Annual appraisal & continuous feedback

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We are again in the midst of a popular time for annual appraisals at the moment; we see a sudden uplift in interest in creating efficient on-line performance appraisal processes.

As ever, we advise and guide clients as to what good practice looks like when conducting the annual appraisals, but increasingly we are having discussions around what should happen in-between the annual reviews….i.e. those 12 months from one review to the next…!

Not unsuprisingly, we suggest that there should be more frequent reviews over the course of the year, coupled with more forward looking conversations about what needs to happen in order for performance to improve.

Invariably for performance to improve, there has to be feedback; there has to be comment on how someone is performing in the moment, in order to raise their self-awareness and enable them to decide to do things differently.

If someone you were coaching was running a marathon and they wanted to achieve their best possible time, how often would you give this feedback? At the end of the race or as they ran?


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Simplify – simply fly

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I have a vague recollection that there used to be a logoed t-shirt with “Simplify – simply fly” on it.  Something to do with Google?  If I have inadvertently transgressed a trademark then I apologise now! This phrase came to mind today when I was reviewing some of the work we have been asked to complete in the past few weeks by clients new and old.  There is emerging a real drive to simplify: a drive to get back to the key elements of 360 feedback or performance appraisal and ensure those key elements are done well.

This suits a long running philosophy of ours to keep the process/system “quiet”.  It is the conversation that matters in both feedback and appraisal processes.  And by simplifying process, form, questions and other artefacts you let that conversation take centre stage rather than the process itself.

Simplify – simply fly.




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End of Year Review – Top 10 Blog posts from 2013

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As we approach the end of the year, we thought we would mirror those myriad of ‘Top 50 countdown’ shows you find on TV about now, reminding you of all the reality shows, scandinavian thrillers, and period BBC dramas you missed.

Here is the top ten countdown of our most popular blog posts over the last year, ranging from tips on what makes for a successful 360 degree feedback process, to embedding values within your organisation, through to how to design a performance appraisal form.

So, put those brussel sprouts to one side and tuck in…

1. Busting some ‘Urban Myths’ with 360 degree feedback

2. How to take a strategic view with 360 degree feedback

3. How to keep values and behaviours alive…an employee’s view

4. Be careful what you wish for when it comes to Performance Reviews

5. Values, employee behaviour and your brand

6. How the design of your performance appraisal form affects the appraisal conversation

7. Using social proof as a means of embedding your organisational values

8. What’s your Achilles’ Heel?

9. What single thing would most improve your performance appraisal process?

10. 360 degree feedback; objects in the mirror are closer than they appear


And with that, we are signing off for the year with our blog posts; we look forward to sharing our thoughts, insights and our new look  website when we return in 2014!

Merry Xmas and a peaceful New Year from all the team at Bowland Solutions






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How to have a meaningful conversation about 360 degree feedback – Part 5 of 6

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In the previous part 4 post, we presented a structure for the debrief which began with framing the session for the individual recipient, followed by them reading the report for the first time, and then opening up the debrief conversation with a series of questions; these questions were:

  • What is your overall impression of the report?
  • What does the report suggest are your key strengths?
  • What does the report suggest are your key development areas?

Taking these in turn, the first question is useful for gauging their instinctive reaction to the feedback: what are the broad themes they have identified? Any surprises? Have they had such feedback before? Does it meet expectation? Pleasing or disappointing?

 The next question then has them first focus on what they take to be the positive aspects of the report; recipients often try to skip quickly through this step or find themselves drawn back to the ‘negative’ ratings and comments – your skill is to hold them to evaluating their strengths for almost as long as you might their development areas.
It can be helpful to explain to the recipient why you are doing this; two reasons you can offer are:
  • It’s psychologically good to receive positive feedback!
  • Strengths can often provide insight into development areas; often you will find that there is a flipside to something someone does very well i.e. Someone too focused on tasks may be neglecting the ‘people’ aspect of their role.
The last question then leads them in to the areas they perceive as ‘negative’ and which highlight any obvious development needs.
In both discussion around their strengths and development needs, you can add your own observations on the feedback, pointing to comments which help emphasise their own discoveries.
Ultimately any development needs which emerge should always be measured against the criteria of what impact addressing them will have for both the individual and the organisation; you can simply ask, “Will tackling this make a difference for you and the business?
Our final post in this series will look to concluding the 360 degree feedback debrief and helping the recipient move towards action.
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What is a ‘meaningful conversation’?

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We talk a lot about ‘meaningful conversations’ in our discussions with clients; as you can see from the home page, it sits at the centre of what we are all about.

But what do we mean by ‘meaningful conversation’ and why is it so important?

We believe that a key skill of a line manager is the ability to deliver on the stated purpose of a performance management conversation i.e. Set objectives, give feedback, coach or conduct an appraisal, whilst maintaining a high-trust relationship with the individual concerned.

To deliver on both these dimensions, is not as easy as it sounds, but is critical to effective performance management.

Often we see line managers in our training programmes who are excellent at getting the objectives set, or reviewing the performance of an individual at year end, but their approach is coercive, it isn’t a two-way dialogue, it’s imposition.

Employees come away feeling ‘done to’ and disengage; the relationship between them and their line manager suffers as a result.

Alternatively, the line manager is very sensitive to the relationship with their team member and overcompensates in not delivering on the purpose of the conversation i.e. perhaps some ‘difficult’ feedback which needs to be conveyed.

Here the line manager drifts into ‘friendly chat’ area and this can leave the employee somewhat confused and unclear as to what has been said and/or what they are expected to do.

Suffice to say, any conversation that fails to address either of these dimensions becomes meaningless in every sense!


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