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I remember the first time I was on the receiving end of an annual assessment. My hands were sweaty, my stomach tight, and my heart was pounding. This would be the first assessment added to my “official record”. I crossed my fingers and waited for my supervisor to believe that my strengths outweighed my weaknesses. To cut a long story short, it turned out that my annual evaluation was more of a check in the box for my manager than an honest critique of my performance. After 45 minutes, all I learned was that I met the requirements to fulfill my work obligations. No useful information was provided, and I left the meeting without knowing what I thought my supervisor was doing well or how it would help me develop in areas where I needed to improve.
When I started my leadership development business, I noticed a trend: All of my high-performing clients had similar performance review methodologies. First, none used performance appraisals to guide salary increases or promotion decisions. Many of them didn’t even bother to do annual reviews. Instead, they had frequent conversations based on force. I became convinced that these conversations are the difference between mediocrity and greatness. These are the four most compelling reasons not to do annual reviews.
Related: How to Survive Employee Performance Assessments
1. Conversations are more appealing than performance reviews
Something exciting happens when you ask an employee what they think they do well. The employee not only feels listened to, but you are also opening a dialogue and learning what they like. Having a conversation focused on how the employee feels about what they are being asked to do is powerful. Understanding what your employee’s strengths are will allow you, as a leader, to develop a growth plan that allows the employee to spend more time doing what they already want to do. It also helps to strengthen your weaknesses by creating a personalized development plan that may include coaching, mentoring, training, or counseling.
2. Conversations allow for greater responsibility without fear of failure
Identifying your employees ’innate strengths and finding new and creative ways to use them offers employees and leaders opportunities they didn’t know existed. As the conversation about strengths evolves, leaders need to understand their role in the employee growth plan. At the same time, the leader and the employee are having a conversation about what should happen to facilitate growth; they will also talk about their role in making this growth happen. As a team with a common goal of capitalizing on strengths, leaders and employees align the action with purpose.
For example, your conversation with the employee may be like this. “We agree that you’re a great writer and we need to find a creative way to leverage your skills. I’ll talk to the head of marketing and see if you can use it to help create content. I’ll call them and I’ll tell you what I found out. ” By acting on behalf of the employee and the company, the leader is now the conservative of success rather than a victim of a broken and obsolete system that would have kept these strengths under control.
Related: 4 rules to offer flexibility without losing responsibility
3. Conversations inform managers about how the team is doing in general
With a complete alignment of purpose and method, all that remains to complete this cycle is to measure how well we are doing. Each team member understands their role and the expected outcome and is now free to discuss the results. Both the leader and the employee understand why and how these new strengths are directly related to the success of the team. Conversely, a new path can be charted if the actions have not yielded the expected results.
4. Force-based conversations provide flexibility to leaders
Imagine a world where your contribution is measured by the success of your organization in growing talented people. What if you were no longer restricted by a job description but hoped it would help people get out of their position? We assume that we could focus our attention on helping employees hone their skills while increasing their overall contribution to the business. Wouldn’t that give you the freedom to help your team succeed in the most efficient and empowering way possible?
For many, eliminating a weakness-focused assessment system is daunting. A culture based on strength that values growth, teamwork, and leadership seems like an out-of-the-box idea and may make some leaders anxious. The simple answer is: start at the beginning. Start today with an honest discussion with leadership on how you can begin to focus on your team’s strengths and use them to build an evolving and resilient organization.
Related: It’s time to reinvent your performance reviews. Your employees will appreciate it