Fireside Chats Don’t Generate Enough Heat.

Why do some senior executives find it difficult to handle performance appraisal interviews with their fellow managers? How do we get honesty and forthrightness back into manager to manager dialogue?

Why Managers find performance appraisal interviews difficult.

In my travels I see numerous senior managers who have reached their position because of their business skill and because they demonstrate good leadership qualities, but still are highly insecure iabout holding their subordinate staff accountable through directly conversing with them about their performance.

Part of the problem arises from the development of close personal relationships in the work environment that then often create barriers to effective communication on sensitive performance topics. Sometimes it is that the Manager’s own personal development has not included enough experience in those inter-personal dynamics and negotiation skills needed to be a well rounded executive.

What reasons might executives have for being insecure in conducting performance interviews?

  • Reluctant to confront people they work with day by day.
  • Afraid of losing cooperation.
  • Unsure of their own grasp of the issues to be discussed.
  • Not well skilled in negotiating performance outcomes.
  • Insufficient framework to provide evidence.
  • Unclear goal posts/ targets.
  • Ineffective procedures in preparation for and follow up from the appraisal.
  • Feeling uncomfortable sitting in judgement on others, especially close colleagues.
  • Fear of being inarticulate or less articulate than the appraisee.
  • Not having sufficient structure to guide the appraisal to meet its objectives.

Whatever the reason, these influences tend to reduce the performance evaluation process to the status of a mere fireside chat. Such approaches do little for either the Manager or the appraisee.

  • They never truly confront the real issues that could improve the appraisee’s performance and add value to the organisation ; and
  • They do little to enhance the Manager’s influence over business outcomes or indeed their standing as an authority figure.

If you are just going to sit around and chew the fat, then you can forget about deriving any value from your performance appraisal interviews.

Is there a Checklist for effective appraisal interviews?

Preparation is everything. Some points to consider might include –

  • Make sure there is a structured performance appraisal framework that sets clear targets, unambiguous measures and communicates outcomes expected. Performance Appraisal Interviews
  • Require the appraise to prepare a self-assessment of their performance against the agreed targets.
  • Do your own research and preliminary evaluation of the appraisee’s progress against their targets before the meeting.
  • Prepare your own list of key issues and thoughts about what has gone well and what has not during the review period.
  • Maintain control of the interview agenda.
  • Give honest and constructive feedback.
  • Give praise where deserved and counselling where required.
  • Be prepared to engage in some debate and explore the appraisee’s views where they differ from yours.

Don’t be afraid to engage a Facilitator where the dialogue might need to be moderated or you lack confidence in dealing with a particular individual or set of issues. It is often beneficial to have someone to keep track of the agenda and assist with managing the dialogue while you concentrate on the key messages.

Never let a performance appraisal become merely an informal conversation involving unchallenging words about inconsequential matters. The warm feeling you might think you have will really just be the dying embers of your managerial control over your organisation.

If you are going to have a fireside chat  – make sure it generates some heat.

Need help with your performance appraisal system? Call in Reinforcements.

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