The holiday season has arrived with the endless drone of commercials on television, endless repetitive movies, and some radio stations have switched over to playing Christmas music. Sad to say, many will be burned out in the next couple of weeks. Sadder, posts concerning the yearly performance reviews, how to conduct them, and layoffs/right-sizing/terminations that will begin in a few short weeks. The most wonderful time of the year…hardly.
Performance reviews are something that all managers and leaders should have in mind throughout the year. Unfortunately, they are forgotten until a few weeks before the dreaded delivery day and crush the confidence of many employees. Instead of focusing on the good things that an employee has done in the past year, too often they are a recitation of the bad and the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately items of recent memory. Recent literature state that around 35% of employees are considered engaged with the rest as sort of or completely disengaged. It is no wonder that performance reviews are the single most dreaded meeting of the year.
Performance reviews have many functions from rewarding the few to starting the paper trail toward termination. Very little, if any, of the review is dedicated to saying thanks for the efforts of the past year and how can I/the company help you get better for the next year. In reality, the performance reviews solidify the thought of being unappreciated, unwanted, and if I am not disengaged, I am now. The end result is the employee will actively start the job search and will leave the company.
Management should have a yearlong dedication to the improvement of the employee. The manager should flip the switch from management to being a leader. Lending to employee development through emotional intelligence (EI) and coaching. A leader can not help an employee improve unless they understand them (EI) and connect with them, and then coach them in the problem areas. To clarify, coaching is not telling or micromanaging someone. Low scores on performance reviews, in most cases, are not an indication of a poor employee, but a reflection of whether the manager is engaged and committed to their employees.
The terms of EI and coaching are probably the most misunderstood and misused today. Presently, there is no way to accurately measure AI. There are no quality courses to build EI skills, no accurate exams to measure EI, not much of anything. There are a few good books but with all fads, everyone has started writing books and articles. Anyone can read a book or a couple of articles and claim to be an EI expert. Sadly, EI has become a faddish term without any real understanding of what it means.
There are some very good coaching programs available and the materials are excellent. One of the first things stressed is the EI component. Unless you are able to connect with the person, at their level, and understand them, you probably won’t be a good coach. Coaching is a one-on-one process that helps someone identify and work through the things that are holding them back. Breaking through preconceived limitations and mental blocks may be a better way to state coaching. It is not sending them to training, everyone needs training at some point. Training is not coaching. Coaching shows a true connection to the employee and a level of interest in their being.
Performance reviews are more about the manager, their professional abilities and employee care of the past year. Not all managers are leaders, and not all leaders are good managers, and this is the problem. Unfortunately, most companies lack the true manager or leader, a leadager if you will, that understands that the employee is the organization’s most valued asset. It is the employee who makes the organization successful, not the manager. A leadager understands their responsibility is to perform management tasks as needed, but also to develop the employee to their fullest.
The employee sitting across the table from you is the employee you have created over the past year. If you do not like what you are seeing, try being a leadager, connect with them, and coach them to success.
Dr. Lawson is an executive coach and a Professor of Economics and Strategy. He writes on business issues, education, and developing today’s modern executives. He can be found on Twitter @dplwsn and #TMIBS.