Applying Client Relationship Principles to Performance Reviews

The Rossiter Report -“Applying Client Relationship Principles to Performance Reviews”

By Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS

This past week I have been in the process of cleaning out my stored papers and, in the process, have come across old performance reviews. In reading through them and comparing them to the reviews and evaluation process of today’s world I realize that not much has changed in the past thirty years in this regard. Employees are expected to evaluate their own performance and set their career goals at predetermined intervals. Managers are expected to do likewise, not only for their underlings, but for themselves as well – all with the merest cursory training and guidance along the way. My experience has taught me that this process is taken seriously in name only and that it is rarely used with any sense of honesty. Employees are never quite certain as to what to say because they simply want to be left alone to do the job they were hired for and feel that their manager should be paying attention to the quality of the job they are doing because this is the job of a manager (“How can he/she say that he/she is managing me when I have to tell him/her what it is I have been doing all this time?”). Managers all too often use performance reviews for their political motives, as well as to punish or reward particular underlings who they wish to control or to elevate (regardless of the actual merits of the chosen employee).

To evaluate something means, according to Webster’s Dictionary, “1: to determine or fix the value of,” or “2: to determine the significance, worth, or condition of usually by careful appraisal and study”. In all honesty, I have rarely come across anyone (underling or manager) who carefully considered the significance, worth, or value of the performance they were to evaluate. The employees dashed off their self-evaluations at the last minute by simply copying and pasting the statements from the previous year. The managers, invariably, did likewise adding the necessary verbiage to substantiate whatever financial goals were imposed upon them by their superiors (or to substantiate whatever political goal they were pursuing with a particular employee). In the words of my favorite history teacher, Shady Ray as we affectionately called him, “The Golden Shovel Rule has run roughshod over your submissions”.

In order for performance evaluations to have any meaning, the mentality and processes surrounding them need to be overhauled. Thinking about the concept of evaluating performance as a whole, it is critical to understand that in order to evaluate someone you need to get to know that person. In order to get to know someone; you must enter in to a relationship with him or her. This is where client relationship principles come into play. Your employees are internal clients (this term is bandied about the corporate world with little real understanding of what this truly means).This means that, as business owner or manager of people, you must do two things:

  1. Get to know your clients (employees) beyond the statistical aspect. Managing involves directing, instructing, and guiding. In order to accomplish this effectively, you have to acquaint yourself with the person you are directing and guiding, otherwise, you do not know what he/she needs direction or guidance on, nor do you know the best way in which to guide him or her. Additionally, getting to know the people who help you run your business (and keep you in business) lets them know that you care about them and recognize the value that they (as individuals) bring to your company. This knowledge brings with it a sense of security which frees your employees up to honestly focus on the success of the company by working as a team, rather than focusing on saving their individual derrieres by making everyone else look bad (which only encourages and accelerates the cycle of sabotage). In this step Honesty and Sincerity are critical. Frankly, without them you are  wasting your time and everyone else’s. Employees can sense in-authenticity and are, in fact, on the lookout for it.
  2. In the process of becoming conscious of the people you have hired to help you run your business (or department), you are simultaneously becoming aware of their needs and desires. [Please Note that if you do not care about someone, it makes no difference how much you know about him/her]. When it comes to your relationship with your clients, once you have opened your eyes to their needs, and have worked hard to resolve their problem and fill their need, you now need to transfer the information in your head to them. Here is where communication comes in. Generally, this is the easy part because, in getting to know your clients (employees), you learn to speak their individual language and become a fluent speaker. As a result, you now begin looking out for opportunities to communicate with your clients by way of anticipating needs and solutions, researching logistics, and telling your clients (employees) about it.

There are times when, particularly when you are new to the concept of effective communication, you are absolutely challenged in getting your message across clearly. Oftentimes you will be completely blocked from communicating because of the emotional state your client is in at that moment (in the workplace this would translate to the prevailing morale). So, what do you do in this situation? If you find that your attempts at communicating are ineffective, downshift gears to First and get to know more about your employees. Ask questions that will help to clarify what the needs are and work together to determine the  best way satisfy your mutual needs and reach your goals together. This clarification process helps you to communicate more effectively with your employees and is, in itself, communicating that you are truly ready, willing, and able to help.

As you work your way through the above two actions you will discover that the performance evaluation process will become easier and more effective. You will begin to discover the process that best fits the refreshed corporate culture that will develop as a result of your efforts. By seeing your employees as clients and putting your honest effort in to treating them as such, with the vision to see that your employees should be pursued as readily as you pursue your clients because they bring tremendous value to your company, you will also begin to see the positive impact this new culture has on your bottom line. Remember, your employees become who you tell them they are to you

Copyright © 2012 – Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS

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