Performance objectives – For your manager or you?

Reviews are often a painful process for all concerned. Managers and employees typically  hate them. HR spends a lot of time coercing people into doing them, while managers under huge pressure to deliver projects or results often write them at the last-minute with predictable consequences. When I recently asked my new team about their thoughts on the performance review process, here are some of their frustrations based on experiences in multiple organizations:

  • Goals are sometimes delivered too late
  • Goals sometimes did not make sense to them
  • Goals may not have always been realistic
  • Goals were something to keep their manager happy
  • There is very little value or insight from the process

What is the point of the performance management process? I believe there are several:

  • Align the team around the company’s strategy
  • Stretch employees to deliver more for the organization
  • Develop employees for future career opportunities
  • Identify roadblocks that impact organizational  & employee performance

Conversations like these with my team energize me. I love that members feel free to share what they really think. I have had painful first hand experience of the disasters that await when you ignore feedback from the team on what is achievable. We are revisiting the goals to make them more realistic. That said I am still pushy and require the team to stretch to deliver more for the business. If the team is not delivering higher performance or my people are not developing, why should the company pay my salary?

If you receive coaching on crafting good goals you will likely hear how important SMART goals are. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound. Every effort should be made to make goals SMART. In practice it is very hard to do. For example, crafting a meaningful goal for employees who need to work on their presence or decision-making is very difficult. How do you actually measure these things objectively? It is not impossible; it is difficult though! My thought is that you should still try.  The process of working with your staff through this process will enlighten both and uncover hidden assumptions and biases that can lead to better performance.

I recently assumed the responsibilities to manage a team of Business Analysts. My vision is to ensure we become more connected to our customers and partners so we can deliver products that delight them. I need the team to execute well to achieve this. Goals that are meaningful to employees and inspire them are essential to achieve our collective goal.

It is important to realize that setting the goals is not where most managers fail.  The fail when they do not check in with their employees on regular intervals to ensure that they are still on track to accomplish those goals. Updating the review system with employee’s accomplishments constructive and complimentary feedback throughout the year is essential to keep goals meaningful. The more effort you and your team put into this process the better the results will be!

If your manager does not take the process seriously, don’t sit back. You own your career. Invest time to write great goals that will help you achieve success. Managers will be glad to work with someone who does.

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