"My aim is to help you understand how performance management really is killing performance, but more important, to show you exactly what you can do about it" - M. Tamra Chandler
I’ve managed people for over 20 years and there have been a lot of positive changes since my newbie banker days. I have a passion for discovering the strengths and uniqueness that each individual brings to the table. After unearthing the special traits that we all have, I love unlocking the magic and bringing out the best in people. Growing people’s strengths and watching them excel is like mothering a garden into full bloom and stepping back to enjoy the beauty. What I hate about management? Performance reviews! There is no worse experience out there for an employee or a manager. They are like a dreaded once a year reunion with the side of the family that no one wants to see. We do it because we have to and move on.
Technology and innovation have thrust us all into a fast changing and tumultuous world. Change is an everyday experience. Performance management has remained the same old agenda with newer, fresher names and warm fuzzies. In short, they demotivate rather than uplift and motivate people. M. Tamra Chandler isn’t content in keeping with the past. Her book How Performance Management is Killing Performance – and What to Do about it kicks performance reviews to the curb and offers hope for leaders to change the performance management process to truly coach, give relevant feedback, motivate, and engage, and grow people.
The first step that we need to take is to reboot the performance management (PM) process. Leaders need to rethink what they know and believe. The process of mid-year and annual reviews with assessments sprinkled in doesn’t cut it anymore. It just isn’t working and employees only become discouraged and far from motivated. Next, we need to redesign what we do. Rebooting the process means that leaders need to trust their people and be willing to customize the PM process because no two organizations are the same. We need change with the entire performance management process.
Ultimately all leaders want to develop people, reward them equitably, and really drive organizational performance. It’s a simple process but so much can go wrong. Ms. Chandler eagerly shows us eight flaws to the process and eight fundamental shifts.
8 Flaws of Performance management
1. A Theory without evidence is just a bad theory. There’s just no evidence that traditional performance appraisals do anything to actually help people perform.
2. Nobody opens up to the person who pokes them in the eye. The ways we measure performance today hinder feedback and limit honesty.
3. Nobody remembers the good work. Amen! Did you ever notice that the tiny thing you did wrong morphs into a monster during review time?
4. No man or woman is an island. We focus way too much on the individual even though it takes a tribe to bring change and innovation. Let not just focus on the island.
5. We are not machines. Some may act like it however….
6. We are not machines – redux. Reviews are judgments and fairness and standardization are thrown out the window folks. Put the people back in the process.
7. Let me introduce you to your competition – now play nice together. Comparing people is a bad idea. It breeds competition especially when companies use a ranking system and pits them against one another.
8. We are not Pavlov’s dog. Let’s face it. Most people want more than money and it just won’t buy happiness. We want personal rewards and to feel valued like we are really making a difference.
At this point I am sure that you are vigorously shaking your head up and down in agreement. We’ve all been dropped into the performance appraisal chair on both sides of the desk. I hate giving reviews and I really dread receiving them. Both chairs feel more like its judgment day than an enriching growth process that benefits the individual or teams. To make change, we need to shift how we look at the PM process and think differently.
8 Fundamental shifts that can impact the performance management process
1. Open the door. If there is no transparency there will not be any trust. Ms. Chandler urges us to stop the secrets and let people know where they stand.
2. Give the steering wheel to your employees. Shift from management driven thinking to employee driven action.
3. Change your focus. Don’t beat people up for past performance. Shift to focus on future capabilities and on the “performance preview” for each person. Look at how people can work together.
4. Abandon uniformity. Quit relying on structure and a one size fits all approach. Bring more customization and new ideas to the process.
5. Welcome more voices to the conversation. Most organizations have a set and concise PM system. It’s bland and singular. Instead we need to look at employee differences, cultural backgrounds, and a more customized approach.
6. Stop policing, start empowering. Managers need to stop controlling and granting too much oversight. Become more flexible and step in when there are issues that need addressing and then step back.
7. Incent collaboration. Pull away from individual metrics and become more collaborative. It offers more ideas and opportunities to everyone.
8. Get real with rewards. We need to get away from just paying for performance. Let’s get back to paying for capabilities and really rewarding contributions. Link pay to market value, experience. And capabilities.
Once we learn what is wrong with the whole PM process and start to look at it in new ways with fresh eyes we are given some meat on how to redesign the performance management process. How Performance Management is Killing Performance – and What to Do About it introduces five phases to redesign your process, people, and organization. M. Tamra Chandler offers some key tools and techniques to lead us through redesigning what isn’t working for organizations today. Here are the five phases:
1. Mobilize. Plan properly, invite people, and get started.
2. Sketch. Verify that your team is aligned and understands the facts and where they are going. Sketch your frames against your goals.
3. Configure. After you plan and have a blueprint on where you are going it’s time to pick your practices, options, then test and validate solutions.
4. Build solutions. This can be tough. You need to be aware of dependencies and variations as you build.
Ms. Chandler offers in-depth intricate tools and techniques that will enable teams to dig deep and bring up some fresh ideas and solutions. There is an entire tool box chapter that is worth spending time on. We are introduced to design principal questions, sample statements, sketch pads and many others. The tool box is designed for real hands on use and paired with real stories in real organizations that set about making changes to their systems. The knowledge and tools are priceless! The examples that M. Tamra Chandler shares bring all the ideas in the book together and show how the tools put forth work in action.
Whenever we spend time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears on making change and positively impacting others we want it to last and build. Look at all the projects or changes you have either worked on or seen crumble. It hurts, it’s discouraging, and it can deflate your confidence. In short, any changes you make need to stick. They need to remain steady yet become a life of their own. Here’s what you need to do to for lasting change:
1. Lead the change.
2. Make the case and sell it.
3. Plan the change but don’t shove it down people’s throats.
4. Create your change plan.
5. Gather change champions.
6. Expect resistance.
7. Defend against naysayers.
8. Build your courage
How Performance Management is Killing Performance – and What to Do about it is a book that I would love to drop into every leader’s lap that touches any piece of a performance review. Too many organizations try to plot people into boxes or graphs and never go any further to find new ways to truly engage people during this process to bring empowerment and increased engagement. Why do we still stick with a process that we can prove has no impact on performance? Why do we stack rate people and pit them against their coworkers like animals?
Organizations have come so far the last ten years in finding innovative ways to allow people to work remotely with technology or connect and lead projects across countries. We are better at identifying and offering solutions in more than half the time it took us years ago. Yet we still can’t solve for the most important part of our organizations – PEOPLE. Pick up Chandler’s book today and become part of the movement to bring needed impactful change in your company and for your people.