Read an Excerpt
Manager's Guide to Performance Management
A Briefcase Book
By Robert Bacal
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2012McGraw-Hill
All rights reserved.
Performance Management: An Overview
It's year-end at Acme Progressive. Managers and employees are going through their yearly dance of performance appraisal, at least that's what they call it.
Michael manages 14 employees directly. No question he has a lot on his plate, meeting with staff, filling out forms, and gulping antacid. Since the personnel department pushes him to get his forms in on time, he has to figure out a way to get this all done as fast as possible.
And he does. He sends an appraisal form to each employee via interoffice mail. After employees complete the forms, he meets with each one for about 15 minutes to discuss the forms, and then signs them. Voilà! Problem solved. The paperwork gets done on time, the personnel department is content, and everyone goes back to their "real work." Except there's a problem.
What's Wrong with This Picture?
The better question might be, Is there anything right with this picture? Here's more information about Acme.
The forms Michael and the other managers send on to the personnel department are put into file folders and mostly forgotten. The information on the forms is so vague and unreliable it can't be used to make basic personnel decisions, let alone decisions about salary and promotions. Michael and his staff won't look at them again until the next year-end performance appraisal dance. If you could hear Michael's staff talking privately about the process, you would hear comments like "What a joke!" or "This is a waste of time."
There's more. Michael's department doesn't run well. Staff miss deadlines. They aren't sure who should be doing what, and things fall through the cracks, while in other areas they step all over each other getting things done. Mistakes get repeated, which drives everybody nuts, but nobody seems to know why they keep happening. Not even Michael knows what's going on. All he knows is that he is so busy he can't keep up.
Here's the fundamental problem. Michael, his manager, colleagues, and employees consider "performance management" a necessary evil. They do it because they "ought to" or "have to." They don't realize that performance management, if carried out properly, has the potential to fix many of the problems they're facing.
While managing performance can have incredible power to solve many organizational problems, most managers learn to manage performance by having the process "done to them." They repeat the process, apply the same wrong mindset, and repeat the mistakes their own managers have made. They learned well. They learned the wrong things. It's all a waste. Not a smidgen of value here. No, it's worse than a waste. Employees think Michael is a poor manager (perhaps they're right) because they see him forcing them into a valueless process. That damages his credibility. The organization thinks it's accomplishing something, but it's only creating more useless work for people who have better things to do. They're doing it all wrong. Pure and simple.
Is There Hope?
Yes, there's hope. Acme has a skilled and dedicated staff. The managers are good folks and bright—even if they need to learn about managing performance. If they break away from existing habits, they can be much better at solving Acme's business problems and creating a work climate that's more engaging.
There's hope for every company and every manager. Does the Acme story sound familiar to you? Have you ever done what Michael did? Have you ever had your performance appraised in a way that didn't help you and discouraged you from wanting to improve at all? Probably. Are you getting value from your performance management system? A little? A lot? Probably less than you could get.
Our goal for this book is to explore the basic question, How can you use performance management as a meaningful tool to help people (and therefore your organization) succeed? If you help employees excel, you've added tremendous value to the proposition, and that changes the whole equation.
Let's start by looking at what performance management is and what it isn't.
Performance Management: What Is It?
Performance management is an ongoing communication process, undertaken in partnership between an employee and his or her immediate supervisor, that involves establishing clear, shared expectations and understanding about:
* the essential job functions the employee is expected to do
* how the employee's job contributes to the goals of the organization
* what "doing the job well" means in concrete terms
* how employee and supervisor will work together to sustain, improve, or build on existing employee performance
* how job performance will be measured
* identifying barriers to performance and removing them
That gives us a starting point, and we'll continue to flesh out things as we go. Note some important words here. Performance management is done with the employee because it benefits the employee, the manager, and the organization, and is best done in a collaborative, cooperative way. Performance management is a means of preventing poor performance and working together to improve performance. Above all, performance management means ongoing, two-way communication between the performance manager (supervisor or manager) and employee. It's about talking and listening. It's about both people learning and improving.
What Performance Management Isn't
It's important to know what performance management is, but we also need to know what it is not. In our tale about Acme Progressive, Michael thought that performance appraisal was the same as performance management. Most people at Acme thought performance management was about filling out and filing forms. No surprise that the process had no positive value.
To succeed at performance management, you need to be aware of some common misconceptions that can trip up even the best of managers.
Performance management isn't:
* something a manager does to an employee
* a club to force people to work better or harder
* used only in poor performance situations
* about completing forms once a year
It's an ongoing communication process between two people. That's the key point. Remember that it's about people working with people to make everyone better, and you will succeed.
What's the Payoff for Using Performance Management?
As you read more about performance management, you'll realize that it takes time and effort—perhaps time and effort you would rather use for other things. What manager wants more work? Consider, though, that the time and effort are an investment.
When performance management is used properly, there are clear benefits to everyone—managers, employees, and the organization. Let's take a look at these potential benefits.
When I speak to managers about employee performance, I ask, "What things about your job drive you nuts, the things that you take home at the end of the day?" Here are some of their answers:
* feeling the need to micromanage and be involved in everything to make sure it goes right
* never having enough time in the day
* employees who are too timid to make decisions they could make on their own
* employees' lack of understanding of their jobs, particularly the whys of the jobs
* disagreements about who does what and who is responsible for what
* employees giving too little informati
Excerpted from Manager's Guide to Performance Management by Robert Bacal. Copyright © 2012 by McGraw-Hill. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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