Leadership and Performance Appraisals

Leading people requires you to assess performance on a regular basis. How effectively these processes are applied is where this topic becomes interesting.

Leadership and Performance Appraisal

Many small and medium sized businesses do not have a regular process for assessing performance and reviewing results against goals. It seems this is generally a process used by larger organisations, as they seek to have access to some sort of tool and appraisal system that differentiates their employees from one another for the purposes of salary reviews and bonus structures. The question of whether this is the best reason to manage such a process springs to mind. Additionally, scale and a larger employee base requires that HR is involved in the process generally to offer a sense of calibration and overseeing the consistency and judgments made by managers. In theory this may provide a tool or process that enables growth, drives performance and supplies avenues for employee development and coaching. In practice it regularly fails to meet the hype.

Unfortunately, the reality of effective leadership in performance appraisal systems is often quite different from the intent.

A performance review is an important tool and opportunity for discussion, when conducted correctly. There are many benefits, including:

  • The opportunity to meet with each team member individually and provide feedback and coaching to support ongoing improvement
  • An opportunity to build and sustain the relationship between yourself and your team members.
  • The chance to review goals established earlier in the year. Check in with progress and make changes where necessary to support achievement of these goals by the end of the time period originally specified.
  • The opportunity to use related tools to establish benchmarks between leaders of other teams and compare thoughts and findings about what has been achieved, where gaps exist and what actions could be taken to remedy and assist the current situation. This provides a sense of calibration, which is one of the most common areas of concern for appraisal systems.
  • Challenging employee comfort levels, in those cases where a team member has plateaued and is looking for or needing additional assistance.
  • Ensure that all content from ad-hoc and formal discussions that have occurred during the period are summarised and the time is taken to ensure that clarity, consensus and action are applied.

There are other benefits apart from those listed, however many businesses do not have existing processes to achieve these benefits. When a formal system does exist, quite often it is applied so poorly that any benefits are overshadowed by the real or perceived failings of the process. In recent years there has been a passive backlash against formal appraisal systems, with recognition that the intent has not matched the reality gathering momentum. This is most prevalent in larger organisations where the process has been applied over many years and cycles and the obvious gaps exposed. Those businesses who are serious about employee engagement are now challenging the standards in how employees are assessed.

Brisbane author and leadership consultant, Dr. Tim Baker works with HR managers and employees on better ways to connect with staff…Corporations now are benefiting from this framework, replacing performance development reviews with short, themed conversations, scattered throughout the year. He says most workplaces must use the same principle, targeting issues as they happen, rather than bottling them up to deal with at review time… Baker says that the annual or bi-annual review of company employees is a form of bullying, focused more on compliance than development, which is counter-productive in a modern, dynamic workplace. (1)

There are no easy solutions with this topic. The opportunity to assess and review the employee base is too often used as a tool to tick a box rather than provide the framework for ongoing, sustainable and meaningful discussions based on growth, goals and achievements. The opportunity is wasted if it is no more than a chore and performed begrudgingly. Take the opportunity to truly review the performance of each team member. Be original in your thoughts and comments as each of your team are unique in what they do and how they achieve what they do.

Seek the view of each individual. Listen, connect and challenge where appropriate. Make sure that whatever the process, you as a leader are working with each employee to commit to a plan that makes sure you, your team members and business are better off now than they were 12 months ago as a result of your leadership. Commit to setting up the right expectations and support to ensure that you are also both better off for the work you do over the next 12 months. If not, then you have both failed in your roles and I am sure that you expect more from yourself and your team!

What is your experience with performance reviews and appraisals? Do you have experience with a better system that those usually provided?

(1) New Harmony At Work: Career One, May 18-19th, 2013


Filed under Employee Engagement, Leadership, People Development

4 responses to “Leadership and Performance Appraisals

  1. I’m not a fan of the typical annual performance appraisal. I agree with what Tim Baker said about them being “focused more on compliance than development.” I think this is typically true. And I also agree that a lot of things need to be addressed immediately.

    However, I do believe that regular communication between managers and employees is extremely important. I think it’s reasonable for managers to meet every 1-3 months to talk about how things are going.

    But in addition to focusing on how the employee can do better, I also think the employee should be able to talk about how the company can do better. It shouldn’t be so one-sided like most performance appraisals are.

    Furthermore, I think both the manager and employee should also discuss what is going well.



  2. Hi Greg, thanks for your comments. I totally agree with the concept of upward feedback. It breaks this power dynamic that is so intrusive in performance.

    Tim Baker


  3. Great post. I liked especially this part:
    Seek the view of each individual. Listen, connect and challenge when appropriate. All too often an appraisal is an opportunity for the manager to bash their team on the head with their view of how it should be done, rather than listening and connecting.
    You might like a post I did earlier in the year abut preparing for your annual appraisal. I’d be interested in hearing your views on it.


  4. Pingback: Leadership Benefits: Self-Awareness and ROI - CoachStation

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