Blog by Roelf Woldring.

Roelf has been a successful CEO and CIO.  He develops Performance Contracts for your C-Level Executive Suite.  Roelf Woldring is an Accomplished Executive with Boardroom Metrics.

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How to keep the “Ho, Ho, Ho” in performance appraisal season:

Are you, like thousands of managers, dreading the performance appraisals that you need to do at this time of the year? You are not alone. Just about every survey of working professionals that asks questions about performance appraisal document the discontent that people feel with the performance appraisal process.

So how do you make this better? How do you avoid the year end performance appraisal blues? Simple, really. Make a resolution to move from performance appraisal to performance contracting in 2012. Here’s how to do it in seven easy steps. Do this between now and the end of January 2012.

  1. Start by making a list of each of the people that work for you. Then for each one, brainstorm the things that they do for you. Use the outline facility in Word or a software tool like Inspiration or paper and pencil, whatever works for you.
  2. Once you have an initial list, re-organize it until you have between 3 and 7 main Responsibilities for each person. It’s hard to work with more. If your list is longer, group things together until you have the 3 to 7 you need.
  3. Now imagine that this person is going to do a great job on each of these 3 to 7 items throughout 2012. Visualize this. Run an internal film or set of pictures if that works for you. Ask yourself the following questions about each of the 3 to 7 responsibilities. Use the following script to help you do this.

“Jack (or whatever the person’s name is) is doing a great job at xxxx (fill in one of the responsibilities in your list). So what will I be:

Seeing – what’s showing me that  … (the person’s name) … is doing a great job at this?

Hearing – who’s telling me that ….  (the person’s name)  … is doing a great job at this? What are they telling me?”

4.  Translate what you are imagining – seeing and hearing – into a single statement – a measure or metric that lets you and others know that this person is doing a great job at this item. Ask yourself the following question as you do this.

“Will I be hearing and seeing this every day, every week, every quarter, …?”

This adds an important time dimension. The shorter, the better. Keep them under a quarter.

  1. Organize your results into a single page. List the 5 to 7 responsibilities. Put the appropriate measure or metric below each one. Title the page “Draft performance contract for … the person’s name.” Make two copies.
  2. Now you are ready to have a meeting with the person. Give the person a copy of the draft performance contract. Work through it together. See if the individual is clear about each item and each measure. Listen to any issues the individual has about any item. If these concerns help clarify things and make the measures even more concrete and specific, modify the page to reflect these concerns.
  3. When the two of you are through, you negotiated a straight forward performance contract between you. Turn the modified draft into a final version. Make two copies of it. Each of you sign both copies, and then take one for yourself. Doing so finalizes the contracting process between you.

Only 1 more thing to do and you are on your way to a hassle free performance appraisal at year end.

Schedule a meeting once a month with each person who works for you. Bring your copies of the performance contract. As you go through your one page together, ask yourselves:

“Am I seeing and hearing what we thought we would be seeing and hearing? Are the measures being met?”

“If yes, great – lets keep going.”

“If no, what can we do to get back on track?”

There, you have stopped performance appraising and become a performance contractor. Instead of looking back and evaluating, you are looking ahead and coaching.

You will find that your folks appreciate knowing what they have to do, and how it will be measured. They will probably surprise you by exceeding some of the measures.

If performance problems do occur, then the two of you have become collaborative problem solvers. Together, you will focus on fixing performance problems as they occur, not evaluating them after the fact.

And you will keep the “ho, ho, ho” in your year end performance appraisal process.