I’ve been pretty clear that I think performance reviews — as we have them built now — are a terrible idea. Everyone hates them with the passion of a thousand suns, and they add almost zero value to the organization, particularly from a proactive standpoint. (I understand they are sometimes used as a defense / covering one’s ass / paper trail. While this does add value in a twisted kind of way, it’s just not very noble.)
The goal here isn’t to destroy a touchpoint, however. We don’t want to leave a performance review shaped-hole.
That time can be made very useful… if we reclaim that space.
First, we must get rid of the weakness-focused mentality that drives reviews now. Then, we can repurpose that conversation time and expand it into something that is proactive, adds real value, and — gasp! — can be an enjoyable experience for both sides.
To that end, here are two suggestions to start making your review process better:
First, switch the direction.
Instead of being the one evaluating, let your organization evaluate you.
This is called measuring engagement, and it’s one of the most important things an organization can do. (By the way, my partners and I have a great way to measure this; please get in touch if we can help you.)
Most of the way we work isn’t taught, it’s caught. Model the behavior that’s desired, and it will trickle down. (For more on this point and why it’s so essential, please check out a great post from Bruce Johnson.)
Second, pretend you’re a coach.
Imagine you are coaching a basketball team. On the first day, you come in to welcome the players. You then let them go about their business (practicing, or whatever it is teams do) and check back in a year later to give them their performance review — being sure to inform them of all the things they’ve been doing wrong the whole time.
Terrible idea, right?
Do I really need to explain the analogy here?
It would be ludicrous to coach this way. Why do we think this method would create great performance in our organizations?
Engagement is about creating space for regular conversations — they don’t necessarily need to be long, drawn-out, epic talks. Just ways to check in. After a play, during a play, tips, tricks, constant feedback, continual improvement.
If you are a coach, not a “manager,” it’s the most natural behavior in the world.
What Does A Great Workplace Look Like? by Josh Allan Dykstra on April 7th, 2014
A Talent Imbalance by Josh Allan Dykstra on July 17th, 2011
"Introducing the Helios Launch Experience" on Helios Blog by Josh Allan Dykstra on April 18th, 2019