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Making the Most of the Performance Review

Making the Most of the Performance Review

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 6, Episode 42
  • Learn how great managers handle performance reviews and conversations about progress with their direct reports in this Q12 for Coaches podcast on item Q11.

On this special edition of Called to Coach, we will spend time investigating the experiential, emotional and empirical aspects of each element of Gallup's Q12 engagement instrument and learning how it increases the power of our coaching as a primary driver of success. This series will be hosted by Dr. Mike McDonald, Senior Workplace Consultant at Gallup, who started at Gallup in 1990 as a manager/team leader and has had a variety of roles but has always led a team. One of his primary concerns for managers is one that he's experienced himself: How many well-intentioned team leaders are there who are working really hard but don't have any coaching or context about engagement and how do they lead to engagement through their strengths?

In this session, Mike talks about Q11 -- "In the past six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress." Below is a summary of the conversation. Full audio and video are posted above.


The motivational request behind this item is that we want someone to help us review our contributions -- "make sense of who I am and where I'm at."

Qs07-10 relate to "Do I belong?" in the engagement pyramid, but now that we are moving into the last two questions of the Q12, we move into "How do we grow?" section. We've been moving in a journey through being a team member (Qs07-10) to now taking on the mindset of an organization member. We can't feel good if our company isn't doing well as an organization.

This item relates to hope -- it has a "future lean" that makes me want to see a horizon, and to have a leader who helps me see it. Hope is one of the most underused concepts in the workplace, and it does make a difference between someone staying and someone leaving.

When we look at this item, there are significant gains at stake in terms of safety, profitability and absenteeism. It is important to think of this item in terms of performance development -- which is about the entire person. This is the intersection of a great team leader acting as a coach who twice a year has a conversation with each person on their team, and has a robust and comprehensive conversation that captures the best of development and of progress. When a manager is regularly checking in with an employee, there is a shift in employee perceptions and perspective about their jobs. They are more likely to consider themselves properly compensated, more likely to stay with their company and more than twice as likely to recommend their company as a great place to work.

The annual review is being debunked as unable to carry the weight of an entire year's worth of conversations and feedback. As human beings, we require more than just one time a year in which a manager tries to cram everything about the year into 60 minutes.

Gallup advises that such conversations take place twice a year and that they align themselves with Q11.

Individuals who are managed really crave certain things. For example, let's talk about hope. Hope is about having the willpower but also the "waypower." Great team leaders help instill hope in those they lead by 1) inspiring people (tapping into the person's emotion and motivation) -- willpower -- and 2) helping people think about strategies, tactics and resources (including people) that will enable them to arrive at the outcomes that are right for them in their role -- waypower.

Breaking this down further, we can understand "hope" through agency, pathways and goals. Goals = where do we want to be (in our role) based on how far we have come, and how will we know we've arrived -- the horizon we want to claim? Pathways = what strategies will we employ? Agency = who are the people around you who matter and to whom you contribute and who contributes to you?

Setting goals implies employee participation and not just a metric that involves only management. For this to happen, the associate needs to know how their contribution is perceived -- kind of a reality check. And Q04 (recognition and praise) can help in this, in alignment with Q11, to create a powerful conversation.

Having just an evaluation process will get an organization to respectable on this item, but to get to world-class, we need to see the combinations, as above (Q04 and Q11).

And the cascade effect needs to start above the manager level. Only two-fifths of executives strongly agree with Q11. So as coaches, we need to be having these conversations (about their progress) with leaders of teams and executives.

According to Gallup research, the manager has the greatest impact on the organization. So this is a great opportunity for coaches, in turn, to make their own mark -- to have these conversations more regularly and not treat them as "one and done." Coaches, for example, can do a once-a-week "connect" to increase their effectiveness.

What about the word "someone" in the question (can this be someone other than a manager)? There is also power in naming names of people around us as employees who bring out the best in us and to use them to help us in our development plan. Who makes us better? And who are our audience members who can help us gauge our progress? As coaches, we can help those we coach to start to assemble this kind of group around them.

Coaches can encourage managers not only to take responsibility for their direct reports in terms of Q11, but also for their peers. Teams need to rely on other teams to check their progress, so that involves peers.

Q11 is an extended delivery of Q04 and so Q04 can help managers to keep the conversation going in a meaningful way.

Where does Q11 go wrong? Let's look at the "what ifs":

  • Reviews are constantly late (or some people never get reviews) -- how many times have you postponed this? Try to prioritize these meetings.
  • The process seems arbitrary or ineffective. Keep a journal (an ongoing portfolio for each person, in terms of performance and signature milestones and even what they've done outside of the workplace, e.g., involvement in a community group). Make the conversation about more than work -- make it about life.
  • Strong performance isn't getting rewarded. Seek transparency about the performance development and structure at the organizational and team level.
  • There isn't enough day-to-day feedback on performance.

In coaching millennials or someone who manages a team of millennials, here are some things to consider:

  • 19% of millennials say they receive routine feedback.
  • 17% of millennials say they receive meaningful feedback.
  • 15% of millennials strongly agree that they routinely ask for feedback.
  • 33% of millennials strongly agree that they have told their manager what they need most to get their work done and why.

This is a call to action for managers and coaches, who need to take the conversation to millennials rather than waiting for millennials to come to them. For more information, consult Gallup's Millennials report.

And there are plenty of opportunities with the wider working population on this item as well:

  • 21% of all employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.
  • 18% of employees strongly agree that employees who perform better grow at a faster rate at their organization.
  • 23% of employees strongly agree that their manager provides them with meaningful feedback.

The conversation that is representative of Q11 is the performance review. Ingredients to a solid performance review:

  • It's achievement-oriented (uses evidence).
  • It's fair and accurate (it's objectively fair but has a good subjective element too).
  • It's developmental (my performance and productivity are increasing, but there is self-awareness and discovery and impact too). There's accountability too -- coming back to our past goals and gauging our progress.
  • It happens twice a year and lasts from one to three hours.

To help those you coach, realize that so much in these conversations is driven by manager habit -- but are these habits effective? How are managers using their Top 5 to deliver great feedback?

Additional resources:

Mike McDonald's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Ideation, Input, Learner, Achiever and Focus.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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