It’s performance review time at Kronos. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the 15 years I’ve been a manager giving feedback to people about how to improve their performance at work. While every employee is unique, there are recurring themes that I’ve needed to address.
Here are a few (illustrated with celebrity examples) that those of you on either side of the performance appraisal equation may find useful in thinking about how to improve your own performance or that of your employees:
- Avoid “foot in mouth” syndrome. This is for those who don’t think before they speak (or who speak without being properly prepared). One of the best case studies in 2007 is Miss Teen USA South Carolina, Lauren Caitlin Upton – whose completely incomprehensible response to a question about the geographic ignorance of US high school students suggests that she will soon join the ranks of the underprepared workforce.
- Admit to your mistakes, learn from them, move on. Two words – Britney Spears.
- Be a gracious loser. No one is always right. Even when you are right, you won’t always get the project funded, the extra resources, or even the credit that you’ve earned. Try your hardest to win, but when you lose, conserve your energy for the next challenge. Last night’s Iowa Caucus gave a few high profile candidates a (perhaps unexpected) opportunity to demonstrate grace in the face of defeat. Here’s Hillary Clinton’s speech as an example.
- Performance improvement starts with self awareness. Whether it’s listening to feedback from the boss, colleagues and customers or formal assessment testing, you can’t leverage your strengths or mitigate your weaknesses if you don’t know what they are. Steve Carrell brilliantly demonstrates lack of self awareness as the hapless manager on The Office.
- Superior results often require taking some risks. Walter Lewin, a physics professor at MIT, has become a media star based on his unconventional teaching methods. Love him or hate him, Steve Jobs has made a career out of looking out over the horizon and creating solutions for needs consumers didn’t even know they had.
What’s the most useful feedback you’ve received during a performance appraisal?