Have you ever heard a friend or co-worker say that their annual performance review helped them to modify existing behaviors and transformed their performance going forward? Of course not. I believe that most annual performance reviews are designed to simplify a manager’s decisions concerning pay raises and bonuses while reducing an employee’s entire contribution down to a series of numbers and canned summary statements. It is disheartening to see the lack of effort that is put into the individual growth and development of our most important assets.
Is There a Better Way?
What if instead of hoping that your employees are catching-on and making the changes necessary in order to succeed in their role, they received regular one-on-one coaching every month (or more) along with a complete outpouring of investment through an annual coaching session with a cross-functional team from your company? What if your team stopped focusing on a number grade and shifted their focus to individual growth and contribution to the company’s success instead?
This new way of guiding employees to become the best version of themselves requires a cultural shift and a top-down belief in the importance of coaching. The leaders in your organization need to be able to model the desired behaviors that are necessary to both give and receive constructive feedback with a spirit of contribution. While there are many pillars that should be put in place along your journey, today we are going deep into one of our company’s signature culture-building mechanisms, the Annual Coaching Sessions.
Annual Coaching Sessions: A Break-Through Process
Every member of 5’s team, from the new college graduate to the CEO, receives an Annual Coaching Session. Each session consists of 4 team members representing each primary area of the company along with the person receiving the coaching. The session is facilitated by one of our senior leaders who also participates as a coach.
The first step in the process is a self-evaluation by the employee in which they provide a review of their annual goals and expectations, indicating where they have succeeded and where they have failed to meet expectations. This personal reflection is designed to be a non-emotional, fact-based view of the employee’s progress towards their goals.
Next, each member of the coaching group shares their feedback for the employee, focusing on the following four questions:
- What are the person’s strengths?
- What are the person’s opportunities or weaknesses?
- What is the community conversation* about this person?
- What is the one secret that you wish this person could hear that would have a dramatic impact on their performance and effectiveness?
*Community conversation refers to thoughts and themes that are generally applied to this person by members of the larger group. Community conversations are often unknown to the person and often carry a negative stigma or undertone.
As the coaches share their direct feedback, the employee being coached cannot defend, explain, rationalize, debate, or justify any of what they hear. Instead, they are asked to listen carefully and to recognize the gift of candid feedback given to them in the moment. After each individual coach shares their 4-part feedback, the person being coached simply says, “thank you.”
One of the many amazing outcomes of the Annual Coaching Sessions is the breakthrough connection that comes from the shared vulnerability of everyone involved. As a coach, it takes courage and compassion to be fully present to the person you are coaching and to offer feedback in an open and honest forum. Typically, a coaching group will leave a session with a feeling of camaraderie and a renewed sense of purpose for the overarching mission.
The Day After…
As each Annual Coaching Session comes to an end, the participants offer their support to the person who received the coaching and discuss 2-3 key steps that the person can take while also being accountable to the group. The power of these coaching sessions is that it affirms the value of the employee’s contribution to the team. 5 has found this kind of collaborative feedback is much more valuable and meaningful than most reviews that simply use a number to define a person’s performance.
If you are stuck in the Annual Performance Review rut and cannot make a formal change this year, select a small group of leaders and high potential employees in your firm and start an informal group coaching session to coincide with your upcoming reviews. Take note of the differences and begin preparing for a more meaningful approach to your 2021 reviews.