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2 Blind Spots Leaders Often Have Regarding Performance Discussions

Have you ever watched a movie where the hero is being chased by predators through the woods? He quickly arrives at a cliff screeching to a halt and nearly falling off into a river far below. He now has a choice, stay to face the predators, which will likely kill him, or take a chance and jump into the river below risking possible severe injury or even death. He reacts and jumps.

In my opinion, this describes the decision many major organizations made when they made major changes to their performance management processes. They were being chased by the poor results of the typical appraisal. These include significant wasted time, complaints by employees (especially millennials) about the quality and frequency of feedback, and the lack of quality skill developmental discussions.

Many of the employees (especially millennials) who are unsatisfied with the typical appraisal process claim the feedback is poor and doesn’t help focus on developmental needs. As high as 65% say it is not relevant to their job  (Meinert, 2015). Only 8% believed their performance management systems made a significant positive contribution in employee performance (David Rock, 2013).  These Performance management “predators” are real.  Even so, reacting and jumping into a “river” you don’t really understand, is not necessarily the best option.  When you have blind spots, you only see the jumping option.

Accenture, GE, Microsoft, Adobe and Deloitte and several others reacted and jumped. Some went into the “river of software” where the hope was to spend less time and remove much of the paperwork angst. Some jumped into the “river of more frequent check-ins” to avoid the annual conversations which managers dread, which waste time, and that upset employees.

Although Accenture, GE, Microsoft, Adobe and Deloitte have “jumped” why are their employees/executives still unsatisfied? There are two reasons in the form of two blind spots.  The first is the lack of appreciation for a system. The is the “appreciation for a system blind spot”. The second is the idea that a manager is the key person who must provide feedback. This the “omniscient manager” blind spot.

Blind Spot #1: Appreciation for a system

Organizations are social systems with interdependent parts. One of the main reasons the typical appraisal process fails to gain support and creates frustration is because it is inconsistent with systems thinking. Systems thinking is a sophisticated way of thinking about performance.  Results are more dependent on the design and functioning of the system than on the actions and decisions of the individual performer.  Yet, most organizations (even those who jumped into one of the rivers) still insist managers provide consistent and frequent feedback to individuals.

In a social system, the focus needs to be on improving the quality of the interactions between the people and avoid evaluating and/or criticizing the individuals.  Any attempt to evaluate and/or measure the performance of the individuals ignores the influence of the system on those individuals and ignores the opportunity to improve the interactions.

The individuals work in the system.  Leaders are responsible for designing and/or working on the system.  If leaders design the system and the system influences individual performance, evaluating individuals is unsophisticated at best and malpractice at worst.  It’s a blind spot.

Blind Spot #2: The Omniscient Manager

Why do organizations continue to insist that managers deliver the frequent feedback? This idea is a holdover from the hierarchical view of organizations. Instead, why not design a performance management process that provides opportunities for everyone to learn from everyone? Why not allow everyone to innovate their service and performance to improve the quality and speed of the system interactions? Why not make it about “internal” customers?

A manager cannot possibly know enough to help employees with all their interactions. The employees’ “internal” customers will know much more about the performance and will know more useful information. The typical performance management approach is based on the false belief that managers must be omniscient and omnipotent simply because they have the big title and the position.  This is the blind spot.

A redesign that offers the option to speak to multiple employees, especially those who are the internal customers, would provide significant opportunity for those who desire frequent quality feedback. This redesign will focus on the quality of the interactions between internal supplier and internal customer.  Some leaders believe “crowd sourcing” software will perform this trick. Perhaps.  In my experience, the crowd sourcing software tends to be designed with blind spot #1. In other words, that type of software still evaluates the employee instead of evaluating and improving the interactions between the employees.

If an organization is ready to replace their appraisal process because the leaders find themselves at the edge of the cliff, it is important to recognize the two blind spots and redesign the process to address the two root causes of dysfunction. If not, you’re just jumping off that cliff because the predators have caught you. That’s not strategic leadership. It’s reactionary and can be deadly for performance and for employee engagement.

Check out the interview on C-Suite Best Seller TV to learn more about how to stop leadership malpractice and replace the typical performance review: https://www.c-suitetv.com/video/best-seller-tv-wally-hauck-stop-the-leadership-malpractice/

Wally Hauck, PhD has a cure for the “deadly disease” known as the typical performance appraisal.  Wally holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Warren National University, a Master of Business Administration in finance from Iona College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.   Wally is a Certified Speaking Professional or CSP.  Wally has a passion for helping leaders let go of the old and embrace new thinking to improve leadership skills, employee engagement, and performance.


David Rock, J. D. (2013). One Simple Idea That Can Transform Performance Management. Retrieved from http://blueroom.neuroleadership.com: http://blueroom.neuroleadership.com/assets/documents/readings/HRPS_PS-36-2_ResearchCorner.pdf

Meinert, D. (2015, April 1). Is It Time to Put the Performance Review on a PIP? Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org: https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/pages/0415-qualitative-performance-reviews.aspx

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Respect your Customers’ Time: Resolve Customer Service Complaints Quickly

Did you ever stop to think about how much time people spend on the phone making calls to complain about bad customer service?

An article in The Street pointed out that, on average, adults in the U.S. spend about 364 minutes every year placing calls to report complaints, waiting and hoping to talk to someone who will make things right. In other words, if you are one of the “average people,” you spend about six and a half hours each year on the phone. In six years’ time you lose almost an entire work week, and over 25 years, an entire month of your life will be dedicated to complaining about bad customer service. Much of that time will likely be spent “on hold” (which could in itself be considered bad customer service).

The author of the article, Brian O’Connell, used data from Populus Research and Kana Software, which refer to the “complaint wait” as the “hidden price of doing business.” Here are some other interesting facts that the study produced:

  • More than 70 percent of consumers in the U.S. have taken the time to voice a customer service complaint in the last three years. The average time spent to lodge a complaint was one hour and four minutes – for just one complaint!
  • In most cases, actually getting problem resolution didn’t just happen in one attempt. Sixty-nine percent of consumers had to repeat their complaint, and on average, it took three attempts to get a problem resolved.
  • Thirty-nine percent of complaints were made by phone call, and 33 percent via e-mail.
  • Despite its growing popularity, social media – such as Facebook, Twitter and Yelp – was the channel for only 7 percent of the complaints.

Personally, I expected the number of social media complaints to be higher. Other surveys show that more consumers are turning to social media to air customer service grievances. Even at 7 percent, however, complaints via social media have to be taken very seriously as they are visible not only to the company receiving the complaint, but also to the customer’s friends and followers, and in some cases (such as Yelp) to the public. Even if the overall percentage is low, customer service complaints via social media are definitely on the rise as consumers realize its effectiveness and companies’ desire to maintain a positive image.

This article should be a wake-up call to all types of businesses, especially those that market to the general consumer. It’s surprising to learn just how much time is spent on the phone dealing with customer service issues. Time is a precious commodity, and if you “steal” it from a customer, you are showing a tremendous amount of disrespect.

Customers have limited time and can’t afford to waste it with repeated calls or long waits on the phone. If you don’t have respect for their time, it won’t be long before they decide to find another company with better service and faster resolution when a problem does occur. Be smart. Respect your customers’ time and always fix problems quickly … and with the right attitude!

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