Dear Performance Management, Now it’s Your Turn for Feedback!
Performance management, I kinda’ feel bad for you. Everyone loves to hate on you. You might be the most disliked talent process in most organizations. I know your intentions are good, but frankly, there’s a lot of room for improvement. On behalf of our colleagues across organizations, I will share some hard truths with you, because I believe in keepin’ it real.
It starts with how people feel about you. You feel like a HR process. In the world of work, that’s the kiss of death.
As a former Talent leader, I feel bad saying this, but someone needs to tell you. When you feel like a process, people do not want to spend time with you. If anything, you cause them to have a rejection response, which then puts your colleagues, who are trying to implement you, in a really awkward spot. They then become the people who need to force people to spend time with you. And as someone who has been in their shoes, honestly, it was hard…because I didn’t like engaging with you that much, either!
The other problem you have is who you are spending time with. When you get associated with Ratings, it only makes your reputation worse, because everyone knows Ratings, and no one likes Ratings. People find Ratings to be either easily manipulated by others, and therefore lacking credibility, or Ratings have this way of pitting people against each other. As you can imagine, neither is good for your reputation.
And then there is your buddy, Comp. When you hang out with Comp, you get more respect, for sure, so I understand your desire to stay close, but then you go from disliked to straight-up feared. Comp is serious business, and emotional. Everyone wants Comp to like them, so they are not sure what to do with you. Pretend to like you to get close with Comp? Write what they think Comp wants to hear? Or just do the minimum to engage with you to get to what they really want, which is Comp.
I know that was a lot to process (no pun intended!), and I understand that you might need a beat to reflect on it all. When you’re ready, I do have some recommendations on how to up your game and be more loveable, or at least…more likable. First, you need to hang out with a different crowd. For example, if you hang with Strategy and Priorities, that will really help. When people see you with Strategy and Priorities, you are not a process; you are the one who makes things happen in the organization. You help leaders lead. You help employees know what it really takes to be successful. You ensure that strategic priorities translate into tangible, actionable, and measurable results. This is when you start to get seen for your true potential—you become known as the one who makes S#@% happen in the organization! You become the lynchpin for results! Second, we need to work on your style. I know there’s not a lot of great options here, but let’s work with what we got. Think simple and elegant, a.k.a. minimal steps and clicks. Easy to put on, easy to be with. I shouldn’t have to worry about how to engage with you and how to communicate with you. You need to be more like Apple, simple and intuitive. You need to notice how people think and behave, and then approach people from that place of insight. You’ve been going at it the opposite way, which is expecting people to learn you, figure you out. No one has time for that. Which leads to the third point. When you look at yourself through the lens of human psychology, it gives you a better appreciation of how you have been making people feel and how you might go about improving your approach. Some key thought-starters: 1. Fight-or-Flight Response. Feedback is feared pretty much everywhere, which is a big part of how people see you. No matter how much people say they want feedback, they get uncomfortable. They get uncomfortable because they want to be perfect (which is not possible, hence the complexity of this feeling), and they worry someone is going to say something that makes them feel bad about themselves. They get worked up, nervous, and on edge when you come around. The consequence is that the giver of the feedback often defaults to avoiding the real growth-oriented feedback for fear of making the person uncomfortable, and to avoid feeling uncomfortable themselves. So, take it slow, friend. Go easy. Let people experience you. Practice on you, before you make the stakes too high. Experience and practice building skill and comfort. That is the foundation for trust. 2. Relationships Matter A Lot. We want to protect our relationships at all costs, and you feel like a cost. From birth we learn that we can’t survive without being cared for. That need to be liked, to be lovable, is primal. So of course, we worry that giving feedback and truly holding people accountable for results will make people not like us. We fear you, Performance Management, because we think you hurt our relationships. So, teach us how to work with you safely and effectively. Provide us with simple verbal prompts, tools, and easy-to-use frameworks so we feel set up for success in deepening our relationships with each other. Be our partner in speaking truth with compassion while maintaining a passion for results. Be the enabler you are capable of being. 3. And Then There’s Our Livelihood. People have basic human needs—connection, love, shelter, food, and their iPhone. When you come around, you remind people that nothing is a given. Our jobs are not permanent. There is risk, so we fear you, and the potential loss of our livelihood, our financial security, and our financial upside potential. So, let people see your value. You have the potential to help them succeed by feeling more in control of their ability to perform and make an impact. Set us up for success by being clear, supportive, and simple. Remember, be human-centric, like Apple, who we can’t stop hanging out with. So how about we start this relationship over? Let us humans help you learn us this time. Let’s design you to be our enablement partner with easy commands and prompts to make us more successful. And this time, Performance Management, practice what you preach. Receive feedback on what you are doing that is working and not working. Demonstrate that you heard our feedback and let’s keep learning and evolving together.