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G.E.A.R. towards success

The end of 2015 is only a few days away and historically in business, this time of year rings in performance reviews for many companies and organizations.  I did a little research and found that this process has been around since 221 A.D. in the Wei Dynasty in China.  Historically, they were used to simply appraise an individual’s performance based on the leader’s subjective view of the person.  In the United States, the process began around the time of the Industrial Revolution to measure a worker’s performance based on output alone.  The review process changed throughout the years with various fads and techniques.  The most widely used program that is still used today introduced goal-setting and is referred to as Management by Objectives.  Currently, many Fortune 500 companies such as, Accenture, Gap and General Electric to name a few are moving away from the traditional year-end process to one that is continuous and consistent throughout the year.

Let me state that I am a big believer in the theory behind performance reviews.  They are intended to establish expected behaviors and actions for a job function and individual so that the person can succeed for both themselves and the company.  Unfortunately, the theory gets lost with poor execution.  Some companies have morphed it into a way to force rank their employees into performance categories like high, medium and low contributors.  Others do it to go through the motions so they can “say” they have a year-end review process; however, it is so “cookie cutter” and generic no benefits can arise from completing it for individuals or the organization.    Yet, when executed effectively, performance reviews can G.E.A.R. your team towards success.

G – Goals

The performance review process cannot begin without setting individual goals at the beginning of the calendar or fiscal year. Performance reviews that happen in the absence of goals are a waste of time and cause frustration for individuals and companies because without a good understanding of expectations, failure is eminent.  I see goal setting as an art rather than a task.  It takes creativity and technique to create goals that are feared for success.   Effective goals are tangible actions that are specific, measurable and applicable to the job and the individual.  They demonstrate purpose, value and are in alignment with the company’s overall mission and vision.  Goals clearly highlight the behaviors, skills and resources required by the individual to achieve them.   They should be challenging enough to cause individuals to stretch out of their comfort zone a bit, but not so difficult they are impossible to complete. Goals should also be accompanied with personal development opportunities which can enhance an individual’s future performance.  G.E.A.R. your team towards success and begin the process with Goals.

E – Evaluate

In one of the leadership classes I teach, we were discussing the topic of evaluating and how it is essential for success in any endeavor.  Evaluation is not judgment, it is examination.   Both the leader and the individual should examine performance.  And evaluation is not a one-time event.  It is only effective when it happens throughout the year. Consistently examine progress against the original goals, highlight the accomplishments and identify areas which can be improved.  Real evaluation requires an open and objective mind.  Just like you can’t see clearly with dirty glasses, you can’t evaluate clearly if your mind is mucked with assumptions, judgments and preconceived notions.  Ask loads of probing questions during evaluation because being curious minimizes closed mindedness and enables you to see things differently.

A – Assess

Proper assessment relies on evaluation being done effectively.  There is no way to truly assess a situation without first examining it.  With the evaluation in hand, you can now fairly assess performance, behaviors and areas for improvement.  At this point, assessing is both objective using the tangible facts about the performance against the goals and subjective based on the person performing the assessment’s opinions and experiences.  I find it most effective when the individual AND the leader assesses their performance.  Under some circumstances soliciting feedback from peers and customers is quite useful.  The intent of the assessment phase is to offer constructive, not destructive feedback.  This means that you offer and can point to specific reasons for your thoughts.  Most leaders shy away from this feedback stage because it is uncomfortable.  Stick to the facts and share feedback with an intent to help the individual succeed and you will find the process more effective and more comfortable.

R – Recommend

The last step in an effective performance review is recommend.  With goals, evaluations and proper assessments in hand, now look for ways an individual can continue to improve their performance and develop their skill sets.  Whether we will admit or not, almost all of us prefer to be growing and improving in our accomplishments.  Unless an individual is self-motivated, people need to guidance on how they can improve and continue to grow.  Just like the assessment, recommendations must be constructive with tangible examples and actions that an individual can relate to if they are going to be useful.  I love this part of the process because when done properly, both the individual and leader leave with a sense of hope and excitement for the future.

G.E.A.R. your team towards success throughout the year by creating goals, consistently evaluating and assessing their actions and behaviors and ensuring that you recommend ways for them to continuously grow and improve.  You will be thrilled with the results and so will they!

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