Do you eagerly look forward to giving or receiving performance appraisals? Does the experience feel like being poked in the eye with a sharp stick? Are you doing the poking?

Most people hate performance appraisals. Not only are they ineffective, they often scorch and burn. Research by Marie-Hélène Budworth, assistant professor of Human Resource Management at York University, shows that managers giving feedback to staff changed their performance 1/3 of the time, had no effect another 1/3 of the time, and actually reduced performance 1/3 of the time.

In a Harvard Business Review article on “The Performance Management Revolution,” the authors write, “hated by bosses and subordinates alike, traditional performance appraisals have been abandoned by more than a third of U.S. companies.” They report that performance focus is shifting from accountability to learning because of the return of people development, the need for agility, and the centrality of teamwork. That’s also why 360 assessments are much more effective when they’re developmental rather than used for measurement.

I recently came across a 12-minute YouTube presentation with Marie-Hélène giving her research on a strength-based alternative called Feedforward Performance Management. This clip is a good summary of Marie-Hélène’s steps (partnering with a leader using that approach) presented at a Canadian Positive Psychology Association conference a few years ago:

  1. Introduction — begin with an overview of how this is a different conversation and highlights what the coachee is proud of. A key objective is aligning personal examples with organizational goals.
  2. Story — move to discuss examples of a highlight or something the coachee felt good about — happy, energized, in flow (even before the results of his or her actions become known).
  3. Peak — the peak of the story. What did the coachee think at the peak moment?
  4. Condition — the manager then probes for conditions, feelings, thinking, success points, characteristics, strengths, etc. that allowed the story to happen.
  5. Feedforward — end with discussing the upcoming period and what the coachee is doing to draw from his or her strengths/successes. To what degree do the coachee’s plans take him or her closer to or further away from the conditions just described?

Imagine the impact of this approach on you or someone you’re coaching. Would you feel beat up or charged up?

Zenger Folkman’s research shows:

  • Managers who are mediocre at feedback and coaching have employee engagement scores 20 points below the average.
  • Managers who do not provide feedback in honest and helpful ways have teams that report 15 points below average on receiving fair treatment.
  • In a study of 11,350 employees, only 7% gave their manager high marks on providing honest, straightforward coaching and feedback.

On the other hand, ZF research shows:

  • No other leadership behavior correlates higher with increasing employee engagement than a leader’s effectiveness at coaching.
  • Leaders effective at coaching have 3 times more team members willing to “go the extra mile.”
  • Leaders effective at coaching and feedback have teams reporting 40% less intention to leave.

How are you doing? Are you putting away that stick and gasoline?

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