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Develop It. Don’t Manage It.

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For individuals or organizations to grow, we need to develop a growth mindset.

Many times during coaching or in the classroom I encounter the “fixed mindset,” which is the person who feels that all knowledge and skill is set in concrete from the time you are in your 20s, and as if “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

That may be true of old dogs, but humans are learning machines capable of learning and adapting throughout our lives. The traditional performance evaluation worked when we were specialists or doing repetitive tasks for our entire lives, but today the cycles of change and disruption are creating the need to change careers multiple times.

The book that crystalizes these concepts is by Dr. Carol Dweck and it’s called Mindset –– and you can see a short synopsis here:



The final reason to do away with the traditional performance evaluation (as if we needed more) is because we are highly biased creatures. As Daniel Kahneman beautifully articulates in “Thinking Fast and Slow,” our ratings of others are biased, inaccurate, and reveal more about us than they do the person we are rating (aka, idiosyncratic rater effect).

It is best to use multiple data points such as peer feedback and other productivity reports than just relying on one perspective. Here is a short video with Daniel Kahneman himself to explain.

Part of the challenge many organizations have with doing away with the rating system is they need an easy number to pop into Excel or the compensation system to determine annual increases. I have worked in one company and consulted with two others that have separated their performance cycle from their compensation cycle. There are many major organizations (ex., Koch Industries, Adobe, Microsoft, Deloitte) that successfully severed evaluations from compensation for many years.

The key is to align performance data, feedback, and market compensation data to create an informed decision that you can discuss openly with your employees. For many company cultures, this can be difficult because compensation has been a hidden process.

Keep in mind that most employees, through professional/trade organizations and websites like salary.com, already know what they should be making. If you do not factor in this data, it could be a trust-buster.

The great management consultant Peter Drucker once said, “Effective feedback is rooted in a few essential tenets; chief among them is frequency. The more conversations managers have with their employees, the more engaged their employees become.” He said this 20 years ago, and it is even more true now. The frequency of performance discussions is at the core of performance development. To do it effectively, you will need to schedule ongoing (once every two weeks or minimum once a month) discussions of expectations, frequent coaching and continuous development. As we all know, things are changing too fast for us to “set it and forget it” when it comes to performance goals. Most people need to dynamically shift priorities weekly.

We still have a long way to go. There are many young professionals, Gen X and Boomers who are still not comfortable with providing continuous feedback. One manager I had in class admitted he was not good at “the people thing” and wanted to know what app I could recommend so he would never have to have discussions with his employees. He wasn’t joking — and I responded we already have that app and it comes in two flavors: email and texting. Both are equally ineffective at providing feedback and coaching.

Schedule those performance discussions and get your employees on the path to peak performance! If one of them tells a bad joke, please let them know right away … or at least give them a better one to tell. Good luck on your journey towards performance development!

written by

Jonathan Burman, Principal + Managing Partner

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