Are Performance Appraisals an Evil that Must Be DestroyedAs a leadership geek my idea of weekend relaxation is cruising Internet sites for research, insights, and perspectives on culture and leadership development. I’ll often post these to my LinkedIn profile which also links to Twitter and my Facebook profile . If you’re not already connected to me on LinkedIn please send me an invitation to connect with a note that you’re a blog reader.

Last weekend I came across this provocative piece on the Forbes leadership site:

The Performance Appraisal: A Workplace Evil That Must Be Destroyed…
“Here are 4 reasons why the annual performance review — as it’s traditionally practiced — is an evil, toxic ritual that must be abolished.”

I added this comment to my posting: Most performance appraisals are weakness-focused. Effective performance development is built on a strength-based coaching foundation.

Almost immediately these two thoughtful comments were posted in response:

Stephen G. Largy: “Excellent article, but here’s the hitch. What’s not measured is not managed. The problem is not with the ‘concept’ of annual feedback, it’s with the process. Begin to approach the ‘annual’ performance review as the culmination of ONGOING feedback on the employee’s ONGOING contribution toward professional, team, and company goals AND tie that to the employee’s ONGOING professional development. The problem is both employee and employer harbor the PERCEPTION that they don’t have time for this. The result? Articles such as this. The article is true, because we make it true.”

David Kennedy: “In an environment that is NOT undergoing rapid change I agree that strength-focused reviews can be used effectively. However when change is occurring on a regular basis, it is important to understand all the capabilities, positive or negative, of an employee. The ability to change job functions of an individual successfully is crucial to the success of the manager. The other day, Steve Ballmer was being critiqued on the ‘life boat’ exercise that his company, Microsoft, uses to evaluate each team’s performance. I agreed that evaluations that use negative criteria may be harsh, but companies must be in a constant state of flux to survive in the 21st century.”

Stephen is right on: performance discussions should be part of an ongoing process. I also agree with David that both positive and negative performance capabilities need to be addressed — especially during rapid change.

The research on performance coaches in the 90th percentile shows they look for what’s strong and positive that can be leveraged to move performance from good to great. They don’t ignore problems or deficiencies — especially if they’re “fatal flaws.” But their ultimate motivation for “performance management” isn’t weakness-focused. They look to help individuals and teams get better through strength-based approaches — including how to counterbalance weaknesses with strengths.

You can find a reader’s example of using performance discussions as development opportunities at “Building on Strengths: Coaching, Developing, and Retaining High Performers“.

Join the conversation. Please post your thoughts on this vital leadership issue below.