Managers usually consider performance appraisal as the formal way of measuring how well an employee has handled responsibilities and assignments during a given period of time. The significance is immense and the output can be used for a variety of purposes like compensation administration, career progression, disciplinary actions, assessing training needs etc.
Clearly appraising and judging is one of the tougher parts of managing. Even though organisations profess merit as the sole criteria for rewarding, most systems do not work that straight and there is always a huge amount of subjectivity that inevitably creeps in. Given its mega potential to motivate or tick-off people, I have always considered this as one of the most crucial aspects of my job responsibility.
A lot can be said and done when you sit across the table and my objective through this post is to reflect on a simple question – what should you focus on to get the most optimum outcome for the employee, the manager as well as for the organization.
Let me provide some context. I used to dread my review time with a particular manager in an earlier organisation. After the initial momentary pleasantaries, almost the entire discussion was a one way communication on what all I did not do well (that was a big list!) and how I could become a better person by working on my short comings. Change your style, change your approach and do things differently. I had to go through the process – after all he was the boss – but within the first 5 minutes I would construct a wall and hope for the session to end fast. Some of you would have encountered similar experiences and therefore should be able to relate to it.
Now please for god’s sake do not interpret this as a sign of a closed mind, one that is unwilling to receive inputs, to change and improve. The point is much deeper – it is about making the discussion meaningful and relevant for the employee and to keep them thoroughly interested and engaged.
Excellence is not the opposite of failure – you will learn little about excellence by studying your failures. I have a firm belief that each one of you have achieved your current position not by working to eliminate your weaknesses but by utilising your strengths to your advantage. Those are the qualities that have got you this far. They help you relate better to your immediate environment, to interact with colleagues and customers, provide direction at all times. The pragmatic premise being that a person will excel by amplifying their strengths, not by simply fixing weaknesses. Other than being cognisant of your weaknesses there isn’t much you can do about them but you can surely strengthen your strengths – that is just the way the body DNA is helixed.
While there are many good levers for engaging people and driving performance – levers such as defining the team vision, selecting great talent, setting clear expectations, praising where praise is due, executing relentlessly on the vision – the master lever is getting each person to play to their strengths. In fact an effective executive builds on strengths – their own and those of their superiors, colleagues, subordinates and of the situation. Such organisations will see commensurate increases in customer loyalty, employee retention and productivity enhancements.
All of you have a role to play. Next time you review your employee, be objective by all means and provide appropriate feedback on accomplishments and results. But choose your focus of discussion with great care.
In the process you will help build a happy, healthy, cheerful, motivated and progressive organisation around all that works and not simply focus to fix what doesn’t!