Another Week Beyond – 2204

Beyond Another Week Beyond

Dear friends,

Since the start of the year, I have been sharing about our staff activities. Our commitment to decision making by consent, non-violent communication and encountering our failures. So, I thought that I will round off the month with today’s sharing in similar vein.

The core purpose of our performance appraisal exercise is to facilitate team success, personal accountability, and professional development.   I believe many people development professionals would not disagree with this, but they would add that it also an exercise to recognise and reward high performing employees.  So, regardless of whether there is a financial reward or not, we hope   that my colleagues and I will leave the exercise feeling appreciated for what we have done well, and with a realistic to-do list for addressing areas we could do better.

For this to happen, we envision authentic and respectful conversations that acknowledge both strengths and areas of improvement for the person in focus. The conversation should also help the focus person to develop and consent to an improvement plan. This sounds logical and fair but no matter how we explain it, performance appraisals tend to be tense affairs. As my senior colleagues and I reflected on how to keep conversations safe and on point, we identified that the scoring on the form usually started a debate and hindered meaningful dialogue.  We observed that in respond to a scoring system, those being appraised are likely to approach the exercise in one or a combination of 3 different ways.

Firstly, some would confidently rate themselves highly and then start defending their own assessment. Then, there would be those who believe that they have done their job adequately and would be quite happy just to be regarded as good enough to keep their job. They will be grateful for compliments or any form of compensation that come their way and generally will be quite relieved when the exercise ends. Finally, there will be the “hard-raters” who feel that they could have done better.  

This observation was not a criticism of   these behaviours and certainly not of the people who adopted them, but it helped us conclude that a score was an obstacle to meaningful conversation. Our appraisal exercise will now separate the scoring from the conversation, and we also realised that for a meaningful conversation, the focus person should also invite feedback from team-mates who work closely with them.

So, we will be having our performance review conversations in a circle where people take turns to  give and receive feedback as allies, and with kindness, honesty, and self-responsibility.  Self-responsibility means the focus person will start the conversation to share what he or she has done well and in a following round, his or her as areas of improvement. After receiving feedback from others, the focus person will reflect to everyone else what he or she has heard and understood. The circle will then suggest possible areas of improvement that the focus person can take steps to improve. These steps will make for an improvement plan that seeks the focus person’s consent.

So far, I have sat in 3 circles and am really heartened that that my colleagues have told me that the process is really sensible and practical. I pray that my feedback will always be generous and seasoned with grace.

May we always have the strength to be generous, kind, and honest.