Truth be told – limiting me to 5 of anything is like telling a junkie that he has can only have 1 fix this week. I’m getting the shakes just thinking about which 5 to list. The most important? The most often overlooked? Alphabetically? I’ll go with my gut and just list the first 5 that happen to pop into my head – so feel free to add to this list based on your own method of organizing your thoughts.
1. They are a reflection of your performance too – that’s right… is your team underperforming? Hmmmmmm, who is the common denominator I wonder? Perhaps someone threw you in the deep end of the management pool and never bothered to teach you, oh I don’t know…how to manage people? Maybe the lack of performance or your inability to accurately assess stems from you? Ouch – that had to leave a mark.
2. Are you really evaluating the team’s performance or a collection of individuals? Most teams aren’t truly teams. Face it, in corporate America we don’t really act like we’re on a team. I’ve been on teams, football, baseball, military – those are teams. When’s the last time you pulled a co-worker aside and told him/her that she wasn’t pulling his/her weight and if that if s/he didn’t get their @$$ in gear you would give them an attitude adjustment? Never would be the correct response. Because in corporate we don’t hold each other accountable like REAL teams do – we wait for the manager (i.e. coach) to do it for us.
3. Check your biases at the door. Don’t get upset but we all have our filters, our opinions and, as my 8 year old says, our schemas. These are our collection of experiences that shape how we perceive the world, and others. So here are a few HR/Psychoish terms to look up, understand, and keep handy the next time you’re doing an evaluation because we are all at risk of being subjective in how we view others. Recency Error, Central Tendency, Primacy Effect, Halo Effect, Horn Effect, Excessive Leniency/Stiffness, Personal Bias and Spillover.
4. Assessments are subjective. Aside from performance reviews failing to do what they’re intended to (another blog) the next largest issue I have with them is people (HR or Business Leaders) trying to make them purely quantitative and objective. By definition assessments are subjective, judgmental and based on one’s opinion. If I don’t like you I can find a plethora of examples to support MY ASSESSMENT of you. And when we try to make the assessments more quantitative all we do is lose any ability to provide a narrative on someone’s behavior that is impacting their performance. So realize it’s your opinion and like belly buttons, everyone has one (that was my g-rated version of course). The trick is to be aware that this is just one opinion and try to frame it in a manner that helps move the individual in the direction you desire.
5. What is the goal? Have you remembered to start with the end in mind? Make sure the assessment you are using supports the results you desire. As an example, a solutions consultant was number one in her company. She never followed the approved demo script but held, consistently, the title of number 1 for many years straight for the volume of accounts she helped to close. However, she was also rated as an average performer because she was reviewed on her adherence to following the demo guidelines. Or how about the Customer Service professional who followed the company’s mantra of going above and beyond for the customer but was written-up for violating a loss prevention policy when she brought a pair of expensive shoes to a customer’s event because the customer, who happens to spend well over $500,000 a year, broke her heel at a charity auction and couldn’t limp away and drive to the store as it was closing? The point is – make sure you are assessing what is important. Measure what matters.
My final thoughts on team performance – set clear expectations, hire to core values, manage to those values, reward to those values and encourage a true team environment. This includes pay for performance and not curving merit increases based on how many people you have – that only pits your team against each other as they all scramble for their share of the merit pie. And consider yourself a part of the team – not just the manager. You should be there to help them succeed by supporting them and removing obstacles. Be aware of your own failings and work to improve them – that will build a true team environment and earn you some street cred in the process.
By: Keith Meyerson
Vice President, Talent Management & Organizational Strategies at Bluewater Learning, Inc.