Performance appraisal is a task that many managers have to periodically undertake, yet comparatively few understand how to effectively leverage this very powerful performance tool.
First, remember this little dittie: Reprimand in Private; Praise in Public (RIP and PIP). As Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson say in The One Minute Manager, save reprimands for attitudinal issues and don’t think about using them as a means of getting people to change their behaviour. The simple explanation for why you should not use reprimand in this way is that it does not work; that should be sufficient reason to avoid using it except when necessary.
If you would like to know why reprimand is such a poor tool for behavioural correction, you should take a look at the Johari Window. Essentially, when you are trying to provide someone else with feedback about their performance, they may be literally blind to the issue. If that is the case, they will disagree with your assessment and you won’t get what you want – behavioural change. The exception to this rule is in situations where you have already built a trust relationship with the other person. In those cases, reprimand can work. This is provided the other person genuinely feels that you have their best interests at heart.
If you want to affect behaviour, then making use of praise is a far more effective tool. Find something that the other person is doing right (rather than find something they are doing wrong) and then praise them for it. Watch those TV programs on problem children and observe how their behaviour gets changed by the process of ignoring the bad and praising the good – that principle is extraordinarily effective when working with people and is the essence of The One Minute Manager book. And it is all the more effective when done publically.
Now then, how should you conduct a performance review? I would like to suggest that you focus the review on the goals that you have set for the other person as their line manager. If you have not already done this, then you need to get your mind into the organisation’s mission and your department’s contribution to it. Then split that into individual goals you can assign to those you manage. If people care about the mission, they will care about their individual contribution to it and that should be the substance of your review.
If you have attitudinal issues to deal with, then you may have to resort to reprimand. If so, do it privately. Tell the other person exactly what behaviour is unacceptable and make sure they know you are not talking about them, as a person. Essentially, your basic message needs to be: you are ok; the behaviour is not. If you do this well, even if you are talking about issues to which the other person is blind, you may get the behaviour change you desire. Do it badly and you will simply be giving that person something to talk to their peers about i.e. you.
So remember, the goals are important and they are not just plucked out of the air. The people who report to you need to see how they connect with the organisation’s mission and it should be something they actually care about. What if it isn’t? Then either the mission is wrong, ill-thought out, badly articulated or the person in question is in the wrong role. In that situation, your job is to figure out which of these things is the problem and then fix it.
Even if it means having to let the other person go, if you handle the discussion along the lines we have discussed, that person will be able to see the logic of your position and might well agree that the time has come, for their own benefit, to consider another role. Ideally, in this situation, you would do your best to help to accommodate that person elsewhere within your organisation. Remember that round pegs in square holes can be very troublesome, but round pegs in round holes can be very effective indeed.