Death To Performance Reviews

Posted by on Apr 11, 2011 in Leadership | 7 Comments

Last week a good friend of mine, Jim Seybert, emailed a few of us in his circle who teach a strengths-based philosophy at work. His question was:

I have a client who’s asking for a Top Ten Things A Manager Can Do list to help 30+ supervisors maximize the strengths concept with their 350 employees. I think ten items is too many so I’m going to give them a Top 3. What would be on your list of practical things a manager can do to encourage the strengths experience with his/her workers?

My answer:

As a manager/leader of other people, the most important FIRST thing you can do to begin buildng a strengths-based environment in your department or group is kill your performance reviews. And when I say “kill,” I mean completely. Right now. Cold turkey. Gone. Done. Over. Kaput.

Let’s speak honestly for a moment… everyone hates performance reviews anyway, right? You hate them. Your people hate them. They suck, and I mean this in the most literal way — they suck the life right out of the individuals on your team, all while creating extra work for everyone.

Why do them at all?

Don’t.

Instead, replace that destructive, inhuman process with an Individual Development Plan. This development plan should: 1) focus on the person’s strengths, 2) assist them in growing as a human being over time, and 3) help them contribute more value to the business.

This process is far healthier for everyone involved and will yield a much higher return for the company down the line. (If you don’t know how to do this or want more info, please send me a message and I’d be happy to help.)

P.S. If you still have doubts that performance reviews are deadly, please read this.

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If you liked that post, then try these…

Ridiculous Work Habits: “Experience” by Josh Allan Dykstra on August 15th, 2011

The Sexy Organization by Josh Allan Dykstra on June 20th, 2011

Tiger Woods Trains 6 Minutes A Day? (A Nod to Tom Peters) by Josh Allan Dykstra on June 13th, 2011

7 Comments

  1. Megan
    April 11, 2011

    Another great post and excellent topic, Josh! My company has annual performance reviews and no matter how great I feel I’ve done throughout the prior year, I always get so anxious over them. My boss, although, has monthly 1-on-1 meetings with each team member which I really love! We can use the time as we please so I always have a brief agenda set for individual development items.

    Things I like to address at these 1-on-1 meetings include: barriers I’m finding in my attempts to meet my corporate-set goals for the year, questions about ‘big picture’ stuff (anticipating future movement of the company), and questions about my manager’s thoughts on progress/development. We touch base on my personal goals too – like how I’m doing with my resolution not to work myself to death this year, etc.

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  2. Ben
    April 11, 2011

    Yep! This isn’t the first I’ve heard of it, so I’m glad to hear it gaining momentum. I’ve never seen a performance review that really helped anyone. In fact, the very fact of them usually makes you look backwards rather than focus on growing forward. It seems like it is more about justifying your pay and existence for one more year rather than helping that next year be the most beneficial it can be…in fact, that’s exactly what it ends up being. Thanks for the encouragement!

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  3. Jamie Farrell
    April 12, 2011

    Hmmmm….I like the positive spin you are putting on the dreaded performance review, however; you have nothing quantitative in it. People need to be held accountable yearly to their numbers and I’m not sure that can happen with what you’ve proposed. thoughts?

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  4. Megan
    April 12, 2011

    Jamie, quantitative goals are really important – good point. I think that Josh’s suggestion allows for the opportunity to include accountability to numbers though. If someone’s development plan included pathing to a promotion into a certain position, their quantitative goals could be set more specifically to get them to that said role. For a sales person that specializes in small commercial markets but wants to get into industrial markets, their quantitative portion of the development plan could be: close 25 new industrial customers in order to demonstrate sales skills in industrial market. Or something similar to that.

    Reply
  5. Matt Dudley
    April 12, 2011

    Great post Josh!

    Having the experience of being coached by you through a personal development plan has been (and remains to be) a rewarding experience. I am finding that some of the things that we laid out 2 years ago are starting to really take shape and I don’t think they would have if we hadn’t gone through the process. Thanks buddy!

    Reply
  6. Josh Allan Dykstra
    April 13, 2011

    Thanks for all your thoughts and comments, everyone! I’m very encouraged knowing there are great people like yourselves out there trying to figure out how to make this process more meaningful for everyone.

    My thoughts on quantitative goals:

    First, most companies I’ve interacted with DO put a lot of emphasis on numbers (because, let’s face it, they’re easy; 2 is always bigger than 1). Unfortunately, they rarely put much focus on making sure the right things are being measured. Goes back to that whole “not everything that can be counted counts” idea. This is a big concern for me, because as the world reorients itself, the things that used to matter really don’t anymore (refer to my post on Value if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

    Second, I completely agree with you that some goals should be quantitative. (In fact, a third of Strengths Doctors‘ model of what motivates and engages people at work is about measurement; I’ll write more about this another day). People want clear and measurable goals — but these things are always more valuable when they are birthed from a place of intrinsic motivation, not from some kind of mandated command and control top-down thing. Not that any of you were suggesting that. :-)

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  7. Change ConquestSecret of great leaders regarding personal development plan!
    September 4, 2013

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