Earlier in my career, I spent a large portion of my time managing the organization’s performance appraisal process. We would gather all managers in groups to discuss the meaning of performance; calibrate the norm and finally discuss the performance of each manager’s deputies. We’d cascade this process down and across the organization. Then we’d set managers free to complete their appraisal discussions and record results before a defined date. It was a tremendous investment in time and energy, not to mention the impact this had on the organization’s focus.
Following the appraisal discussions, I’d speak with people across the organization to find out how things went. Based on their comments, I slowly realized that there really was no pivotal change in a person’s performance or career that was the result of a performance appraisal. A poor rating didn’t change behaviour and a good rating wasn’t considered inspiring. The feedback received during an appraisal discussion wasn’t causing changes in behaviour or performance, the process viewed as a task that had to be completed by a targeted date. The focus and timeline had a dramatic impact on the perception of the process. In addition, although managers and supervisors understood the performance benchmark, they’d “sugar coated” the difficult discussions because they weren’t prepared or equipped to discuss real issues.
Consider these three questions;
- Can you recall a single instance when a performance appraisal had a significant influence on a person’s performance or career?
- Can you think of one or more people who have influenced your career?
- Was this influence a result of an appraisal discussion or ongoing coaching and mentoring?
Regular training, coaching, and feedback (with emphasis on the positive) can have a tremendous impact on performance. In sports, muscle memory is developed through practice, feedback and repetition. Strong workplace behaviours and performance also require regular coaching, feedback, and practice. Like performance coaching, training that is delivered in smaller modules, with repetition and feedback has more of an impact than a long drawn out training session.
In the quest for a higher level of performance, I challenge you to build muscle memory in your training and coaching processes. This is the surest way to positively impact the performance of people and the organization’s results.
Mark Lewis, CEO Founder