Deloitte’s 4 question performance review

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There has been noise in the performance review writings around Deloitte’s 4 question performance review reported in the Harvard Business review. I’ll leave you to read the article which is quite detailed with some excellent content.

I frankly have no idea whether Deloitte should have a 4 question performance review. What is more interesting within the article is that they feel the need to recommend/insist that team leaders have weekly check-ins. I suspect that will have the most positive impact!

Two key things spring to mind. First – the four questions will matter in that they will direct the conversation somewhat. Their’s are

1. Given what I know of this person’s performance, and if it were my money, I would award this person the highest possible compensation increase and bonus [measures overall performance and unique value to the organization on a five-point scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”].

2. Given what I know of this person’s performance, I would always want him or her on my team [measures ability to work well with others on the same five-point scale].

3. This person is at risk for low performance [identifies problems that might harm the customer or the team on a yes-or-no basis].

4. This person is ready for promotion today [measures potential on a yes-or-no basis].

I’d bet money that Deloitte will change this within 2 years. The first two items are ratings (and they argue carefully why they don’t work within the article). The answers to the questions are interesting but I wouldn’t base my performance management on them. Repeatedly asking the latter two appears unnecessary to me.

Second, there is often a focus on “the form” and so the questions that are asked. While these are of course relevant – and they will direct conversation – great managers make any form work and poor managers can’t be helped just by a good form. There may be a large scale training intervention at the back of this and, if there is, I hope they concentrate on how to handle the conversations (the weekly check-ins) rather than how to fill this form in.

The latter paragraph of the article discusses the challenges we face when we boil an individuals performance down to a single number. The annual grade is rightly facing strong challenge in many areas. Earlier in the article the authors dispense with 360 feedback as they argue that the rating discrepancies mean the truth is not revealed. If you are looking for a single number from 360 feedback then I would agree that this truth will be elusive. But if you take 360 feedback for what it is – a collection of feedback from a range of people, all of it subjective and all if it subject to a range of biases then it becomes richer for that variety. Reporting that variety and holding meaningful conversations around that variety allows individuals to explore the real world of performance, management and relationships rather than the simple world of a rating.

When designing an performance management process/annual appraisal form the key question that should be asked is “will this form or process lead to meaningful conversations taking place”. I’m not sure that Deloitte’s four questions will achieve that. But I hope they update HBR with the results in as careful and thorough an article as the one they introduced it with.


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Our next event – “Turning insight into action; the key to sustainable development for leaders”

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We are delighted to be co-hosting our next event in London on Thursday 30th April with QV Career Counsel, specialists in executive coaching, where we introduce a new structured and integrated approach to 360 degree feedback within a professional services environment.

Having completed a recent research project on leadership development,  in conjunction with Lancaster University Management School, we found that it unequivocally identified the need for 360 degree feedback to be appropriately supported:


“A 360-degree appraisal without debriefing, coaching and follow-up activities will harm the organisation using it. 360-degree feedback programs are only a start of an organisational capacity development process.”

“Debriefing is especially important in helping recipients accept the validity of the feedback, experience minimal damage to self-esteem, focus on positive behaviours that should be continued, and select key challenging behaviours on which to improve.”

“Coaching is also a central part of 360-degree appraisal; it is the key for personal development. A coach can help further motivate employees who receive positive feedback from various sources, while helping the recipients of negative feedback formulate a workable strategy for performance improvement. Thus a coach can be the difference between a healthy coping reaction and learned helplessness.”


The underlying message is that the insight gained through the 360 feedback process isn’t enough; it needs to crystallise into action.


It is with this research and key observation in mind that we have come together with QV to share a new integrated approach which explains how to effectively combine 360 degree feedback with promptly delivered, focused coaching, to ensure sustainable development of your leaders and alignment with your organisational goals.


This event is aimed at senior executives from financial and professional services and those with responsibility for executive development within their organisation.

If you are interested in attending this event, then please contact me for more information directly via email – - it is free to attend but there are a limited number of seats available.



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360 degree feedback in Barbados

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I wish this article was going to be an announcement of a new client (or even business venture) of ours that I was about to lead. Unfortunately it is a reference to a google alert I received announcing that the Barbadian civil service is about to introduce 360 feedback.
Other than a wry smile at what Google thinks I’m interested in (perhaps it was Barbados rather than 360 feedback!) I scanned the article and found that “It will present opportunities for officers to be counselled and to be provided with any relevant feedback and in worst case scenarios for performance improvement plans to be implemented to address issues of poor performance”. Now in an article of barely 500 words, with just two quotes, the focus from the 360 introduction is on the potential of performance improvement plans.
If I were involved in that 360, I would be hesitant. I would be slightly suspicious. I would alter my feedback on others, and I would approach my own 360 with caution. It may be just the way it is reported but rather than suggest recognition, learning, training and development plans that may follow the 360 we select a negative outcome. That some people through a performance management process may require “improvement plans” is fine and a likely outcome in a large organisation. But I wouldn’t introduce a method of gaining feedback from colleagues with that as the backdrop or main commentary.
Now, if only the civil service of Barbados would read this and invite me over to consult on a better way!


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Feedback please! The art of spotting things going right

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We recently completed a series of our ‘Meaningful Conversations’ training modules for Line Managers who were about to go into their performance appraisal meetings.

The subject of looking back and reviewing past performance over the previous 12 months is naturally covered, with consideration given to what your purpose is, how you should prepare and what is a good structure to follow in that part of the appraisal conversation.

There is always feedback to be given in the appraisal; there should be ‘no surprises’ in this regard for sure, but invariably there is an overall message to be played back to the appraisee, with some significant positive or constructive feedback elements within this.

As we discuss this, I often write up on a flipchart the mathematical calculations you see in the headline image of this post, and ask for feedback please; I will ask the same of you now…..

What did you notice? The final one as incorrect, or the preceding three as being right?

Most of us, which is often borne out in the training session, will spot the error, the break in the pattern first; of course, this is part of the story – however, one might argue, a bigger part of the story is that 75% are correct.

The challenge is to change our default setting; spot what is going right first – get good at giving praise accordingly; it leads to a much more meaningful and productive conversation – you will still get to the error, but you approach it from a very different angle, and ensure that all the learning from what has gone well, is drawn out, celebrated and is used to help an individual do even better next time.



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Guest Post – The Power of Commitment

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It’s always a delight for us in this blog to draw upon the wisdom of our fellow partners, associates, and friends; this post is by Tony Phillips of The Coaching Approach, a business coach and facilitator, who shares his thoughts on the power of commitment.

I love this quote, and it applies as much to running and many other areas of life as it does to walking. Before I started my mile each day over 1,670 days ago, there were certain types of weather that I preferred to run in and I was far more likely to skip a day when weather conditions were not favourable. Does anyone else feel happier, more positive and inclined to be more adventurous on warm sunny days than you do on cold grey wet days, or is it just me? What would your boss think if you only turned up to work on sunny days or days when you were in a really positive mood? “Commitment is doing the thing you said you’d do, long after the mood you said it in has left you.”

Why is it that many of us are frightened of commitment? Is it because it feels like a trap imposed by someone else that we won’t be able to escape? We seem to have forgotten that we are the only ones who can commit ourselves. We do it of our own free will. We agree to jobs that have contracted hours. We agree to relationships or marriages. We choose to commit. We always have choice. Viktor Frankl in his seminal book, Man’s Search for Meaning talking about his experiences in Auschwitz said: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

The strange thing is that when you do commit to something, once you’re over that first step, which is always the hardest (see last month’s column), not only is it not as bad as you expect, you also discover that there is freedom and power in commitment. Additionally, if you can keep your commitment going for around 66 days, you will discover that you have developed a habit, and it will be harder to stop than it will be to continue. Since I removed my option of allowing myself to miss days (note that I removed it, not someone else – the choice is always mine at any time to discontinue the experiment), I’ve grown to love running in pouring rain, strong wind, snow, cold and hot weather.

William Hutchison Murray, the mountaineer and writer, wrote: “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

“A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.”

I know this is true. I committed to running a mile each day and ended up with a column in a running magazine. Who knew that would happen? What will you commit to this month with your running or life?

Tony Phillips

The Coaching Approach



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Bowland goes back to its roots – Lancaster University students come up trumps

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Both John and I are alumni of Lancaster University … Bowland college to be precise.  And so, we have been delighted to have been working with some of their MA in HR and Consulting students over the last few months. 

The students have looked at our 360 best practice; including surveying some of our clients, reviewing our processes, and looking at the latest theories around 360 to give us advice on where we can improve.  It has been a great experience both in terms of having a fresh look at Bowland but also to work with students with such a keen interest in delivering a great service.  We are still digesting the 126 page(!) report that they have provided us with.  But here is a public thanks from Bowland to Wes, Mabel, Alexis, Sebastian, Ying, and Maeve for all of their efforts.  We will be updating our own practice and advice based on what they found.


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HR in Law Awards@7th May 2015

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A brief note to share our delight to be sponsoring the ‘Excellence in Learning & Development’ category at this years HR in Law Awards which is taking place on 7th May 2015.

We have been successfully working within the legal sector for many years now, helping firms successfully implement 360 degree feedback and performance appraisal process through online software, consultancy and debrief services.

In that time, we have forged long-standing relationships with many of HR professionals who continually prove themselves to be integral to the sustained success of the firms they work in; we wish them every luck in these awards.

The closing date for entries is this Friday 6th March, so if you do wish to showcase the great work you have been doing, it’s not too late!



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