‘You’re kidding me!” I said to this very intelligent executive who said her company is still using the old “yearly performance evaluations.”
“No, I’m serious,” she replied. “That’s how we determine raises.”
And I thought American companies had junked this idea back in the ‘90s. You remember, don’t you? This is where your boss was expected to analyze what you’ve done and not done over the past 365 days, and then come up with a numerical rating for your attitude, enthusiasm, punctuality, attendance, ability, etc. It was usually on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being perfect. He sat you down, read the evaluation, based your raise on this collated number and expected you to improve.
What a waste of time. I used to do this in the ‘60s when I was a manager at Bechtel Corp. in San Francisco. I told my staff their raise were based on this “objective criteria,” but they knew it was all subjective; they weren’t stupid. I thought companies had long ago abandoned this antique practice, but I guess not. I hope your organization is not one of those who just can’t make it out of the ‘60s. But if it is, consider this:
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The job of a boss, the job of a teacher, the job of a parent is not just to “evaluate” but to coach and motivate.
Evaluations and gradings and appraisings can easily lead to demotivation. For example, if I’m doing something wrong, if my technique and actions are not accomplishing the desired effect, a bad grade just tells me what I already know. If you don’t show me how I can change and improve, you’ve just hit me while I’m down. Thanks a lot.
Schools use grades don’t they? My son had dyslexia. It’s a form of blindness. His third-grade teacher kept giving him a “U” (unsatisfactory) in reading. Did she think this would motivate him to cure his dyslexia? It made him want to drop out of school. Had she realized that he could learn faster and better by listening than most students do by reading and that he didn’t need grades -- he needed coaching -- he might have learned to love school.
I remember a salesman who was not bringing in the accounts. He had the motivation and the energy and the loyalty to the company, but he just didn’t have the skills. He had never been taught to sell. Management waited until the end of the year and gave him a rating of 1.43 out of 5. Did that motivate him to sell better? Of course not. He quit. But if his manager had coached him after his first month and taught him how to close a sale, we might have saved that salesman.
W. Edwards Deming, the father of the quality movement, used to tell me that the yearly evaluation was one of the seven deadly sins. He would get very emotional when he talked about the manager calculating a whole year’s performance in one numerical rating, and he would growl: “He’s playing God!” “Instead,” he said, “we need to play coach.” Coaches (whether managers or teachers or parents) need to put aside the judging aspect of their jobs until the very end. There will always be time to fire or punish. Now is the time to listen intently and offer advice and suffer mistakes. Now is the time to focus on growth and improvement and change. This is a new year. Let’s make it a new beginning for all employees.
Don’t wait until the end of the year and then fly by -- like the proverbial pigeon -- to drop the bad news. Get with the individual at the first sign of trouble and talk it out. Coaching takes time. Take the time. You won’t save them all, we know that. But if you save just one, he may turn out to be the best quarterback your team ever had.
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corp. and Cummings Management Consultants. His website is www.billcummings.org.