One Degree

Performance counts.

One of the most common challenges in the workplace is performance management. The very phrase turns many of us off, and then we become confused between appraisal, evaluation and management.

Its a headache and who needs a headache.

We dismiss it.

While I could attempt a long treatise on the process of performance management (and it is a process that you engage in every day knowingly or not) I could also write what I tend to tell others verbally as I coach them. I could talk about one degree.

Every day around the world in some form or fashion people in myriad industries sit down for their performance review, or employee evaluation or other such name. Manager and employee “review” the last year’s performance (as if…) and then there is some discussion about merit. I.e, how much a raise did I get?

This process ensures two things: people pay no attention to the words because all they care about is the [potential] pay raise, and managers delay the raise conversation as long as possible knowing that whatever they’ve set employees will not think it sufficient.

Does this sound like a good plan? Would you design this for your business?

Let’s try it a different way.

What if every day you gave your team feedback. Real feedback. What if every day you acted in a true coaching fashion and provided real-time feedback on the good, the bad and the ugly in the office place. What if, in this true coaching fashion, you provided a specific point in conversation that lasted maybe 30 seconds, the way real people talk to each other all day. Do you think that would make a difference?

It does.

When employees deviate from expectations, they do so over time gradually. They miss expectations by one percent or one degree. Take attendance for example, still the number one performance problem we have in the office. Long lunches, pattern absences and the constant early departure on Fridays all add up to headaches for the manager.

And left unchallenged, this small deviation builds into a practice: I always take a long lunch on Friday! Really?

What if the first time we noticed behavior with attendance that was counter productive we found our employee and said something like, I know I’ve mentioned this before but maybe I wasn’t clear: regular attendance is really important for us and I need you to work on it. Done. Real-time. Thirty seconds. Over.

You see, the problem with performance management as we practice it today is that we let all these exceptions – attendance, behavior, quality, quantity, etc., – simply build up over time and then we attempt to categorize them and catalogue them at a single point in the year. The employee is often overwhelmed, saying, “why didn’t you tell me this was a problem?! I could have changed it six months ago!”

If I had a nickel for overtime someone said that about their review… That their behavior had been tolerated for an extended period of time and they were in effect blind-sided by the annual review.

There’s a better way. When employees deviate from expectations by even one degree call their attention to it in a professional and personal way in the moment. You see, one degree of separation only takes one degree of correction.

Performance management is something we do every day: the behaviors we tolerate are the standards we accept over time, and missing expectations by as little as one degree can enable employees to be widely off the mark by the time a formal review is due with the degree of correction required much more onerous.

Do your employees a favor; hell, do yourself a favor. Have real time coaching conversation every day about both the good and bad aspects of performance.

One degree left unattended creates a huge gap over time.

Talk to your people today.

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3 thoughts on “One Degree

  1. This is so true, some organizations/managers will keep you in the dark for an entire year before discussing your performance. And then my favorite part – before telling you anything, your manager asks how you think you’ve done in the past year! They should give out awards for guessing correctly, because it’s exactly that, guessing. And then something you have done for the past few months that your manager didn’t think deserved a comment all of a sudden becomes the perfect excuse to refuse that raise you’ve been discussing or a bonus that you were sure you’d be getting…

  2. Reblogged this on Carlos Escobar and commented:
    I love this post from Christopher Demers.

    In it, he brings to light how team performance is less about bold, sweeping actions and more about managing “the little things”. It’s the little things that add up, good and bad, to major changes in performance.

    When I read this I thought about how little investments over time end up to a large retirement portfolio over time. It’s not about the big deposit – it’s about the application of discipline over the course of time.

    The same applies to performance management.

    Here’s my favorite quote from his post:
    “What if every day you gave your team feedback. Real feedback. What if every day you acted in a true coaching fashion and provided real-time feedback on the good, the bad and the ugly in the office place. What if, in this true coaching fashion, you provided a specific point in conversation that lasted maybe 30 seconds, the way real people talk to each other all day. Do you think that would make a difference?”

    Give this a read.

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