Dr. Dewett returns as a member of the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. Dr. Dewett is a leadership expert and professor at Wright State University, author, speaker, trainer, consultant, and Harley nut. Full Bio…
Performance Management: Less is More
by Dr. Todd Dewett
The parade of thoughtful performance enhancing tools and structures never seems to end. We set goals for ourselves and have them set for us by others. We collect data for metrics supporting our performance. We attend formal and informal meetings to discuss our performance. We engage 360 assessments. We are coached. We are mentored. We are sent to training. And we participate in a myriad of leadership development programs. It’s shocking we actually get any work done.
All of these approaches can be very helpful. However, we forget two vital realities: each can be used improperly and they can be used too much. The first obvious result is a significant waste of hours and dollars spent managing the ever growing performance management system. Aside from this painful but obvious issue, there are at least three additional reasons to consider downsizing your performance management efforts:
The suspect cost/benefit tradeoff
- On the one hand, we spend a very large amount of hours and dollars to regularly administer and upgrade the performance management system. These quantities are quite measurable. On the other hand, how measurable is the change in performance due to each facet of the system? That is much more difficult to ascertain. Just between us, I know that these investments in the soft side of the performance equation are beneficial, but I can’t blame you for raising your eyebrow once in a while since nobody knows how to calculate a really good ROI.
Too much process analysis, not enough flow
- By process analysis I mean thinking about how you do something as opposed to actually doing it. The long list of devices above assist in the development of self-awareness. Well, they are supposed to. However, they often simply create excess time spent process analyzing. Worse still, depending on the quality of the device (e.g., coach, employee evaluation), time spent on process analysis may not be accurate or productive at all. Most importantly, time spent process analyzing is time not spent lost deeply immersed in the tasks, which is where optimal performance actually happens.
Creating mental extremes: the feedback junkies and the paranoid
- Most normal people find it challenging to positively and productively process performance-related feedback. When too many devices are used to support performance, or they are used incorrectly, unproductive mental tendencies can emerge, regardless of personality. One of the most common is the feedback junky. These are the people who do not feel good about themselves unless someone is overtly affirming their performance. Worse still are the paranoid. They live in a constant state of anxiety, wondering which aspect of their performance is currently being evaluated. These tendencies are reinforced by excessive performance management. Ironic, given their intention.
Here is a simple prescription to consider. First, remember, all things in moderation! The members of your team do not need every single performance enhancer known to man. Think of excessive performance management vehicles as bureaucracy you need to reduce. Less really is more. Second, shift much of the performance management process to informal administration instead of formal administration. Encourage coaching and mentoring, but do not create a rigid and mandatory system. One final thought: if you reduce some of the thoughtful, but not so helpful, bureaucracy surrounding your individual team members, they will love you for it!