We often sit with clients in the early phase of a performance appraisal project, before any form design is undertaken, before any process is considered or system implementation discussed, and hold a conversation simply prompted by the question ‘Why do you do performance appraisals?’.
It’s always an invaluable experience for everyone involved, but only if the conversation is held open long enough for the surface answers to emerge and dissipate, and the deeper reasons to bubble up and provide the real meat for the discussion.
Initial answers will offer up a need to catch development needs, rate a person’s performance, feed into pay and reward, set objectives and alike – all perfectly valid.
However, as the discussion develops, principles such as transparency, consistency, informed and meaningful appraisal conversations spring forth, and a realisation that such principles will ultimately lead to better decisions around form design, the process to follow and the system which will underpin it.
Until you have answered ‘Why?’, the ‘What?’, ‘How?’, ‘When?’ and ‘Who?’ of performance appraisal sit on shifting sands.
We are very pleased to share this latest case study interview with Paul Ward, Managing Partner of Pantheon, a private equity firm, with whom we successfully delivered a 360 degree feedback programme across its global partner population.
In the interview, Paul shares his experience of the project and highlights how they:
- Defined the key aims of the 360 degree feedback project
- How they succeeded and overcame challenges along the way
- What value partners took from the face-to-face debriefs
- How they used the insight from the data & debriefs to deliver firm-wide benefits
- Advice for professional services firms considering 360 degree feedback
“We found working with Bowland on both our Performance Appraisal and 360 Degree Feedback projects very constructive. Their approach did not feel formulaic in any way. It felt tailored to what we needed and we didn’t feel pushed in a particular direction.
It was very much a conversation that led to the right outcome, so our experience has been very positive with their support making a signiﬁcant difference and improving the process that we went through.”
Paul Ward, Managing Partner, Pantheon
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I go to yoga with my daughter most weeks. I am the worst yoga practitioner in the country with other participants requesting my attendance to make them look good. My toes remain resolutely distant from my hands. What I have found useful though is the concentration on breathing.
Within the class we often focus on the breath and in particular on the pause between breathing in and breathing out and breathing in again. Just by focusing on that pause it tends to stretch out, your breathing relaxes and you take longer and deeper breaths. Now, I breathe every day. Turns out I’m quite good at it – I can do it without even concentrating on it. I can even do it in my sleep. But by reflecting on my breathing I can breath better, learn how to control my breath when under duress (usually when cycling up a hill) and improve my general sense of well being.
It is becoming topical to argue against the annual review. Arguing that you should be reviewing performance all of the time and so there is no need to do it annually. I agree with the need for ongoing review discussions but I believe there is a great benefit for taking time out to take a deep breath, a bit of a pause and a think. You may find that something you’ve been doing naturally all year improves just from the exercise of reflection.
I am very pleased to share a guest post from one of our partners, Kevin Watson of My Own Coach (www.myown-coach.co.uk), on the topic of raising awareness.
We often talk about raising awareness in the context of the 360 degree feedback work we do with clients; particularly with senior leaders in an organisation, where high levels of self-awareness are associated with great leadership skills.
This post highlights just how easy it is to be oblivious to ourselves and the world around us – and do watch the video – it’s compelling!
The other day, I was digging through the archives and came across this great story, about raising awareness: what we take notice of and what we may be missing.
On a cold January morning in 2007, world famous violinist Joshua Bell took part in a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people, initiated by The Washington Post columnist, Gene Weingarten.
Just two days after he played to a sold out theatre in Boston, Bell pulled on a pair of old jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a baseball cap, then stood in a Washington DC subway station plaza. He placed his violin case on the ground, threw a few dollars of change in and played anonymously for around 45 minutes, one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth around 3.5 million dollars.
Over a thousand people passed by, yet only seven stopped to listen. During his performance, videotaped by a hidden camera and since shared with over five million people worldwide, Bell collected around fifty dollars from 27 passersby – twenty of which was given by the one and only person who recognised him!
Who paid the most attention? A 3 year old boy.
The mother was rushing him along, but the child simply stopped to look and listen for a while. Finally his mother pulled him away and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time.
No one even noticed when Bell finished playing. The only sounds were the from the people rushing here and there. No one applauded.
This is a real story.
If we don’t have time to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing the best music ever written, what else are we missing out on?
Raising awareness, our own and other people’s, is a start to revealing untold richness in our lives.
First published at www.myown-coach.co.uk
I attended a CIPD conference on Performance Management earlier this week. There was plenty of food for thought – particularly around feedback, when it is useful, when it is not. We will be continuing our own research and updating our thoughts based on the ideas presented. Within the conference one speaker used the sentence “Focus on the conversation and get the system to support it”. As an organisation that provides both consulting/training support and the software to support performance management this is an appealing sentence. If we use system in its broadest sense to mean not just the IT but the process and forms that make up performance management then this sentence summarises our ethos.
When working well, performance management is a series of natural, comfortable, purposeful, meangingful conversations between two people at work. With a trusting relationship they are able to discuss goals and determine what is likely to lead to those goals being achieved. They use the past as guidance, they gather inputs that support that forward looking approach – sometimes from others within or outside of the organisation – and they hold open, meaningful conversations on the future. The conversations matter. They may record those conversations at times to make it easier to reflect back and ensure consistency of understanding and they would willingly hand over some of the data for broader analysis such as organisational training needs. They don’t absolutely need a form or system but they welcome an easy to use, simple method of recording their conversations.
That is our aim. Our aim is to have capable managers and employees holding great performance conversations. So, we should think hard about that conversation, think hard about what is likely to facilitate that conversation and be hard on anything that may get in the way. We should leave them both with the energy to have the conversation. Our ‘system’ should be supportive, only ask what is necessary, prompt a structure that capable managers would find useful, and gather information that is of wider use to the organisation if in doing so we don’t get in the way of the conversation.
For different organisations that system will be different; history, culture, capability, compliance requirements all will dictate what is achievable today. But, if the system would stop the conversation or hinders the conversation why would you do it?
This question is prompted by a recent project where I was handling the 360 degree feedback debriefs. Taking aside any
As I read through the report in preparation, I could see there were plenty of respondents, from each of the nominated categories; such as peers, direct reports and line manager (of which there were interestingly 2 of in this case) – all of them providing a lot a rated feedback against all the rated questions.
However, the challenge arose when it came to looking at the free-text comments in support of the rated questions above – the line managers had made no comments…
Now with one line manager that would be difficult enough, but with two line managers, who from the way they had rated the questions, differed in opinion quite considerably, the ability to understand what was going on was reduced significantly.
It reminded me how important it is to communicate with respondents and train them in how to give good, constructive feedback. It is not enough to simply rate a statement, particularly if it is at one end of the scale or the other – narrative must be encouraged at all times – it allows the recipient to fully understand the impact of their behaviour, through the use of examples and evidence.
We can implement checks within the system which provide ‘pop-up’ boxes to encourage people to fill in the free-text comments section, but at the end of the day it must be through clear communication and framing of how the 360 degree feedback process works to best effect, that will establish the good practice of adding narrative and ensure that the whole story emerges.
Without it, the feedback can become a blur of graphics which tells only half a story; like a good novel with the satisfying ending missing.