CategoryTraining & Development

Performance Reviews Made Simple

This has been a great week for me.

On Tuesday, I had the daunting privilege of speaking at a DisruptHR event. It is the first time I’ve stepped on a speaker’s stage in over a year. I was nervousAF — but I rocked it! Video to come.

On Wednesday, I had the awesome privilege of guest hosting SHRM’s #NextChat on Twitter. Each Wednesday at 3pm EST, this chat covers topics that are front of mind for HR professionals. The guest hosts are HR influencers sharing their advice and best practices along with other Twitter users.

I’ve been a participant in #NextChat for years! To be a guest host was a really cool experience.

This week’s topic was “A Positive Process for Performance Reviews”

On the heels of this, I thought it would be a great time to share some other posts I’ve written about performance:

If you are in a management position with people reporting to you, you will have to provide a performance review at some point. The longer you wait to start the habit, the more difficult the practice will be for you.

Coach your direct reports as close to daily as possible and keep records of all aspects of their performance — both the areas done well and the areas needing improvement. By doing this, it will be much easier to compile an accurate, comprehensive and meaningful review when the time comes.

And that “time” should come formally AT LEAST once per year of employment. Leaving people lingering for years with no specific idea of their standing simply isn’t cool.

Performance reviews are a necessary part of a productive and accountable work environment. Embrace it!

The Trouble with Being Transparent

Transparent.

It’s one of the biggest buzzwords used to describe management style and workplace culture today.

Like all buzzwords, the definition of what “transparent” means in the world of work varies … For me, it is a management style and/or culture approach where parties are consistently forthcoming and clear about expectations and goals in order to achieve desired-outcomes. It is a management style and/or culture approach of openness, sincerity and collaboration.

Everyone says they would love to work in a transparent culture for a transparent manager. Everyone thinks transparent culture and transparent managers are great. Everyone assumes transparent culture and transparent management is easy.

Everyone is wrong.

If you work in a transparent culture or for someone with a transparent management style, here are a few things to expect:

  • You will answer a lot of questions on a lot of things a lot of the time. Clarity is critical for transparency.  To get clarity, you must gain knowledge and understanding. And you cannot gain knowledge or understanding without asking a lot of questions — factual questions, open questions, closed questions, recall questions, process questions, relational questions, causal questions, questions on questions on questions.
  • You will track, report and analyze metrics. Data is critical for transparency. Part of being transparent is making and sharing information to enable and explain decisions.  Costs, expenses, transactions and trends must be monitored to achieve this.
  • You will handle confidential information. Sharing is critical for transparency. To share, you have to provide information. Some of that information will be sensitive in nature. Some of it will be OK to repeat to others; some of it will not. Be sure to know the difference.
  • You will spend a lot of time with your co-workers. Collaboration is critical for transparency. To collaborate, you have to build teamwork. To build teamwork, you have to spend time together in active work and in downtime. Expect to have a lot of formal meetings as well as social events and organized bonding.
  • You will have to be available. Visibility is critical for transparency. To have visibility, you have to be accessible. You must be approachable and cooperative. You must be receptive and innovative. You must be willing and accountable. You must be enthusiastic and accepting.
  • You will get a lot of feedback on areas for improvement. Pursuit of development is critical  for transparency. To grow, you must know your weak areas and be willing to improve. To learn, you must be critiqued and coached. Not all the feedback will be good or feel good.

Cultivating a transparent culture and/or a transparent management style is hard work. It is demanding and  burdensome. It is time-consuming and deadline-driven. It is confrontational and persistent. It is difficult to create it and challenging to maintain.

That’s the trouble with transparency. Can you handle really it?

When Good Meetings Go Bad

Once upon a time, I was in an all-day meeting. It started at 8am sharp and was scheduled to go until at least 6pm. Presentation after presentation. Lots of talking and lots of slides. Not a lot of breaks.

Sometime after lunch, I started to lose focus. My mind started to wander. And so did my eyes.

My eyes landed on the phone of the co-worker seated next to me. He was texting. I didn’t want to be obvious in my bored nosiness so I couldn’t see what was said. But I know what came back as the response.

Ta-tas. Puppies. Jugs. Tiggle-bitties … BOOBS!!! Big ol’ boobs!!!!

My co-worker was sexting. In the middle of the meeting. And in my nosy boredom, I’d stumbled on his girlfriend’s booby pics.

It was like a car crash.

I tried to look away — but I couldn’t. I was freaking out — but couldn’t say a word. It was so awkward and uncomfortable — and hilarious!

As it gets more difficult for management to be unreachable for long periods, it becomes more common to see smart phones in our meeting rooms … Inevitably this leads to people emailing about other topics during meetings and texting answers to quick questions from staff. It also leads to loafing behavior like gaming, checking social media, online banking, personal errand and calendar prep, and even sexting.

Have I done these things? Yep. Every single one. More than once.

It is nearly impossible to keep a room full of adults fully focused for a meeting, especially when it lasts all day. I’m not sure it is realistic to expect people to hold it together for that long when we all have so many other things pulling at us in any given moment.

Most employers nowadays don’t care. Attendees at meetings are welcome to bring their smart phones and tablets to meetings so they can multi-task.

Others find it upsetting. Attendees at meetings need to be focused on discussing and resolving the agenda items. And they need to show respect and appreciation for the meeting organizer by being fully present and attentive.

If you fall into the latter group and want attendees to be more focused in your meetings, here are a few tips you can use:

  • Declare the meeting a device free zone.  Instruct attendees to leave their devices outside the meeting or designate a place for them to put their devices while the meeting is in session.
  • Take longer or more frequent breaks. Schedule breaks specifically for device checking. We often don’t give enough time for lunch, restroom and checking/returning messages. Make sure your break schedule allots for this.
  • Call out abusers. If someone is more into their device than the meeting, politely call them out. Emphasis on polite. Suggest they take a break and step out to handle their issues in a way that doesn’t leave hard feelings or tension.
  • Gamify disruptions. At the start of the meeting, ask attendees to place their phones on the table upside-down. Let them know that turning their phones over will result in penalties like having to wear a funny hat or glasses or gloves. Keep a count and give a cool prize at the end of the day for the least distracted attendee.

Love them or hate them or love to hate them, meetings are a necessary part of the world of work. Whatever we can do to make them more effective, bearable and fun is worthwhile effort.

But the next time you’re bored in a meeting, DO NOT attempt to read your co-worker’s texts. There’s no telling what you’ll see.

 

HR Under the Gunn

I am not a fashionista — I’m too practical, frugal and tomboyish for it. But I love fashion! I read the magazines and blogs; I follow trends and pay attention to designers. And I often combine my love of fashion and reality TV with reality competition shows like Project Runway and The Fashion Fund … So I was really excited when I learned fashion instructor/mentor and long-term co-host of Project Runway, Tim Gunn, was getting his own spin-off show!

On “Under the Gunn”, 12 novice designers are split into 3 teams with each team coached by up-and-coming designer; and each up-and-comer coached by Gunn. The winning designer and the winning coach get a huge prize at the end.

What I immediately found interesting was the relationship of the up-and-comers to the novice designers … Their coaching and developing skills were sorely lacking!

  • One was too nice. The coach was so  concerned with everyone getting along and not upsetting or possibly discouraging any of the novices that barely any feedback was given. The coach let the novices think their work was great — only to be rudely awakened by tough criticism by the judges on the runway.
  • One was too harsh. The coach criticized every choice the novices made until the novices were left with nothing but boring options that lacked innovation. The coach had the novices thinking they weren’t ready for the opportunity and the judges demolished them for playing it too safe.
  • One was too hands-on. The coach literally took the scissors and patterns from the novices and started “fixing” their work for them. The product was something that didn’t reflect the novices’ point of view and couldn’t be defended to the judges.

Sound familiar? It should! Because it happens all the time when HR promotes people into new leadership roles.

It is easy to be awesome when working alone and the only person, ideas and results to worry about are your own. However, making the transition to helping others realize their own ideas and results is much more difficult … So difficult, in fact, many are never able to successfully able to do it. Many end up getting demoted, terminated or settling for mediocre results.

What can HR do about this? How do we get ourselves and other managers out from under the gun?

Tim Gunn makes the answer clear — mentoring.

It would have been easy and made great reality TV drama to leave each of the coaches to their own negative devices, knowing it would lead to everyone’s demise … Instead, Gunn made a central part of the show his stepping to provide coaching to the coaches.

If we want to get ourselves and the managers in our organizations out from under the gun, we have to follow this example. We have to create, encourage and foster mentoring relationships. No matter how high we have ascended, we always have more to learn and can benefit from the guidance and wisdom of someone else.

Mentoring is the only way to ensure everyone’s best efforts and best work are brought to the forefront so the outcomes and the competition are at the best level … Because, deep down, we all want to be the best and beat the best when they’re at their best.

Mentoring is how we get HR from under the gun! Got it? Good. Now, make it werk!

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