Call Shari 303-863-0948 or Email Us

Posts Tagged ‘performance management’

Performance Management – Shorter is Better

No one (I know) enjoys writing, delivering or receiving performance feedback. It’s time consuming to write, challenging to deliver, and can be difficult to hear. Unfortunately, most performance management systems – goal setting forms, performance appraisal templates and online templates – don’t make the process easier. Insperformance managementtead, they make it harder. Short and simple is best.

When I started managing leadership development for a large company, I inherited a 12-page performance appraisal form and what seemed like 89 competencies. One of the business leaders I supported told me, “I’m not asking my people to use this form. If you can give me something that’s one page, I’ll have my managers use it.” That conversation sent me on a mission to make all performance management forms one or two pages. And really, why shouldn’t they be? People can only focus on leveraging and changing a few things at a time. Why give more feedback than that at any given time?

If you’re chasing people to use your performance management tools and templates, you have the wrong forms. In my experience, when people find something easy to use and valuable, they’ll use it. If something is difficult to use or doesn’t seem to add value, people drag their heels.

Here are a few ideas for making your performance management process easier:

Make your forms and templates simple. No performance management tool should be more than two pages. In a performance appraisal – quarterly, annual, or otherwise – identify up to three things the person did well and a max of three things s/he can either do more, better, or differently next year. Anything more is overwhelming and a set up for disappointment, frustration, and overwhelm.

If you have additional areas for the person to work on, meet again in 90-days and assess how the person has done with the three pieces of feedback already provided. If s/he has made significant progress on the things they were already working on, add a few new things to work on. If significant progress hasn’t been made on the existing feedback, wait to add more.

I know your existing performance management templates may not allow for what I’m suggesting. If you’re working with a template that requires more input, write up to three clear, succinct, and actionable bullets in each required area and not more. Bullets are better than paragraphs. Be specific. “Great job” is not feedback. Neither is, “needs improvement.” Give a specific example or two. No example, no feedback.

Resist the urge to write paragraphs of vague feedback or to accept that type of feedback in a self-appraisal. Paragraphs of feedback take too long to write and often say little. I’d suggest spending less time writing performance feedback and instead spend the time observing performance, asking others for input on the person’s performance, and writing three succinct, specific bullets that describe an action taken or outcome produced. Specific feedback is meaningful, useful, and received with less defensiveness.

performance management


Performance Management – Shorter is Better

No one (I know) enjoys writing, delivering or receiving performance feedback. It’s time consuming to write, challenging to deliver, and can be difficult to hear. Unfortunately, most performance management systems – goal setting forms, performance appraisal templates and online templates – don’t make the process easier. Insperformance appraisalstead, they make it harder. Short and simple is best.

When I started managing leadership development for a large company, I inherited a 12-page performance appraisal form and what seemed like 89 competencies. One of the business leaders I supported told me, “I’m not asking my people to use this form. If you can give me something that’s one page, I’ll have my managers use it.” That conversation sent me on a mission to make all performance management forms one or two pages. And really, why shouldn’t they be? People can only focus on leveraging and changing a few things at a time. Why give more feedback than that at any given time?

If you’re chasing people to use your performance management tools and templates, you have the wrong forms. In my experience, when people find something easy to use and valuable, they’ll use it. If something is difficult to use or doesn’t seem to add value, people drag their heels.

Here are a few ideas for making your performance management process easier:

Make your forms and templates simple. No performance management tool should be more than two pages.  In a performance appraisal – quarterly, annual, or otherwise – identify up to three things the person did well and a max of three things s/he can either do more, better, or differently next year. Anything more is overwhelming and a set up for disappointment, frustration, and overwhelm.

If you have additional areas for the person to work on, meet again in 90-days and assess how the person has done with the three pieces of feedback already provided. If s/he has made significant progress on the things they were already working on, add a few new things to work on. If significant progress hasn’t been made on the existing feedback, wait to add more.

I know your existing performance management templates may not allow for what I’m suggesting. If you’re working with a template that requires more input, write up to three clear, succinct, and actionable bullets in each required area and not more.  Bullets are better than paragraphs. Be specific. “Great job” is not feedback. Neither is, “needs improvement.” Give a specific example or two. No example, no feedback.

Resist the urge to write paragraphs of vague feedback or to accept that type of feedback in a self-appraisal. Paragraphs of feedback take too long to write and often say little. I’d suggest spending less time writing performance feedback and instead spend the time observing performance, asking others for input on the person’s performance, and writing three succinct, specific bullets that describe an action taken or outcome produced. Specific feedback is meaningful, useful, and received with less defensiveness.

Click below to see our suite of one and two-page performance management templates. And watch for our upcoming webinar on how to write and deliver performance appraisals that are less painful, more useful, and quicker to write and deliver.

performance appraisals


The Employee Performance Appraisal Doesn’t Have to Be the Worst Day of the Year

Most people would rather get a root canal than participate in an annual employee performance appraisal.

The reasons employee performance appraisals are so difficult is simple:

  1. Many managers don’t deliver timely and balanced feedback throughout the year.
  2. Many employees don’t ask for regular feedback.
  3. Too much information is delivered during the annual employee performance appraisal.
  4. And as crazy as it sounds, managers and employees haven’t agreed to give and receive regular and candid feedback.

Employee performance appraisals don’t have to be the worst day of the year.

Here are four steps to ensure employee performance appraisals are useful and positive:

  1. Managers and employees must agree to give and receive balanced, candid feedback. Don’t assume the agreement to speak honestly is implicit, make it explicit.
  2. Managers, be honest and courageous. Don’t rate an employee a five who is really a three. You don’t do anyone any favors. Employees want to know how they’re really doing, no matter how much the feedback may sting.
  3. Managers, focus on three things the employee did well and three things to do more of next year. Any more input is overwhelming.
  4. Managers, schedule a second conversation a week after the employee performance appraisal, so employees can think about and process what you’ve said and discuss further, if necessary.

The key to being able to speak candidly during an employee performance appraisal is as simple as agreeing that you will do so and then being receptive to whatever is said. And don’t make feedback conversations a one-time event. If you do a rigorous workout after not exercising for a long time, you often can’t move the next day. Feedback conversations aren’t any different. They require practice for both the manager and employee to be comfortable.

Employee Performance Review


Help an Underperforming Employee Move On

underperforming employeeBeing in the wrong job feels terrible. It’s not unlike being in the wrong romantic relationship, group of friends, or neighborhood. We feel misplaced. Everything is a struggle. Feeling like we don’t fit and can’t be successful is one of the worst feelings in the world.

The ideal situation is for an underperforming employee to decide to move on. But when this doesn’t happen, managers need to help employees make a change.

The first step in helping an underperforming employee move on to something where  s/he can be more successful is to accept that giving negative feedback and managing employee performance is not unkind. When managers have an underperforming employee, they often think it isn’t nice to say something. Managers don’t want to hurt employees’ feelings or deal with their defensive reactions. In fact, when we help someone move on to a job that she will enjoy and where she can excel, we do the employee a favor. We set her free from a difficult situation that she was not able to leave out of her own volition.

I get asked the question “how do I know when it’s time to let an employee go?” a lot.

Here’s what I teach managers in our managing employee performance training programs: There are four reasons employees don’t do what they need to do:

  1.  They don’t know how.
  2. They don’t think they know how.
  3. They don’t want to.
  4. They can’t. Even with coaching and training, they don’t have the ability to do what you’re asking.

Numbers one and two are coachable. With the right training and coaching employees will likely be able to do what you’re asking them to do.

Numbers three and four are less coachable and are likely not trainable.

When you’re confronted with someone who simply can’t do what you need them to do, it’s time to help the person make a change.

The way you discover whether or not someone can do something is to:

  1.  Set clear expectations
  2. Observe performance
  3. Train, coach, and give feedback
  4. Observe performance
  5. Train, coach and give feedback
  6. Observe performance
  7. Train, coach and give feedback

Welcome to management.

After you’ve trained, coached and given feedback for a period of time, and the person still can’t do what you’re asking her to do, it’s time to make a change.

 Making a change does not mean firing someone. You have options:

  1. Take away responsibilities the person can’t do well and give him other things that he can do well.
  2. Rotate the person to a different job.

Firing someone is always a last resort.

Sometimes we get too attached to job descriptions. The job description outlines a specific responsibility that the person can’t do. So we fire the person versus considering, who else in the organization can do that task? Be open minded. If you have a person who is engaged, committed, and able to do most of her job, be flexible and creative. Give away parts of the job to someone who can do them well. I’ve also seen employees who were failing, thrive in a different job. Organizations that are flexible survive; organizations that are rigid do not.

underperforming employee

Let’s say you’ve stripped away the parts of the job that an underperforming employee can do well and she still can’t perform effectively. Now it’s time to make a change.

Here are some words to use when having the difficult ‘it’s time to move on’ conversation:

“I really want you on my team and to be successful in our organization. Over the past six months, we’ve had several conversations about the parts of your job that are a struggle. We’ve taken away responsibilities that aren’t a fit for you and have replaced those responsibilities with things that seemed like a better fit. And yet I can see that you are still struggling. I’m very sorry to say that it’s not appropriate for you to continue to working here. Today is your last day.” Depending on your organizational culture, can also say, “How do you want to handle this? You can resign or we can let you go. I’ll do whatever feels more comfortable for you.”

This is a difficult conversation that no manager wants to have. Yet I promise you, this conversation feels better to your employee than suffering in a job in which s/he can’t be successful. After you’ve set expectations, observed performance, and coached and given feedback repeatedly, letting someone go is kinder than letting the employee flounder in a job in which he cannot be successful.

underperforming employee

 


How to Ask for a Raise at Work

How to Ask for a RaiseThe time to ask for a raise isn’t at the end of the year. In fact, the end of the year, when compensation decisions have likely already been made and you’re competing with everyone else in your organization for a finite pool of money, is the worst time to ask for a raise. The time to ask for a raise is at the beginning of the year, and it could sound like this:

How to ask for a raise:

“Next year I’d like to take on more responsibility and be earning _____. What would it take to get me there?  I’ve written a few goals. Can we review the goals together and talk about if this is the right course of action to help me get to the next level?”

Set yourself and your boss up for success in giving you a raise. Significant pay increases need to be justified and approved by others in the organization. And results justify raises.

A few steps to take to get the pay increase you want:

  1. At the beginning of the year, you and your boss should agree upon goals that are important to the organization.
  2. Agree that at the end of the year, goal achievement will position you for more responsibility and more money.

No manager will promise a raise a year out, but ensure your career path is a conversation that will be had.

Given that you may want to ask for a raise now, here are some techniques for asking for more money in the middle of the year:

  1. Schedule time to talk with your boss, so you’re sure to have her undivided attention.
  2. Bring a list of accomplishments from the past months or years. Be sure to document those accomplishments in whatever format and level of detail your organization’s decision makers’ like to get information. You’ll know that by watching how the leaders communicate.
  3. Give your boss a copy of the list.
  4. Be bold. Use words like, “I’d like to talk with you about my career. It’s been _____ months/years since I’ve had a raise. I’ve generated __________ results.  Can we discuss what it would take to get me to the next level?”
  5. Don’t say, “This is awkward and I’m uncomfortable asking, but I’d like to talk about my compensation.” That’s not a powerful way to ask for anything.

The worst you will get is a no. You won’t get fired or ‘in trouble’ for asking. And if you get a no, ask, “What do I need to do to position myself for a significant pay increase in the next year?”

When asking for money, time, or resources, it’s easier to say no than it is to say yes. So give your manager something that’s easy to say yes to.

When asking for a raise, say:

  • “I’d like to position myself for more responsibility and more money.
  • What do I need to do to do that?
  • What’s a reasonable time frame to make that happen?
  • Whose support do I need in addition to yours?
  • What can I do to ensure the leaders who will also impact the decision are knowledgeable about my contributions?”

You will not get what you don’t ask for. So be bold, but also be deliberate, planful, and smart about how you ask.

How to Ask for a Raise


Write Your Own Goals & Take Control of Your Performance Review

Write Your Own Goal and Take Control of Your PerformanceMany year-end performance reviews include whatever the manager and direct report can remember happening during the last six to twelve weeks of the year. For the most part, managers and direct reports sit in front of blank performance appraisals and self-appraisal forms and try to remember everything that happened during the year. The result: A vague, incomplete performance review that leaves employees feeling disappointed, if not discounted.

If you were disappointed by your performance review this year, don’t let it happen again next year. Take charge of your career by writing your own goals.

One of the first companies I worked for did the goal process so well, I learned early in my career how powerful well written goals could be. Each employee set five to seven goals. Experienced employees wrote their own goals and then discussed those goals with their manager. Less experienced employees wrote their goals with their manager. Managers wrote goals for inexperienced employees. The goals were so specific and clear that there could be no debate at the end of the year whether or not the goal had been achieved. It was obvious. Either employees had done what they said they would, or they hadn’t. This made writing performance appraisals very easy. Very little on the appraisal was subjective. And this gave employees a feeling of control over their year and performance.

It’s great if you work for an organization or manager who works with you to write goals. If you don’t, write your own goals and present them to your manager for discussion and approval. Managers will be impressed you took the initiative to write goals and will be thankful for the work it takes off of them.

Goals should be simple and clear. It must be obvious whether you achieved the goal or not. There should be little if any room for debate.
Sample goals are below.

Desired Outcome (goal):
• Improve client feedback – too vague
• Get better written reviews from clients – better
• 80% of clients respond to surveys and respond with an average rating of 4.5 or above – best

Actions you will take to achieve the goal:

• Ask clients for feedback throughout project — too vague
• Ask clients for feedback weekly – better
• Visit client site weekly. Talk with site manager. Ask for feedback — best

Goal template:

Take Charge of Your Year by Writing Your Own Goals

Completed sample goal:

Take Charge of Your Year by Writing Your Own Goals

How to approach your manager with written goals:

Try using this language with your manager: “I want to be sure I’m working on the things that are most important to you and the organization. I’ve written some goals for 2014 to ensure I’m focused on the right things. Can we review the goals, and I’ll edit them based on your input? And what do you think of using the agreed-upon goals to measure my performance in 2014?

You have nothing to lose by writing goals and presenting them to your manager. You will gain respect from your manager, clarity of your 2014 priorities, and more control of your year-end performance review. Give it a try, and let me know how it goes.

If you want more feedback from your manager, ask these questions.

Advance Your Career Whole Deck copy


Giving Feedback is Hard – Setting Expectations Is Easier

Setting ExpectationsMy last few blog posts focused on giving feedback. The posts were designed to help managers get ready to write and deliver performance appraisals.

Giving feedback will always be hard. No one wants to hear that she isn’t doing a good job, thus no one wants to tell her. Part of the performance appraisal process is setting expectations for the next year. And asking for what you want, before problems happen, will always be easier than giving feedback.

If you’ve seen me speak or attended one of our training programs, you received a list of Candor Questions designed to eliminate the guessing at work. They may have been questions for leaders, managers, strengthening business relationships or managing careers. Regardless of which Candor Question Cards you received, the goal is the same. Ask more. Assume less.

The most frequent request I get is for feedback training. Managers tell me, “The communication in our company isn’t good. Can you help our managers and employees be more candid?”  And I tell business leaders, “I teach people to be more comfortable giving feedback. But why start with something hard? Why not start by asking more questions and getting to know people better, which is much easier and will reduce the number of feedback conversations you need to have?”

When we know what people expect, we can give people what they need. We make fewer ‘mistakes’, requiring fewer feedback conversations. So start with what’s easy. Ask more questions.

Start with what I call Introductory Candor Questions

  • How do you like to receive information – email, voicemail or text message?
  • Are you a detail-oriented or a big-picture person? How much information do you want to receive and in what format?
  • What are your pet peeves at work? What would I do that would be frustrating, and I’d never know it?

Then move on to Candor Questions for Managers:

  • What had you choose to work here, and what would make you question that decision?
  • What kind of work do you love to do most? What kind of work do you like to do least?
  • What do you wish I would start, stop, and continue doing?

You can download samples of our seven types of Candor Questions here.

People are not us and don’t do things the way we do. Don’t assume someone will create a report as you would, participate in a meeting as you would, or dress for an event as you would. Setting expectations before the event of what you want, gives them a chance to be successful.

 

 

Giving Feedback is Hard – Asking for What You Want is Easier. By Shari Harley.


Promote Yourself – It’s Your Job

Promote Yourself

Most managers write performance appraisals from a blank page. They sit at their desks trying to remember all the good things employees did throughout the year. But it’s hard to remember a whole year’s worth of events. So the appraisal ends up being a review of the last quarter, which is all they can remember.

Don’t let this happen to you.

The time to start preparing for your performance appraisal is now. Not in January, now.

Two months ago I wrote a blog encouraging you to ask your boss’s permission to give him/her a list of your 2012 accomplishments. Just in case you didn’t do it, I’m reminding you again.

Most of us are not great at self promotion. We think that if we do great work, the right people will notice, and we’ll get the recognition – status, money, responsibility – we deserve. In fact, many people critique others who are good at self promotion thinking that they’re suck ups, who make themselves look good at others’ expense. And we don’t want to be like that. So we decide, “I’ll quietly do my job well and eventually I’ll get the recognition I deserve.”

You can promote yourself and the work you do without appearing arrogant, self inflated, or trampling on others.

Think about it this way, no one knows the work you do better than you do. Your boss doesn’t follow you around. S/he doesn’t know all the great stuff you do every day. It’s your job to tell her.

Here’s how to promote yourself:

Create a one-page sheet of your projects and accomplishments. Bring this sheet to your one-one-one meetings with your boss, however frequently they occur. At the end of the year these sheets become the cheat sheet from which to write your review. Aggregate all the information you’ve captured during the year and ask your boss’s permission to provide it to help him/her write your appraisal. S/he won’t say no. Writing appraisals is time consuming. If you can make the process easier, it strengthens your relationship with your boss and makes you look good. But you must ask for permission to send the list.

If you haven’t been assembling a list of accomplishments, create one for 2012 now. And start creating a list in January of 2013, and add to the list regularly.

It’s your job to promote yourself and tell the people you work with what you’re doing. Simply say:

“Here’s what I’ve been focused on…”
“Here are a few projects my team finished…”
“Here’s something I’m working on…”
“I’m really proud of…”

Any of these phrases will do the trick. Don’t make your boss guess. Make it easy to promote you.


Why Not Be Awesome?

A few weeks ago a fellow business owner told me about one of his employees whose performance had dropped. The work she was producing was acceptable but not as good she had done in the past and not as good as he knew she was capable of doing. So he asked her to rate her performance.

He asked his employee, “If you had to rate the level of work you’re producing, how engaged you are in your job, and how committed you are to the company, how would you rate yourself?” The employee thought about her manager’s question and replied with a score of 65%. He asked why she wasn’t giving the job 100% of her effort and ability.  She said she didn’t know.

We all have times when we coast and do our minimal best. Sometimes we’re tired and need a break, or don’t like the type of work we’re doing, or don’t like the people we’re working for or with. Those are typical reasons for producing so-so work or having a moderate level of commitment to a company or job.

But sometimes none of those things are at play. We’ve just become complacent.

Evaluate where you are today in your level of commitment to and interest in your job. What score would you give yourself? If you’re not giving 100%, why not?

If you rated yourself below 100% ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you like the work you’re doing?
  • Are you bored?
  • Do you care about the work you’re doing or the work the company does?
  • Do you like who you work with and for?
  • When’s the last time you took time off? Really took time off, without checking email.

If your performance and level of commitment is less than you know you’re capable of doing, and your performance level is related to the questions above, have a conversation with someone in your organization who can help you do something about those things. Things won’t get better without your intervention.

If you’re not sure how to ask for more or different work, read my new book How to Say Anything to Anyone and get the language you need to have this conversation. The book won’t be in bookstores or available on Amazon until January, but we have some advanced copies for our clients.

If there are no issues to address, ask yourself if you’ve just gotten complacent. Have you gotten into the habit of coasting and delivering work that’s not at the level you’re capable of doing, for no particular reason? If that’s the case, recommit to checking back in and raising your performance –just because you can.

Why not be awesome?

 

 


Sign Up

Career tips
you won't get
elsewhere. Sign up
to get a free
tip card.