Coaching Skills: The Reason the Performance Review Exists In The First Place…

Kris Dunn Kris Dunn, Performance

Had someone ask me yesterday how they could eliminate the performance review at their company.

Really?  Really.

It’s trendy to say that performance reviews are broken and must be eliminated from corporate life.

What the people who call for an end to performance reviews won’t tell you is that they don’t have any good ideas on how to make the feedback loop better.  After all, the primary problem isn’t the system, it’s the coaching skills of the managers you have in place to deliver feedback.  

Repeat after me:

Managers = Feedback Delivery System

IF <your managers suck at giving feedback>/THEN <it doesn’t matter how you deliver feedback, it’s going to suck>

I feel better for getting that off my chest.  Thanks for listening.

The reality is that the issue isn’t your performance review system, it’s the coaching skills of your managers.

Keep the annual review, then do the following:

1. Start an initial and recurring training program to build coaching skills in all your managers of people.  You have to do this or nothing else really matters.

2. To get your managers to use the coaching skills, work with your senior leaders to implement a system where managers are expected to do “one-on-one check-ins” with all direct reports once a month (note – some progressive companies do this weekly, but you have to walk before you run..).

3.  Be the coach for the coaches (see recurring training in #1).  They’re going to need it.

Coaching is the replacement for the annual performance review.  In fact, the lack of coaching skill is the REASON we have performance reviews.  The one-on-ones should truly be “check-in” in nature – there’s no rating scales, etc.  The manager sets up a block of time, and the employee is expected to build a list of what THEY want to talk about.  The manager is there to help knock down barriers for them.  Once the employee is done with their list, the manager uses the coaching skills to talk about what’s going well, and some areas of opportunity they want the employee to focus on.  

No rating, just talking.  Coaching.  I know, novel idea. 

Coaching skills (or lack thereof) are the REASON we have performance reviews.  It’s also your way out of the broken system, but only if you invest the time and energy to do something about it.