by Michael Holland    

Here are two headlines from the week of November 11, 2013:

It’s so intriguing to see two large companies having so much fun with the most basic of management tasks while going in opposite directions with regard to ranking employees.  Their quantification of employee performance is intended to help senior leaders make culture change happen, or, in “leadership speak”, to fully align and leverage their investment in human capital.

The real struggle in organizations is with each supervisor, manager, director, VP, Senior VP, and C-Suite Leader neglecting the real work that needs to be accomplished: having actual conversations with employees about their performance. This should happen on a regular basis, day in and day out, as the leader clearly articulates expectations and coaches employees up as needed, encouraging and challenging them.

Performance management tools and systems are put in place to force – well, maybe a more politically correct term would be “enable” – leaders to awaken to this role of providing feedback to employees.  But these tools and systems actually create behaviors in leaders that we shouldn’t want, and place too great an emphasis on bureaucracy fulfillment. Unfortunately, this happens at the expense of real conversations and other good leadership behavior.  And when these tools are used to accumulate scores to assess the relative value of the people asset, then leaders will eventually end up with just that: a dry, apathetic asset instead of a dynamic, engaged, and committed employee.

Microsoft and Yahoo are using these tools and systems to drive organizational change, and they will have an impact.  Exactly what that impact will be only time will tell.

Today, you have the opportunity to be a rebel and actually coach up an employee.  This is your job whether you’re the CEO or the lowest paid supervisor.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • Do you think that performance management tools and systems “force” leaders to give feedback? How would this happen?  What is a better way to enable (rather than force) the delivery of feedback?
  • How might such tools turn dynamic employees into mere assets?
  • Have you ever witnessed or received feedback in either an extremely positive or negative way? What was its effect on you?
  • How can you “be a rebel” and actually coach up your employees? Try to think of several real, actionable ways.