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Better performance conversations is what counts, whatever the system

There is increasing dissatisfaction about performance rating and review systems in organisations, with lots of articles and perspectives on why they don’t work, what some companies (like Deloitte, Accenture, SEEK, Adobe etc.) are adopting instead, what might actually work.


I agree that the system could be better and that the old approaches cost us time (2 million hours a year to create the ratings, according to Deloitte), energy and stress. On the other hand, regardless of the system, there have always been and will be managers who lift their team’s performance. The quality of performance conversations, regardless of the system, is what makes the difference.


Let’s say we move from an annual or half yearly review and rating system to a regular feedback and conversation approach. Some managers would find that natural and easy, others would find it cumbersome and awkward. If more of the managers are ineffective, then the team members under the new system may not be so happy or productive. There was an opinion piece in the Australian Financial Review, where the author was concerned about regular feedback, as the feedback from managers twice a year was painful enough. She stated that “things won’t get any better just because the conversation turns weekly.”


Or imagine if a manager was ineffective at addressing poor performance and/or behaviours and there were no ratings for the team member to understand that they need to improve. Team members may remain:


  • UNAWARE: not know they need improving
  • UNWILLING: be defensive or unable to improve because of how the manager addressed it
  • COMPLIANT: just do as their told to get the manager off their back


This will cost time, energy and stress for the manager, the team, the individual and the organisation. Managers need to get better at conversations where they support people to accept and take accountability for making improvements.


It’s a bit like the quote by Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. When it comes to performance reviews, I believe conversations quality eats systems for breakfast. It’s not to say we shouldn’t improve the system. Improving the system without improving conversation quality will not give you the competitive advantage.


Please join me for a webinar ‘Tricky performance conversations: 5 common mistakes to avoid’ at 8am 26th August or 12pm 31st August (Australian Eastern Standard Time) to discuss:

  • what makes performance conversations tricky
  • the 5 common mistakes to avoid
  • what’s needed to avoid these mistakes


Please register HERE.


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