensuring transparency and alignment on performance measurements and goals. Well, this sounds text bookish and frankly, I don’t like the description! 🙂
- A regular chance for your superior to show he’s boss! I think most times, reviews end up reinforcing this!
I once interviewed a candidate who was proud of his monthly review initiative which he called POP – “Perform or Perish”! He said that due to his POP, sales improved dramatically and the magic was in the terminology (no surprises here!) and the timing; if the month ended on a Friday, the POP would happen on a Saturday which meant that his subordinates had to listen and explain to him on their day off as to why they were “performing or perishing”! To him, performance was not guaranteed without pressure and he considered his POP to be the best tool to success. Wow! That was an eye-opener for me and yes, he still works in the same place (fortunately or otherwise, depending from which lens you’re looking at!)
I believe performance reviews also reflect the culture of the organisation. I have my doubts when I’m told that reviews are platforms to hold people accountable. If reviews are the only place where accountability gets measured, then there is something grossly wrong in the make-up of an organization or supervisor.
Shouldn’t accountability and a sense of responsibility be put to practice every single day at work without force; shouldn’t it come with ease to leaders with an open concept of debating and mutually agreeing on what needs to immediately change when it fails toward achieving the end goal? If accountability is enforced only on days of reviews, then what happens to the remaining days in a week; a month; a quarter; or a year? Wouldn’t accountability then take on a more short-lived nature? These clearly doesn’t work in the favour of an organization, the superior nor the subordinate!
During my earlier days, I’ve been guilty of turning the reviews I conducted into high decibel debacles but as I aged and witnessed more teary outbursts than I cared for, I became wiser. Today, my own personal philosophies of reviews are:
- Hold the mirror to the team or individual.
- Demonstrate true emotions of the performance – to say it’s below par when it’s in fact below par! This comes naturally to most.
- Avoid becoming personal or demote the team or individual who have failed to perform. Well, this is easier said than done!
- Stop comparing the race horse to the cart puller. You’ll never know when it changes for them and for you too.
- Offer help and solutions to the problem than show you are with them when they are down.
- Be creative to applaud and appreciate the victories (at the cost of applauses sounding repetitive and artificial sometime
They say “what gets measured gets done” but I believe how you measure has a greater and further reaching positive impact on long term sustainable performances.
At the end of the day, it’s that motivated individual or team who goes the extra mile to get things done. It helps to do reviews with a purpose of raising the confidence and pride of the human being in front of us rather than reducing them to ashes simply because we can (as superiors)!
If your organisation is not gracious with their reviews, don’t take them seriously or sulk. Trust me when I say that the tables can easily turn on anyone. I have bitten my tongue once too many times!
It may sound powerful to miss eye contact & show the stick but you would have missed an opportunity to show the right direction to a deserving colleague