So, instead of spending a considerable amount of time demoralising ourselves, what could we do differently?
It sounds blindingly obvious, but the first step for all of us is to ensure we know our teams well enough, what else is going on in their life that might impact their business performance and their short and long-term aspirations. This isn’t as easy as it sounds (see my previous article on identity).
Gather balanced 360° feedback – our own views are only one perspective, and likely to be filtered through our own conscious and unconscious biases.
Ask for feedback from your team on what would help them become more successful or impactful in their current roles. It is easy to hold an individual accountable for something that is actually an organisational issue.
Another area is to provide feedback frequently, at a micro level, ensure that most of it is positive and ask subordinates for their views on us. Two-way, frequent communications means that feedback is familiar, helpful and unthreatening. I’m sure that Usain Bolt has multiple discussions with his coach daily. I doubt they trigger his amygdala response.
Seek training in how to have difficult conversations. There are a number of books and programmes that can assist but at heart, a good first step is to think first from the other person’s perspective, not ours, and assume your team members are doing their best.
Create an open application process for senior appointments. It is easy for talented executives to assume they will never be promoted whilst they work for a line manager who does not appear to be sympathetic to their aspirations.
All of this is very easy to suggest and very hard to do. However, the time, energy and resources devoted to many current appraisal systems may actually be inhibiting, rather than enhancing business performance.