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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #31: Performance Reviews

March 19, 2019
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #31: Performance Reviews

In episode #31 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, Chris Goede and Perry Holley share their experiences with the often much dreaded ‘performance review’!

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Welcome to the John Maxwell Company Executive Leadership Podcast where our goal is to help you increase your level of influence, increase your reputation as a leader, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to drive remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, John Maxwell facilitator and coach and I’m Chris Goede, Vice President of The John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining.

Today’s topic is titled Leading Day to Day building off the theme from our last podcast. But the dreaded performance review, even just saying that makes my skin crawl. I can’t even wait to get into this conversation of what you were thinking about with us. Well, you know, it’s that time of year. Most companies are asking their leaders to execute a performance review process with all their team. And that’s what most people feel is an execution. But, can’t we be more intentional about how to use the performance review process to make it more meaningful and instead of some ticking the box exercise? I mean, what’s been your experience with performance reviews since you had a team and you’re just, you’re on both ends of that? You get reviewed and you give reviews.

Yeah. Well, how do you see it? Both sides. We’ve got one word for you. Awkward. Yeah. Right. It’s like you have this relationship, you’ve been working together for a long time and you see, you know, you see the performance reviews on there and it’s just, you know, I don’t know. And for me, and I can’t wait to hear what you’re thinking here because I can hear the excitement and the laughter that you’re putting us through talking performance reviews on a podcast, so hopefully it will last about seven minutes and 22 seconds for me. Yeah, it has always bothered me about how one review is tied to your compensation at the end of the payout.

It’s just one meeting. And so, man, I desire for him to be more frequent, I desire for him to be different. So I’m excited. What’s your thinking? Yeah. So I know that many companies, the companies I’ve been with, you have to rate and rank your employees in order to pay out some sort of bonus. That’s right. But evaluating somebody’s performance can be so much more if we would take time to help people grow and develop, make it meaningful. I suggest looking at performance review as a full year program, not just that dreaded January experience to do that. And it should lead to the outcome of helping our teammates to grow. I could grow their ability to be successful in their work, increasing their skills and their confidence in doing their job and really delivering the outstanding results we’re looking for instead of just giving them a score.

Like you have this relationship and then just giving someone a grade, you know, is almost like a waste of time and you put it in their file so you can say that you’ve done it. And what I’d love to see is how are we helping them get better and how are we doing on a more continuous basis because if we’re waiting as most organizations do to this one-year annual review, giving them feedback, this full approach kind of thing a year, we’re taking a risk. I was with an organization the other day and the chief human resource officer said my goal is within the next two years to completely change the way we do our performance reviews. And I was like, yes, talk to me.

And so it actually aligns a little bit with what you’re talking about here. And Mark Cole, our CEO, he’ll say to us leaders at times, he’ll be like, here’s one problem I have is if you get to your performance review with your team members, and they’re surprised at any of the feedback that they received, shame on you. Right? Right. And so that in essence, you know, encompasses the fact that we should be giving continual feedback. It’s a process and we’ve got to help them with their plan and their path. And what does that look like? And when it comes to 5 Levels of Leadership, when you talk about having a desire to move up through the levels of influence with your individuals, when you begin doing this on a continuous basis and not waiting for the whole year end kind of, it’s all important, you really begin to grow your Level 4 influence with them.

Well, here’s what I’m thinking. All right. It’s very intentional and it’s very structured. I know a lot of companies are probably doing things like this, but here’s what I want to do. In January, I want to establish goals and targets for the year. Why are you laughing at me? I’m excited. Also in January, I want to establish individual objectives that will lead to the annual goals and then in January I also want to establish your individual priorities for the quarter that lead to these objectives that are going to lead to the goals. That kind of makes sense. Right. Okay. And then this is where I’m doing something a little new for most of us is I want to review the progress on those priorities weekly or biweekly at a one-on-one. Leaders, if you’re not having a one-on-one with the people that report to you, you absolutely have to do that.

So let’s say it’s every two weeks. I’m going to one part of that one-on-one is how are you doing on those most important tasks, those priorities that you were working on that you told me you’d be working on. Then I have a month end review process, just as in one of the one-on-one, how did we do for the month? Did we do what we said we’re going to do? Then, at the end of the quarter, I really want the review, the process, how did we do on our objectives and our most important priorities for the quarter and then set at that meeting, set my most important tasks, my priorities for the next quarter and do it all again. It may take a little more time. But I think it’s valuable. It draws people into, again, as we have spoken about, finding my potential, growing me, getting my buy-in, I’m important to the work that’s being done here, raises my level of engagement, makes me feel like I’m relevant to what’s going on and I’m not here just to get a grade and to Mark’s point, you’re not going to end up at the end of the year, surprised by what I think about how you’re doing. You are like you are weighing into the microphone.

What I like about where you’re going is the accountability behind it, the frequency of how often it’s being looked at. We’ve talked before on another podcast, about priorities, which you may hear right after this one and it talks about the fact that hey, as leaders we meet, need to make sure that there’s alignment in what our team is working on and what you’re working on. And oftentimes if you’re not having these sit down meetings and not having these one-on-ones, I could be over here working on top three objectives, but you need me to be working on another three and there’s this gap there. There’s this disconnect. So, I like where you’re going with it. Talk to me. Do you still do the first of the year and the review or is this all just become part of the process overall?

Absolutely, I kick off the year this way, but now I have a years worth of data to do the annual assessment and then like you said, it’s no surprise we’ve been coming to this point. Then, I also like to ask the person that I’m providing the evaluation to give me their assessment first. I actually give them a form and say, fill out here where the objectives we had. These were the priorities you had. How did you do? How did you see it? This makes people uncomfortable. I notice at first, but they said I want to know how you saw it. I’ve got an idea about that. And then they send me their assessment, and then before I write mine and then I look at seeing are we on the same page? Are they fooling themselves? Am I fooling myself? I want to really know. So what do you think about that? Do you lean toward having people tell you first what they think of the performance before you do it?

At The John Maxwell Company what we currently do is, we have them, so we’ve done it two different ways. We do have them kind of write themselves and then go through and give some color commentary to different objectives and different things and different thoughts. And they’ll send it to the leader. And then we’ll kind of do our assessment tool. The other thing is, is that we’ve had them do it and we’ve done ours as leaders and then we show up at the meeting and we talk about it right their first time. Yeah. And so what you’re looking for is you’re looking for a deviation through some of the rankings to where you know that, hey, we got a disconnect here.

We’re missing it. And that allows you to kind of immediately just talk about it in real time. So, there’s been some awkward moments, you know, it’s been a little uncomfortable at times that I’ve been a part of both receiving and even in giving information. But what has come out of that would be direct communication on where we’re missing it. And so it’s allowed us to kind of attack the problem right there in that meeting versus kind of skirting around it.

Some people, it’s a little odd, to write their own assessment and then compare it to what I think, but here’s why I do that. What’s the outcome that I want for this? Do I just want you to get a score of ticking the box, get out of my office or do I want to take this valuable one-on-one performance time with a valued resource on my team and help take them to the next level, help them unlock potential they may have that they don’t know they have. It’s a great time to be encouraging. It’s a great time to give feedback and help people grow. Another thing I’ve done, I found it was very surprising and I walked into my boss’s office and they put a piece of paper across and I’m supposed to do now read it while they talked to me and sample to have some sign it before you go out of here. So here’s what I do. I write mine up on top of theirs and then send it back to them for them to review before the meeting. So when you come to the meeting, I want you to know my heart is really to grow and develop. If your performance was unsatisfactory, we’ve got to get a plan in place. If your performance was satisfactory, I want you to know it. And then I wouldn’t want to set goals and objectives about where we’re going next. And it’s really about the outcome I’m looking for. It’s not a tick in the box. I want you to know you’re meaningful to me and this organization and I need you to keep growing and doing what you’re doing.

Yeah. And you know what I love about this, if you do this, the system or adapt a system that’s similar to this and you have this kind of continuous feedback and when you do have your annual reviews, it allows you to have time to talk more about big picture stuff. Where is it that they want to go in their career? What are they trying to achieve, you know, personally, how can you walk alongside that? Do we have clear descriptions on your responsibilities and your roles?

I know it’s often a conversation at The John Maxwell Company, maybe yours as well where they go, hey, you know, that job description that you posted for this job that I’m now doing, can we review that? Because it doesn’t seem to be anything like what I’m doing. Right. I’ve got 15 other jobs, which tends to be a multi hat syndrome, which is part of our 360 content. But that’s why I love that because then you can use those annual, then more of this awkward situation and this kind of give him a grade and it’s tied to compensation. The annual part of it is if you’re attacking that other stuff all throughout the year, this really becomes more about that development of the individual as a whole.

Yeah. And it just that whole conversation that makes you feel relevant to what’s going on. I know the tendency of many organizations just to make the process a little robotic, but now I can make it come alive with possibilities for the person, for the team. I love what you just added about, you know, what are they trying to accomplish in their personal life or in their work life, what goals do they have, what promotion are they looking for? I can make this all into a development plan. Now, you know, we’re really going places. Yeah. And people really buy into you and they know that they like you and they want to be a part of what you’re doing. I have people that will say, no, really. Like you really want to know like personally what their goals are and what they’re trying to achieve and accomplish. Like what if it’s not at the John Maxwell Company? And I’m like, right, okay, great. Let’s have that conversation. And they’re like, no, no, no. You’re trying to tell me that you’re going to continue to develop. You’re going to pour into this individual and their goal is to leave. Or maybe they do leave. And I go, absolutely. And they look at me like I have three eyes, right? And then I go, well, you know what’s worse? And then I got their attention and I say the alternative. John has this thing he teaches us called pregnancy pause where you just sit in it and we sit in it and they don’t get it. And I go, I don’t develop them and they stay. So I’m going to take my chances. To your point, I’m going to take my chances on developing them as a complete person and why not? We do life with people we work with more than we do live with anybody else. So why not make them the best them that they possibly can be?

Well, listen, as we wrap up. Man, listen, I hadn’t seen you this excited for a podcast in a long time. Let me summarize just a couple of key points for us today and then I’ll let you kind of have any closing thoughts about this idea. First of all, if you don’t have a review process and you don’t meet one-on-one, that’s got to happen, right? But if you do, maybe taking some of what we shared with you today and kind of maybe implementing it in what you already do would be awesome. But so as we wrap up, a couple of things that stuck out to me today just to kind of make sure you have any closing thoughts. Make sure you don’t wait a whole year to let someone know what they’re doing, right? Like, let’s, let’s get this on continuous feedback through regular review. Make sure there’s clear goals, objectives and priorities. That’s, you know, that’s common to most people and make sure that you’re clear with each other. Make sure that you know what you’re putting down there, picking up and vice versa so that you guys are on the same page.

I just know that having clear roles, responsibilities that I’m clear about what I’m doing and what I’m aiming for with the outcomes I’m looking for, I have clear priorities that can’t express that enough. Most people have the best intentions and priorities, but there’s so much distraction in the workplace today. So many things going on. Everybody’s busy, busy doing what. So I think these conversations, ongoing feedback and coaching just makes it a real deal. And I’m raising and hopefully in your eyes your value to me and to the organization and I’m finding that most people, they don’t want to leave when they feel valued. They feel a part of something. They want to be a part of something.

It goes back to two things you just made me think about people are going to join your company, your organization for one reason, but they’re not going to stay for just that one reason. So this gives you an opportunity, this gives you a structure to continue to add value to them. The other thing it does is those that are naturally wired from a Level 2 kind of relationship standpoint and sometimes have a hard time having conversations like this, it builds a structure around you being able to have conversations like this. And so it allows you to be in that production mode, it allows you to lead them more effectively on a day to day basis. I do. I definitely believe it makes a difference on how we lead day to day. So thanks Chris. Great input. Thanks for letting me rant.

Just as a reminder, if you would like to learn more about the 5 Levels of Leadership or perhaps bring a 5 Levels of Leadership Workshop to your organization, please go to We would also welcome any questions or thoughts you may have about leadership on that site that Perry and I will be able to answer in future podcasts for you. Thank you for joining us. This has been the John Maxwell Company Executive Leadership Podcast.

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