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Ken Blanchard on Performance Appraisals
By Dr Ken Blanchard

Somewhere, in almost every organisation's literature, it says that its people are its most important resource. Yet, when we ask people in organisations how they like the way their performance is evaluated and how they like the way the review system is run, everybody laughs. No one - except maybe those in personnel who set up the system - seems to have anything good to say about their organisations’ appraisal system. If we think people are important, there is nothing more vital than making sure that their performance is managed and evaluated well.

There are three key parts to managing people's performance.

1) Performance planning
2) Day-to-day coaching
3) Performance evaluation

In performance planning, you set goals and objectives and performance standards. This is when people set clear expectations and get direction for their performance. Day-to-day coaching involves helping people win in accomplishing their goals. Performance evaluation involves sitting down and evaluating people's performance over time.

Two Problems

There are two problems with the way most people's performance is dealt with in organisations. First, that it's not dealt with at all! People complain that they never get feedback on results. They never know how well they are doing unless they make a mistake. They are managed by seagulls who fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on them and then fly out. There is no day-to-day feedback or a general sense of their performance.

The second problem is where a performance review system exists but nobody knows how to do it so that everybody gets rated high. This was the case with one client we worked with where the president told us that he found that 80 percent of the employees in the organisation were rated as "excellent performers," yet the organisation wasn't accomplishing its goals. In this case, the evaluation system obviously had nothing to do with the established goals, because if 80 percent of the people were performing well, the goals of the organisation should have been accomplished.

What often happens in such a situation is that top management decides that the evaluation system is "too soft" and then seeks to make it harder on people. A forced distribution is announced where managers can only rate a certain percentage of their people high or low, and the rest have to be in the middle. This is what we call a normal distribution mentality. This is a very popular way to sort people, as we all know from our school experience with teachers who grade "on the curve."

We have two major concerns with moving to a forced distribution or normal distribution mentality. The first problem is that most organisations do not hire losers. You don't hear them saying, "We lost a few of our best losers last year. We'd better hire some more." Organisations either hire winners - people who have proven track records, or potential winners - people who they think can be trained to be good performers. By admitting this bias in hiring people, managers are clearly skewing the curve to the right; that is they have an inherent bias for having good performers. They are not hiring a normal distribution of the population; therefore, they should not treat the workforce as if there were a normal distribution curve.

Our second concern is that when people are getting rated high and goals aren't being accomplished, the problem is not the performance evaluation system. Rather, the problem really lies in performance planning and day-to-day coaching. The problem with most organisations is that in the planning stages, individual goals do not have much to do with the organisation goals. So often, people are asked to evaluate their employees on such things as "willingness to take responsibility" and "initiative" - all kinds of things that nobody knows the meaning of. When you're asked to evaluate employees on things that neither you nor your employees understand, their energy shifts to politically supporting the hierarchy and making sure they have a good relationship with their boss.

Performance Planning and Coaching

In performance planning, goal setting has to be consistent with the key goals that the organisation needs to accomplish to survive and move forward. Once goals are clear, managers become cheerleaders, supporters, encouragers and guides for their people; helping their performance move in the direction of the goals. When it comes to goal accomplishment, managers are just as much responsible for their people's performance as their people are.

If you want to improve employees' self-esteem and goal accomplishment, performance planning and day-to-day coaching need to be the major focus. Performance evaluation should only be a review of things that you've been discussing with your people all along. Any new information shared with the employee at performance evaluation time is inappropriate. It is only a review.

Our work with the Situational Leadership® II process that we developed has had a significant impact on employee appraisal because SLII® theory states that "there is no one best leadership style." It all depends on the development level of the follower on each of his or her particular tasks. A leader and follower must jointly establish goals and objectives and, then, determine for each of those goals and objectives what kind of supervision the boss needs to provide, what kind of help is needed, and how the manager is going to provide that assistance.

We call this process Partnering for Performance. That's really what's needed. The whole process of managers running around as judges, critics and evaluators should be forgotten and the emphasis should be instead on performance planning and coaching, so that when employee evaluations are conducted and 80 percent of the people get rated excellent, the organisation is moving forward full tilt.

Leadership and the One Minute Manager
Kenneth Blanchard, et al

Leadership and the One Minute Manager (The One Minute Manager)

Leadership and The One Minute Manager goes straight to the heart of management as it describes the effective, adaptive styles of Situational Leadership. In clear and simple terms it teaches how to become a flexible and successful leader, fitting your style to the needs of the individual and to the situation at hand, and using the One Minute Manager techniques to enhance the motivation of others. "Situational Leadership has been the cornerstone of our management training programme for the last five years. Now the model is available to everyone through this action-oriented book" MIKE ROSE, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Holiday Inns Inc.

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Ken Blanchard is the founder and Chief executive of The Ken Blanchard Companies, an international training company specialising in leadership, organisational change, team building and customer service. Contact the UK office on 020 8540 5404 or send email enquiries to janet.leeson@kenblanchard.com. Website: www.kenblanchard.com.





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