Managerial practices can appear to be a bit “crazy” if they are based on beliefs very different than our own. Please keep an open mind as we explore the answers to these three questions. You may think I am a bit crazy because of the possible significant gap in beliefs we may have.
Question #1: “Will an improvement in individual performance by each employee lead to an improvement in overall organization improvement?” A “yes” answer suggests the belief that a “whole” can be improved by improving the individual parts. A “no” answer acknowledges that the improvement of the parts is not enough to create improvement of the whole. In other words, something else is an influence on improvement.
The 1980 Olympics was forever marked in my memory when the USA Hockey Team won the Gold Medal in the final game against the Russians. The team was made up of a group of very talented individuals but those chosen were not necessarily the very best individual performers. The coach, Herb Brooks, was looking for a dynamic interaction between the players. He wanted them to care more about the success of the team than they did about their personal success. Brooks “You’re looking for players whose name on the front of the sweater is more important than the one on the back,” Brooks once said. “I look for these players to play hard, to play smart and to represent their country.”
The dynamic interaction between the parts was more important than the quality of the parts on the USA Hokey Team. This is the fundamental belief that will cause someone to choose my answer, “no”. A significant improvement in the parts can actually cause harm to the entire team. I would use the baseball scandal as the example. Those individual players who used steroids to improve their individual performance eventually hurt the entire team and the image of the entire national pastime.
Question #2: “Will evaluating individual employee performance during a performance evaluation improve the relationship with the employee?” A “yes” answer suggests that someone who is judged will feel trusted and appreciated. A “yes” answer also suggests a belief that a performance evaluation can improve relationships. Research shows that performance evaluations do little or nothing to improve relationships and in fact can often damage trust between an employee and supervisor. Adecco Staffing of North America conducted a research study in March 2006. The results showed of 2,000 people surveyed just 49% of the workers said they find managers take performance appraisals seriously and only 44% said they receive constructive feedback. How can this type of result improve working relationships? A “no” answer acknowledges that criticism can damage a relationship.
Research shows the higher the level of trust in an organization the higher the performance. If trust is a critical element to high performing organizations then developing strong trusting relationships must be a key factor.
Question #3: “Will holding individual employees accountable for reaching their goals improve organizational performance?” A “yes” answer here suggests a belief that achieving individual goals is a key factor in organizational performance. Holding people accountable means what? Does that mean one will get blamed when things don’t go the way they should? What does “accountable” mean anyway. Is it accepting responsibility? Can you accept responsibility for results when you don’t have all factors consistently under your control?
Hero or Bum?
As a young salesman I was assigned one of the largest accounts in our company, namely Gillette. This was a Fortune 500 company with high visibility and great influence in our company. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. They had been working on a new product for two years and one month after my assignment to the account I was awarded a very large contract for packaging.
Not being trained properly I was asked to handle the large order and after two months I came to find out that we were going to miss three important ship dates. There was nothing we could do but agree to make the packaging on the dates they were suggesting.
I remember the meeting being so stressful. My boss was giving me glaring looks like I was some kind of evil idiot because I had let this get to a point where the company would have to incur a great deal of overtime to accommodate the orders.
I was a hero one week and then two months later I was a bum. Why? It was because there were factors outside of my control. I had made an important sales goal but I had failed to schedule the order properly because of a lack of training. I was naive and inexperienced.
The fact that I could go from a hero to a bum all in three months tells me that the answer needs to be “no”. How can I be held accountable for something I didn’t understand? How can I receive accolades for an order that fell into my lap?
How can I receive blame for a mistake (poor planning) when I was completely unaware of what I should do? Sure I could have asked the right questions. Perhaps I should have thought about it harder. But what is the lesson here and how can an organization avoid this type of situation in the future? Will holding me accountable for my mistake help the organization in the future? Will the fear of punishment help future young sales people or will a improvements in the training process help more?
The typical managerial practice in the typical organization includes:
Spending significant energy and resources to evaluate individuals instead of evaluating the quality of the interactions between the employees.
Working toward results while often damaging or failing to improve working relationships.
Holding individuals accountable for goals when they have little control over the key factors that generate the results. This approach causes damaged relationships and a climate of blame.
Once one understands different beliefs, these practices, although quite popular, begin to seem a bit crazy.
Wally Hauck is an EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT GEEK and a PREDICTABLE PERFORMANCE PUNDIT. Wally is passionately obsessed with eliminating the current performance appraisal process because it creates long lasting dysfunctions and damage to trust, performance, motivation, engagement, and relationships.In 1983, while reading the book the Turning Point by Frijof Capra, Wally realized he had been taught flawed thinking his entire life. The world of systems thinking and chaos theory resonated and he made a decision to never go back. From that day forward he vowed to share the insights with anyone and everyone.Wally is a Certified Speaking Professional or CSP. The Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation, established in 1980, is the speaking industry’s international measure of professional platform skill. CSP is conferred throughout the International Federation for Professional Speakers only on those who have earned it by meeting strict criteria. Wally has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania; an MBA in Finance from Iona College; and earned his PhD in Organizational Leadership from Warren National University in 2008. Wally’s new book, The Art of Leading: 3 Principles for Predictable Performance Improvement, provides three basic principles of leadership that form the foundation of success for predictable performance improvement and employee engagement.