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Being a Smart Team Builder Isn’t Difficult

But you have to stop doing ridiculous things… and start taking time to do the important things.

Here is a link to a great article from Forbes about flawed HR practices in the workplace, “Ten Ridiculous HR Ideas That Need To Die,” by Liz Ryan.

I encourage you to take a look—it’s short and to the point. She hits the nail squarely on the head regarding issues that have irked me for quite some time, including annual performance reviews and 360 feedback systems. On the face of it, these seem like logical approaches, but they are fraught with problems.

For example, annual performance reviews are control mechanisms that use selective memory, let the supervising manager off the hook of responsibility, infantilize employees, and focus on the negative. They more often depress people than encourage performance. Rather than year-end reviews, I encourage managers to create—with their direct reports—year-beginning agreements. These are agreements regarding performance that have shared manager-direct report responsibilities and accountabilities, and are regularly discussed and amended as needed.

Rather than year-end reviews, I encourage managers to create—with their direct reports—year-beginning agreements.

In regard to 360-degree reviews, they are personal, biased, and written based upon the needs of the reviewer rather than the objective performance of the person being reviewed. They also foster cliques while undercutting trust and honest collegiality. [An important note: sometimes customer feedback is confused with the concept of a 360—they are two different things.]

Even in the midst of competing demands for our time and focus as managers, letting go of outmoded tools and setting aside time for employee development is worth it.

The first step is to shift our focus from assessment and reviews to coaching and engagement. Employees thrive in environments where:

  • Expectations are absolutely clear;
  • Mutual trust is developed through honest engagement; and
  • Employees’ skills and passion align with job responsibilities.
Annual performance reviews are control mechanisms that use selective memory, let the supervising manager off the hook of responsibility, infantilize employees, and focus on the negative. They more often depress people than encourage performance.

Expectations:

The most important thing you can do as a manager is to clearly define activity, outcome, and success expectations—and create a cadence of accountability. Put it in writing.

Mutual Trust:

Meet with direct reports at the beginning of the year to discuss expectations, goals, and strategies. Though, as a manager, you are ultimately responsible for the job structure and activities, have conversations with your direct reports to make sure you agree on near term tactics. Meet regularly to make adjustments when things aren’t working. Coach rather than oversee.

Skills and Passions Align with Job:

This is particularly important to younger workers. When skills and passions don’t align with job responsibilities, the symptoms are clear: low energy and productivity, crummy attitude, lack of focus… These symptoms indicate that either you have the wrong person for the job or the wrong job for the person. This needs to be addressed as soon as it is evident. Otherwise it drains the energy out of the team. Don’t shy away from heart to heart conversations; your direct reports will be relieved.

The work environment is dynamic. Things change constantly. It takes work to do the important things. But it pays off.

James Mueller & Associates helps organizations build plans that are rooted in the values, vision, mission, and brand position of the organization, are action oriented, and contain measures of success. See how we can help you.

AUTHOR - James Mueller

Jim Mueller is president of James Mueller & Associates LLC (JMA), a national consulting firm that provides services in the areas of organizational development, governance, and philanthropy. Follow Jim on LinkedIn.