Performance Review Failures

What Every Manager Needs to Do Before Year End to Take Dread Out of the Process
Performance reviews create more stress toward the end of the year.
Many managers–and employees–dread the process. 
dreadHere are five common mistakes managers make when it comes to performance reviews and what you can do instead.
1. Procrastinating.  This is one of the most common failures. Managers become “too busy” to focus on employees. They keep putting off time to meet to review performance. Some even punt the appraisal process altogether. As a result, employees feel neglected, unimportant.
Performance Review Tip #1: Make delivering feedback a top priority. Commit to a specific date and time to do the employee evaluation, and make it stick. It will pay off when employees believe managers care enough to focus on what matters to them.
2. Duplicating last year’s performance review. It might seem like a shortcut to copy most of what was included in a previous review, but it doesn’t serve your employee well.
Performance Review Tip #2: Get a fresh view. It may require a little more work, but you can evaluate performance better through a new lens. Give the process the thought and attention it deserves.
3. Promoting self-evaluation. Research shows that most employees do not assess their own performance accurately. Ever had to argue the difference between “meets” and “exceeds”?
Performance Review Tip #3: Trust your judgment. Be clear and confident about your own perception of an employee’s performance. You are in your role for a reason.
4. Over-complicating the process. No need to cover too much ground reviewing every little detail of performance. Don’t over-explain. Ideally there should be no surprises if you’ve been giving adequate feedback to employees throughout the year.
Performance Review Tip #4: Stick to the areas of performance that are most relevant to the job. Keep it simple and succinct.
5. Dwelling on the negative. Employees are naturally nervous about receiving negative feedback.  It’s acceptable to address areas that need improvement, but not when positive performance is minimized.
Performance Review Tip #5: Focus more on strengths. Help team members determine how they can leverage their strengths even more. It’s easier and faster to grow your people and business by building on strengths than trying to correct weaknesses.
To make the most of your next performance review, check your own attitude first. 

Consider yourself a coach.

Instead of viewing the employee performance review process as a painful requirement, consider it an opportunity to appreciate and motivate your team.

PS–If performance reviews are stressing you, let me know if I can help.

A Labor Day Message for Leaders: Trying to Achieve Work Life Balance

Trying to achieve work life balance? It’s time to stop working and enjoy the holiday weekend. The reality is that it’s difficult for many leaders, executives and business owners to stop thinking about work.

work life balanceIf you have trouble letting go of work, remember that recharging is one of the most important things you can do to improve performance at work and increase your well-being.

Here are three actions you can take to make the most of your time away from work so you can be more effective in your business when you return.

  1. Give yourself permission to let go of work. It’s only temporary. Believe you will be even better when you return. Any athlete performs better with appropriate rest. High achievers do the same. Stop pushing yourself. Letting go can actually give you the competitive edge you need to return fresh and re-energized.
  1. Capture the random thoughts about work as they appear. As you relax, you may find your mind wandering. Suddenly you’re anticipating management meetings, projects or specific business challenges. Write down your ideas or action items as they come to mind. That way you won’t lose them. You’ll stand a better chance of clearing your head.
  1. Tell your team to take a break. Give those you lead permission to relax and enjoy time away from work. They need to hear it. Show interest in how they spent their holiday when they return. It’s simply good relationship building—and an important leadership skill. Employees appreciate knowing that you care about them as human beings, not just human doings.

Remember work is a part of life. Don’t make your life just a part of your work. Find the work life balance that works for you.

Wishing you a Happy Labor Day—without the labor!

Contact Gayle about your consulting, coaching or speaking needs.

A Leadership Challenge You’ll Actually Like

In my role as executive coach, one of the most rewarding experiences is helping others see themselves in a new light so they can accomplish goals they didn’t think were possible.
3d people - man, person with magnifying glassYou can do the same to help the people you lead.
In my last post I talked about the importance of being able to change your own perspective.
As you learn how to change your own perspective, you can help others do the same.
Sometimes subtle shifts in how people view themselves can make a significant difference in the business.
As a leader, put on your own executive coaching hat as you view your team.
Try to change the lens through which you are accustomed to viewing your team or staff. It’s easy to find weaknesses. Employees are sensitized to weaknesses. (That’s why performance reviews can be so stressful.)
Instead make sure they see themselves as strong, capable performers, important contributors.
So much of an employee’s performance is based on the support, belief, recognition and coaching they receive from their manager.
If your team is not performing at the level it should, you may not be challenging the team in the right way.
It’s easy to challenge team members by giving them a big stretch goal. Or you might be thinking, “I just need to push them harder.” Pushing people too hard leads to burnout for them–and you.
Instead challenge team members to see themselves differently.
For example, you may think your new salesperson is not making calls because they’re unsure of the process. But they are thinking, “I’m too new.” Tell them to trust their instincts. Let them know you have confidence in their skills and capabilities.
Your key employee feels too nervous to speak at an important event. Tell them you look forward to hearing them speak. Let them know you believe they have exactly what it takes to deliver the talk.
You don’t have to be an executive coach, but you do have to develop a couple of key leadership coaching skills:
Challenge and encouragement. It’s a good combination often found in effective executive coaching relationships.
When someone is complaining that they don’t have enough time or resources, CHALLENGE them to see themselves as more resourceful. ENCOURAGE them to bring new ideas or solutions.
So the key is not to spend your energy pushing people so hard to get the work done. Instead CHALLENGE the beliefs and assumptions they have about their own capabilities. ENCOURAGE them to see new possibilities about what they can do.
What to say?
Here are some suggestions:
  • I think you are more capable than you realize.
  • You’re really smart. I know you’ll figure it out.
  • What are some new ways you might help us achieve our goals?
  • What if you weren’t so afraid to step into the new role? What would be possible?
As they change or expand their self view, they’ll expand results in your business.
See how many team members you can challenge and encourage this week.
Are you up for that leadership challenge? I hope so.

Are You on the Right Path?

My teenage son just returned from a long hiking trip. He was on the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina–his first “real” hiking trip with backpack, tent, food, first aid kit, etc. (He learned that raw eggs don’t travel well even if you have a burner to cook them.)

Path winding through dark moody forest with tall old trees

As a mother, I was concerned he would get lost. He did. Thankfully he was with a friend.

He said they got to a point when they weren’t sure if they should go down a new path that was unfamiliar or backtrack on the path they had taken. Storm was coming. They decided to go back on the path they knew to get them to safety.

As a leader, your job is to help people get to a destination.

Too many people are simply trying to get through the day. They are doing the work, but they’ve lost sight of the big goal. They’re hiking a familiar trail. Some are moving in circles.

Like lost hikers, they revert back to what they know. They don’t have the clarity or courage to move on a new path that might take them to their destination more easily.

They need leadership.

Where is your team trying to go?

One of the best exercises you can do with your team is to have a discussion dedicated to:

a) clarifying the destination–that means understanding the overall team goals (including why the goals are important)

b) determining the best trail–identifying new ways to get to the destination.

It’s especially important if you’re trying to get better results or encourage innovative thinking.

Include that discussion on your next retreat agenda or hold a special short meeting to get some quick ideas.

Confirm if you’re on the right path.  Ask, “Are we getting the best results possible?”

Challenge your team to identify improvements. Ask, “What other ideas, strategies or improvements should we consider?”

Get commitment. Ask, “What’s one thing you’ll do differently to help us accomplish our goals?”

Beware of the path you know that’s comfortable and familiar. Be willing to take yourself or your team on a new path if needed.

Prepare for resistance …and growth.

You’ll likely arrive at a destination that’s even better than what you were hoping for.

Father’s Day Lessons in Leadership

With Father’s Day approaching, I’m reminded of my dad’s positive leadership influence on me.

As an electrical engineer he was obsessed with problem solving. Always looking for something to fix or improve.

When I was learning how to drive, he thought it would be helpful for me to know exactly how far to pull the car in the garage so that the garage door could close without smashing the back end of the car. (Not that I was a bad driver.)

He tied a ping pong ball to a long piece of string. Then he mounted it on the ceiling of the garage so the ball dangled in the air in just the right place. When I slowly pulled in the garage and my windshield gently touched the ping pong ball, I could stop the car knowing I was in just the right place. A simple fix.

In my consulting and coaching work with leaders, they’re often overwhelmed.

Some are grappling with guilt about not completing their to-do list because they’ve been distracted by urgent matters. Some aren’t spending enough time with their team because they’ve been on the road so much. Some haven’t focused on their strategic plan because it just requires too much thinking right now.

I see executives over-complicating and over-thinking situations all the time. They let those issues keep them up at night or create knots in their stomachs.

What these leaders are beginning to realize is that one of the best ways to lead is to look for a simple fix.

If you think you’re overwhelmed, you will be. If you look for a simple fix, you’ll find one.

You might have to use a little ingenuity.

Leadership can be challenge. You still have to have a big bold vision, but it’s the little things that will make the greatest impact in your leadership.

It’s about noticing what will help employees do their work more easily–and taking one step at a time to do something about it. Not complicated.

It could be improving a process, or even part of a process, so that work flows more smoothly.

How are you showing up?

Leadership is as much about how you’re being as it is about what you’re doing.

Dad showed up with solid determination and a positive attitude. He cared a lot about people.

Not just an engineer…He was an “encouraganeer.”

Are you greeting people and making eye contact in the morning, even when you feel like retreating to your office? Are you really listening to what they’re saying?  Are you acknowledging something they did well on the job that day?

As a leader, Dad was relentless about making systems, situations and people better. He was committed to helping people learn, grow and develop.

Tough on problem solving. Compassionate with people.

It’s the little things in your leadership that make a big difference.

It’s the simple fixes.

As you look for simple fixes, help others do the same.

When everyone focuses on small improvements, it lifts the whole organization.

And those you lead will feel like they’re in just the right place.