We all know the usual performance review drill – set some goals, monitor progress, review at the end of the year and score a rating. Some employers might link the rating to a pay increase, some provide development opportunities but for many the performance review is a task to be done. What if the Oarsome foursome and their leadership team focused their efforts on rowing instead of winning?
When you have all of your rowers rowing at the right speed, in the right direction with their oars in the water being led by a confident leader the outcome is assured. Expecting the boat to row itself or the oars to set the direction with a leader focused on everything else but the efforts of the rowers will see you constantly fighting to keep the boat moving forward.
Early in my career I wrote a performance review system for a large organisation. It had everything a great performance management system should have – the latest trends, focus on behaviours, leveraged the industrial climate, consultation with staff to produce a solid system. As soon as I started to roll it out I started to sense there was a problem.
I met with the boss and talked through the reaction from the staff and some of the team leaders. People were nervous about how to talk to each other about performance and about the potential consequences of highlighting good and bad performance.
I asked the boss how he felt about talking to his direct reports about performance. His response stunned me – he said I am too busy for that stuff. He moved the conversation on to how it wanted improved performance, accountability and for staff to know where they fit.
I walked away from the meeting shaking my head, unless the boss valued performance feedback and supported people to change, the performance review system would become a compliance task and the potential to drive successful performance would be lost.
So what happened? The organisation used the system for a few years, there was about a 50% compliance rate and then we began discussions on the next performance review system because the old one had a bad reputation.
Instead of promoting a culture that encouraged performance feedback and improved performance the organisation ended up with stagnant organisational performance, the same poor performers were still there, the staff were not aligned with the business objectives and the talent of the workforce remained untapped. Going back to our rowing example they ended with a paddle and a creek.