Performance Reviews: There’s a much better way

Sat to talk story with a few managers who are currently facing their annual deadline with completing performance appraisals.

If you’re in corporate life you probably know the drill:
Performance reviews are conducted annually in one-on-one manager/employee appraisal meetings (and mandated), and managers are required to use a format designed by an HR office or some consultant, so consistent performance ratings can be used throughout the company for supposed equity in compensation levels — a poor reason for a bad process.

Employees hate it, and managers hate it, and yet scores of companies continue to uphold the practice. Pure yuck.

As you might guess from my tone so far, we don’t use that system in any of my Managing with Aloha-modeled businesses (we don’t have Job Position Descriptions either; we co-write individual Ho‘ohana Statements).

Do we review performance? Of course! The difference is that we do it constantly, coaching and mentoring on the job as the best possible context for having those conversations: Working on our Ho‘ohana is an everyday thing (and compensation is handled in another way as well). Thanks to opportunities furnished by The Daily 5 Minutes and our value-mapping practices, business partners (i.e. employees) are often the ones to initiate conversations on their performance with managers.

However I know that many managers have no choice but to comply with mandates, and like those I just coached, they have to work within the system they have until they are able to change it. Well, you CAN make improvements, making them work for you right now. Embrace your Systems Thinker: As we have learned, people can fix broken processes. Processes cannot fix broken-in-spirit people.

Here is what I advise.

Keep the good, get rid of the bad

In short: Turn your mandates into a positive and highly useful process.

  • Start with the basics of what you are required to do,
  • Improve the quality of those basics when done by your hand, and then
  • Build new improvements from there.

Here’s how.

1. Learn everything there is to know about your mandate. Good managers never wing it or fake it when it comes to putting anything in writing in regard to the performance of another human being. If you’re feeling somewhat powerless at this point in changing anything about the system as it now stands, imagine how your employees feel! They are counting on you: Hold yourself accountable for what is a profound responsibility.

Put your own manager or HR department to work for you, and get their coaching. Ask all your questions, and be crystal clear on the domino effect created by any appraisal form you complete: forms largely exist to expedite other processes.

2. Do your homework. If you’re working within a mandated system, you’re not alone. Chances are the employees in your charge have been reviewed before, and by others: Learn their history. I don’t necessarily recommend you use it (each situation is likely to have different variables requiring your judgment), but you should definitely be aware of it: you can’t build a new house (and culture of Aloha) without a solid foundation.

Second, put your feelers out for other managers who have a good reputation in your company (managing and leading with Aloha), and ask them to share any of their lessons learned with you: You may be pleasantly surprised in discovering great workarounds (legal ones) which already exist in your company culture.

3. Add some heart to add good energy. I cannot emphasize this enough: In “starting with the basics of what you are required to do” make the ‘official’ annual appraisal meeting a positive experience, helping without hurting. Do what you have to (more on this in the next section on timing) but be absolutely sure the annual appraisal itself ends on a high note: Positive and useful.

How can it be useful? Do have the appraisal focus on Ho‘ohana goal-setting, with action-specific goals that are achievable week to week (not year to year). Hō‘imi: Lay the groundwork for a near future flush with positive expectancy. Always remember that the energy of your people will fuel their capacity to perform magnificently going forward, and thus, it’s your greatest resource too: All other business assets flow from the performance energy of human beings. Your job as manager is to light those fires, not put them out.

4. Ace your timing. Until you can change the system itself, do whatever is required of you, by doing what you have to at the best possible time. If you have to deal with some negativity and have a conversation about poor performance, do so and do not avoid it. Be a good boss: Never shy from your opportunities to teach, facilitate, coach and mentor.

Corrective conversations do NOT have to occur during an annual appraisal: They should happen before then, and in their best context on the job. Alaka‘i managers will create a coaching m.o. where they deal with any messes first, and then use the annual appraisal as yet another time to celebrate a sweet victory with having done so. Give that victory to the employee whose performance you are coaching and mentoring as a win you can log during the ‘official’ review.

5. Keep conversation as the construct of each working relationship. Annual appraisals are a pain when you only do them annually. What I’m suggesting to you is that whatever is required becomes the culmination of better practices you’ve adopted day in, and day out. We talk about conversation so much here because it’s easy, enjoyable, and effective.

Work with Ho‘ohana initiatives to fuel performance energies in your workplace group huddles. Do the Daily 5 Minutes ® and you will have a wealth of one on one conversations:

I need to be crystal clear about something:
If you’re not giving your staff the gift of the Daily Five Minutes ®
you’re not Managing with Aloha „¢

Turn up the Volume, and Manage Loudly:
Don’t give up too soon. Enjoy the music of managing well.

This need not be overwhelming:
Don’t Just Add, Replace. Own the 100%
Scroll down to the footnote tags and see how much this relates to!

Bonus Idea: One of the practices we incorporate in the ‘Ohana in Business Model ® is the Annual Nānā i ke kumu Interview: We literally re-interview all our business partners (including our vendors and suppliers) to strengthen our relationships with the knowledge of any life shifts which have occurred over the past year. It’s a time we revisit innate talents, strength activities, and sense of place well-being as we purposely catch up with each other. Why do so many managers only do this when they first hire people?

Will this be enough for you?

Finally, please do question your own influence: Stretch and grow it, and do not underestimate what you are capable of. What can you do to effect change in the larger system? How can you be a change agent where you work so a bad system goes away forever?

I think of what I’ve just outlined for you in this post as managing well: As I love to say, managing and leading are verbs. Will you be satisfied with this, or will you now lead? One problem with leadership, is simply that we don’t have enough of it.

As I mentioned before, the obstacle faced is usually your company’s compensation structure if that’s what ratings are tied to: Break the ties which bind by offering to help them create a much better solution.


Curiosity tears down walls

Curiosity is such a strong and compelling force.

Curiosity tears down walls

I snapped the photo above while walking through this construction tunnel. As you can see, there was no great mystery to what was on the other side of the tunnel, erected as a safety barrier, and yet someone had to have this mid-tunnel window, breaking through the wall best they could, and just enough to get a peek through to the other side.

Ironically, they are building another wall, an even higher one.

People love windows

We love windows in the way they let light shine in, both literally and metaphorically.

For instance, we love to look into the inner workings of a company. We feel privileged when given that look inside, and will applaud their transparency.

What can you show us where you work?

Conversely, is there anything you’re conscious of hiding from our view? What are your reasons? Would it be better to simply clean up whatever mess could potentially embarrass you?

A window with a guide is even better

Earlier this week, I made a call to American Express about a charge which shouldn’t have been on my credit card statement, and was pleasantly surprised with how the woman I spoke with turned the call into a great customer service experience.

Once the reason for my call was settled, she asked me if I’d like to take the time to review my account in other ways, including a request that I never be put through the automated voice mail system again while calling, and go straight through to a representative. She ended up tweaking my account in 5 different ways, each of them delighting me.

This was my window: she never put me on hold as many do because their computer system needs time to do its magic, and they don’t know what to say to you. Usually the silence is too uncomfortable, and they rather run the risk (which all customers hate) that we’ll get disconnected. Not this time: She had the same waits to fill, so she made the silence comfortable for both of us by talking me through the steps she was taking, sprinkled with statements about how much she loved her job. What an ambassador for American Express!

I’ve become someone who only uses my credit card when I have to. I much prefer paying in cash as a habit which makes me think twice before buying and keeps me out of debt. (Cash also helps the vendors I eagerly support, for they won’t have to pay any credit card merchant fees either.) However there are times cash won’t do, especially with all the travel I do, so I have two credit cards I’ll use when the need arises. I’ve kept both as my choices because the companies give me customer service windows that strip away any mystery of uncertainty (the other card is issued by USAA, one of the best-run businesses I have ever had the pleasure of working with).

This definitely fits into Managing with Aloha. Curiosity, windows in, and the light of Mālamalama (enlightenment.) A good way to revisit my own business models and improve them too: Model Me This.

Archive Aloha: Another story about customer service desks: Put that thing down!

Be a Noble Consumer, and Pay

No more frugality.

‘Free’ has been completely devalued: “Free” never is, so don’t ask

Join me instead, in my movement toward Noble Consumerism.

Value your community of preferred providers, if you want them in your ‘Imi ola (best possible life, a life you create by your chosen design). You need them to survive and flourish.

Pay for what you want more of. Think of it as the support you give.

Let’s change the language surrounding ‘profit’

“Wow, you’re very passionate about this, aren’t you.”

“I think of it as the optimistic resourcefulness of Ho‘ohana, and yeah, it feels terrific to get that passion back. Now tell me, how do we move this discussion into the arena of social entrepreneurship? Why can’t it be profitable too?”

We (me and a small group of managers) were talking about financial literacy within for-profit business models, specifically the OIB (Managing with Aloha ‘Ohana in Business model) and I made a statement which surprised them at first. I’d said that I don’t consider non-profits to be admirable business models, and would never create one — not without radically reinventing them first.

I wasn’t picking on any non-profit in particular, and the causes they champion, however noble, weren’t relevant to our discussion. I take issue with their basic premise: By definition, a non-profit is ‘not for profit.’ The businesses that I prefer to champion, don’t consider ‘profit’ to be a dirty word: We strive for profit, for the financial currency it can be.

Without earnings, there is no energy of gainful employment, is there. There’s no further financing of mission and vision.

Money isn’t evil: It’s a means to an end. What you do with it, after you have earned it, is another way you assign worth and priority to whatever you personally value. Same goes for a business for profit. MWA, for example, values Ho‘ohana earnings, and Sense of Place investments instead of ‘charities.’

An example of the ‘financial literacy’ and economic sensibility in our MWA OIB for-profit business model, is that everyone is paid for their Ho‘ohana (as it translates into their deliverable into our business), and no volunteers are needed. We feel it’s duplicitous to pay non-profit executives, and compensate a board of directors in kind, while expecting others to work for free. We compensate everyone fairly, and expect to pay full price. We don’t ask others for donations, or for their “pro bono” services: “without charge for the public good” makes no sense to me. The way I see it, equitable payment for any goods and services provided is what actually defines ‘the public good.’

There’s this coaching we’ve always used in Managing with Aloha workplaces connected to the One Minute Manager concept of catching people doing something right:

Reward the behavior you want repeated.
Correct everything else, with Aloha.

Business models are yet another example of the wisdom in that coaching. Good business models are aligned with good values, and they add value to our communities.

It feels great to be back on track

I admit to you that I stumbled with this over the past few years too, dodging all the rubble of our Great Recession. Just ask my family: They had no choice but to newly adopt frugality with me. Yuck.

I allowed my clients to renegotiate my pricing, and as a result, I devalued my services. In my speaking, I granted honorariums, lulled by the guise of honor in that word, despite the sinking feeling it actually gave me, a chisel to my self worth, and to the credibility of the MWA movement. Double, triple Yuck.

At the time, it felt like something we were supposed to do, until the day my husband said something which hit me like a ton of bricks: “How do you figure, that if the whole world suffers, we have to suffer along with them?”

My daughter chipped in, “Yeah mom, what happened to showing everyone the better way?” It was the winter of 2009 and we were Christmas shopping. My son added his 2 cents, saying, “Yeah! Down with Ebenezer Scrooge!”

Such a smart family.

It got me thinking again, about why I’ve always loved working within the art and science of business. Business enterprise, and smart business models, have always represented freedom and creative possibility to me. We are able to corral our resources, whatever they may be, and Ho‘o — make things happen.

So no more back-sliding, even if we fall into another recession tomorrow. The talk-story I had the other day with those managers reminded me to write this up so I could print it out, and paste it on this inspiration wall I have, never to be forgotten again.

A Noble Consumer’s Manifesto

No more frugality. Downsizing is cool, but frugality represents a scarcity mentality.
Palena ‘ole reminds us of our abundance instead: We humans are creative, inventive and resourceful.
Life is meant to be enjoyed to our fullest Aloha capacity.

‘Free’ has been completely devalued, and I won’t be party to that trend of disrespect.
I will gladly pay all fair and equitable pricing, compensate people well, and thereby encourage them to create more of what adds greatest value to our world.

I refuse to devalue anyone’s creation (their product innovation).
I refuse to devalue anyone’s time and intellectual property (their service to me).
The financial support I give others, will be Ho‘ohana support for their exceptional work, and future learning.

I will proudly continue my Managing with Aloha ‘Ohana in Business movement.
I will champion Noble Consumerism, understanding it as support of our working communities.
I won’t be an irresponsible or wasteful consumer, and my money will go toward the better motivations of others, rewarding what has a good and positive effect on our world.
I will live modestly, within my means, and valuing the right things (what is Pono for me and my family).

Join me?

Archive Aloha of Related Posts:

  1. Prepping for Ho‘ohana with Financial Literacy: Have you heard this before? “Do what you love, and the money will follow.”
  2. Money isn’t evil: Being ‘broke’ is a mistake, not a failure
  3. Values are the Bedrock of Hard Reality: “Soft and fuzzy” has taken a severe hit with our recent economic tumbles. You know what I mean; those workplace humanity concepts which fall beyond the bottom line.
  4. Wealth is a Value: If asked, “What’s the value of more money to you?” would you and your staff answer in the same way, even if I asked you to keep your answers in the context of the business?
  5. Drive well: Pay People Enough: The post-recessionary economy is driving compensation levels down, down, down, and business owners, we must pay people well, fully understanding how it will affect their motivation, and thus the job/work they do for you, and with you.