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Letting Go of the Performance Review

Let's face it. Most people don't like performance reviews. Executives never seem to get around to them because there is often a difficult message to deliver. And when they do happen managers and employees typically think they're unfair and emerge from the process less motivated than they were before it started. In more and more companies performance reviews are falling out of favor. And yet if they don't happen employees and managers lose a valuable opportunity to give and receive the feedback necessary to create real performance improvement.

Performance Talks - An Overview

Recently Wingspan Coaching & Facilitation has been asked by a couple of our clients to help with what we're calling Performance Talks. What are Performance Talks you ask? Performance Talks are a two step series of discussions designed to create alignment between an executive and his or her direct reports. The process takes a page from the world of mediation in which a neutral third party helps facilitate dialogue between parties seeking to build agreement.

The Performance Talk Process

In step one the facilitator meets individually with both the executive and the manager for a confidential discussion. This first step allows each party to think out loud about each other and their relationship without concerns about offending one another or jeopardizing the relationship. It allows them to enter the joint session focused and well prepared. Step two brings the two parties together for a joint conversation - the Performance Talk.

The Topics

The focus for the Performance Talk is to build agreement about expectations between an executive and a manager. The four main topics are:

  1. The executive's expectations for the manager. Where is the manager meeting/not meeting expectations? What are the success factors for the next 3, 6, 12 months? (Success factors are the measurable objectives that if achieved indicate the manager is doing a good job).
  2. What does the manager need from the executive in order to perform well and meet these expectations? What resources or support is needed? What is it about the current circumstances that might prevent the manager from succeeding?
  3. What is working/not working in the relationship between the executive and manager? How are they performing together?
  4. What is working/not working in the management team?

Follow up

Notice that in a Performance Talk the discussion is more focused on the present and future than the past. The assumption is that executives are providing timely performance feedback, the positive and the negative, rather than dwelling on it in the Performance Talk. It is important that the content of the discussion is documented in such a way that the executive and manager can both see it (flip charts, white board) and ultimately mutually commit to the expectations and necessary changes. Nothing should be left to assumption. This also allows the discussion to be summarized in a document that can be used by the manager and executive to periodically review progress.

Why Include A Third Party Facilitator?

In our recent Performance Talks, both executives and managers indicated that facilitation kept them focused and saved time by redirecting the conversation away from"rabbit holes". Having a third party creates a check against automatic agreement on a topic - the nodding of heads and moving on before fully exploring the subject. There are fewer assumptions about what the other party is thinking because the facilitator draws out the perspectives of each party and helps them to make their thinking and intentions explicit. Ultimately it builds more honesty and openness in to the dialogue. This creates deeper and more lasting commitment around the agreements between the executive and manager. Finally having a facilitator allowed the manager to bring a difficult or sensitive topic to the executive that might otherwise not have come up.

In Closing

If you are tired of the traditional performance review and looking for a different process to create greater alignment amongst your executives and management and stimulate performance improvement you might consider a Performance Talk. Let us know if you have any questions and we can help you get started.

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