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You’ll find the 20% of leadership information that produces 80% of leadership results in this newsletter. This is well-researched leadership information that, when consistently implemented, will produce bottom-line results.

Leader’s Role: Honest Appraiser

We’ve focused over the past few months on how leaders can engage people. Engaged employees commit extra effort to the job—discretionary effort. One factor in engagement is the employees’ expectation that leaders will appraise them honestly.

Honest appraisal is not about that hairy, scary, dreaded annual review (which ought to follow the Great Auk into extinction). It’s about sitting and talking to people. It’s about letting them know where they stand. It’s about giving people accurate information so they can make informed career decisions.

It’s no secret that more and better information results in better business decisions. The same is true of employees decisions about their own work behaviors. The more and more accurate information employees receive about their work, the better their decisions regarding these questions:

  • What do I want to do differently or better in my work?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What am I not going to change regardless of feedback?
  • How well do I fit in this company? This job?
  • How well am I meeting my career goals here?

Appraisal conversations, at their best, are simply sitting down and answering the question “How am I doing, Boss?” When conversations are frequent, there’s no time for baggage to accumulate on either side of the fence. When the leader frequently lets employees know what they’re doing right and what they need to change, people stop listening for the impending drop of the other shoe. When there’s no shoe up there to drop, employees can relax and throw themselves into their work.

Leaders who haven’t been having frequent conversations and want to start, can make the process easier by separating “Here’s what you’re doing right” conversations from “Here’s what isn’t up to expectations” conversations. Years ago, HR foisted the model of the “Oreo” performance conversations on managers—positive, constructive, positive. What happened? Employees learned to wait for the “but.” In doing so, they ignored the positive feedback, which everyone needs to hear.

If leaders are starting the process of frequent conversations and there is accumulated “not up to expectations” baggage, it’s unfair to dump the whole pallet of bags at once. Pick, at most, the 20% of the baggage that’s creating 80% of the performance concern. When giving feedback this wording helps:

  • What I observed is…
  • How often I’ve observed it is…
  • The performance I expect is…
  • The impact of meeting expectations will be…
  • What questions do you have about the expectation?
  • What will you do to adjust your performance? This week? Over the next month?
  • What help and support do you need from me to accomplish that?
  • Always schedule a follow up meeting so that you can praise progress or follow up on consequences. Follow up is a must.

    As an employee, once I know what you see in my performance, I can make an informed decision regarding what to do with my performance and my career.

    Join the dialogue on leadership

    Expanded information, case studies, business applications and missed opportunities from the real world that you can use to further leadership development in your organization, is in our quarterly journal Leaders’ Work. For a sample issue, click here