Pivot to performance inspiration and accountability. Determine how reviews fit.

In this series I am focusing on the performance review, which for many organizations has failed to meet its goal of improving performance of the team(s) overall.

To catch up here are links to
Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

Consider a Pivot from the single annual performance review, which for most organizations is ineffective or harmful for a variety of reasons (see Part 2) to a more continuous flow of performance conversations, with managers who are able and willing to help people rise and build great teams, and including future-look conversations held separately from any review (see Part 3).

A well-orchestrated Pivot requires first defining the desired state (vision), discovering what is right now, and then communicating the vision and strategic direction so that each person or group can choose their best next steps (because a successful Pivot involves orchestrating many shifts by many people all aligned toward a common vision/desired state).

Sometimes you’ll have to take a step back – and it may be a big step.

Before starting a Pivot the workplace culture must be safe.
A safe workplace is one where everyone knows that they are safe to speak out and step up. There must be trust that voices will be heard without judgment or repercussion. Not every idea initiated will be followed-through on, but those most aligned with the desired future state will be.

Then begin to Pivot.
Consider where you want “to be,” get to the crux of what “is” now, and then lay out the objectives so that those who are part of the change can choose their best next steps toward that desired state for your workplace culture and performance.

Remember that performance momentum requires both inspiration and accountability. (As discussed in Part 3, usually a review, looking back, can motivate but it not likely to inspire. Hold future-look conversations at the start and throughout the year that include no review of the past).

Reviews of performance, just like other measurement of performance, have value when the people, processes and policies align with the outcome desired.

If your organization’s performance reviews seem to be ineffective or even harmful, is it the person and/or is it the context they work in day to day that is causing the issue(s)? How, exactly?

These best next steps will get you started:

Leadership team best next steps:
•Envision what is desired “to be”
•Get to the crux of what “is” now
•Broadcast to all managers the strategic objectives and leadership best guesses at measured actions or steps.

Manager best next steps:
•Consider the strategic objectives
•Commit to your best next steps (read the rest of this article for a few ideas)
•Communicate with your team about what, together, you will stop doing, keep doing, do more of and/or start doing.

Remember to always be choosing the best next steps toward the desired state. A Pivot is well-orchestrated; it is not done on a turn-of-a-dime for an organization comprised of more than a very small team of people who all choose that change.


Real and sustainable change – that can lead to breakthrough performance – is experienced only when those closest to the work are clear and committed.


What should you watch out for?
Don’t just follow an idea that sounds good. Doing so typically expects a turn-of-a-dime pivot and is rarely sustainable. Get to the crux of the matter that is unique to your organization, envision and communicate the desired state, and orchestrate change.

Some organizations have reacted to the scrutiny of results from annual reviews—performed by detached managers and connected to compensation—by eliminating performance reviews. I am for stopping what isn’t working. Yet if accountability and inspiration are both part of the desired state, what is going to replace what is being eliminated? Most organizations cannot expect that all current managers can immediately shift into coaching roles with more frequent touches with each member of their team, and in a way that quickly shifts from ineffective to motivational. Unfortunately belief systems take more to change than simply changing a process (although changing the context is a start). For most organizations the success of turn-on-a-dime pivots will be short lived at best.

What should you be considering?
If you are structured hierarchically and have the wrong people in the role of manager, how do you expect better results simply from removing one process?
If you run a self-managed organization, how are you communicating vision, strategic direction and objectives to each person so that they might know how what they do aligns with what is most needed from them?

What will work for your organization?
How might you, the leader, orchestrate change that brings out the best in people as they shift in ways that they initiate? How might performance reviews serve the (future) culture you are envisioning? What would you add or take away? Who can contribute to your understanding of what “is” right now? Are you open to others initiating the changes they see needed to achieve the vision and objectives you communicate?

Consider all aspects of your culture, performance, and what you want, what success looks like, what is working and what is not working with respect to employee performance.

And then work with all managers to choose best next steps.

Be ready to orchestrate shifts…
Some managers will need training in coaching. Maybe some managers will benefit from combining their team management with a coach so that the “subject matter expert” manager is focusing on advancing skill while the coach focuses on career and professional development. (Or maybe you should keep in the role of manager only individuals who are truly passionate about building individuals and teams, but remember right now we are talking about best next steps.)

Clear and continuous communication will be needed (it’s nearly impossible to over-communicate during a culture change or any change – and there is always change). As a leader, communication is a critical part of your role. Start with communicating to all managers how they will be part of this change and how they will be supported.

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