Gary Ng | Awakening Entrepreneur

Why You Should Get Personal with Performance Reviews

What does happiness mean to you?

If you were preparing for a Personal Growth Projection (PGP) at our company E-Web Marketing, this would be the first question you’d be asked. It tops the list because, compared with a traditional employee evaluation that focuses on your role performance, a PGP is designed to measure your happiness.

Why would a PGP prioritise happiness over performance? Because non-performance is a symptom, of which unhappiness is the cause. Like me, I doubt you’ve worked with anyone who was both unhappy and productive. Conversely, think about the people you know who are happy in their jobs. Chances are, they don’t treat them like jobs at all – they do what they do because they love it, and so they are excellent assets to their company.

The terms “performance review” and “employee evaluation” have connotations of judgement and can make people feel like they’re being checked up on. Personal Growth Projections are a non-threatening, happiness-centred alternative that correct underperformance and send exemplary performance to astronomical heights.

How to approach a Personal Growth Projection

Let’s say you manage somebody, who we’ll call Jane for the purposes of this exercise. Jane is talented but obviously not performing at her full potential, and was typically reserved during her last employee evaluation. In this scenario, you both might achieve more effective results through a PGP. As the name suggests, there are 3 distinct aspects to this process, and you may both need to adjust your “employee evaluation” mode of thinking to succeed with it. Of course, as Jane’s leader, the onus is on you to steer the way.

First, don’t be afraid to get Personal

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

–          John Marsden, best-selling author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

For this PGP to yield successful results, you must first have a personal rapport with your team member Jane. There is no way she is going to be forthright about her feelings with you if she doesn’t believe you really care about her. Put simply, she has to like you. Otherwise, the PGP will probably produce vague answers and mutual frustration, because Jane will become suspicious of your motives for suddenly showing an interest in her happiness.

So if your managerial style is to keep your team at a distance by hiding away in your corner office, never taking the time to ask about someone’s kids or weekend, or withholding sincere compliments for a job well done, you will find it difficult to conduct a PGP with your hypothetical employee Jane. For the moment, I’m going to assume that you have a pretty good relationship with Jane that’s borne of mutual respect and a genuine concern for her well being.

What to do: Before you give Jane the list of PGP questions to prepare for your face-to-face meeting, make sure she understands that the exercise is all about her. A PGP is not a test or an evaluation; she can’t get fired or demoted; there are no wrong answers. You may need to reinforce this a few times, especially if Jane is particularly concerned with what you think of her, or with always “saying the right thing”. Your goal in this initial stage is to create an atmosphere of trust.

Next, understand the importance of Growth

“Growth itself contains the germ of happiness.”

–          Pearl S. Buck, Nobel laureate

People aren’t happy if they aren’t growing. Think about the most unsatisfying jobs you’ve had – were they mundane, repetitive, frustrating, or not suited to your personal strengths? If Jane is underperforming, could it be that she’s simply bored with doing the same unchallenging tasks over and over? Or maybe the job is challenging, but it doesn’t excite her at the fundamental level. If Jane is a right-brained, creative type who spends a lot of her time working with figures and spreadsheets, she will find it difficult, but probably more stressful than rewarding.

At its heart, a PGP is a coaching exercise that identifies which of your people are in unfulfilling “growth ruts”, and what you can both do to get them out. In the examples above, perhaps a change of responsibilities or department would bring Jane more fulfilment. Or you may net performance gains by helping Jane adapt her approach to find more meaningful reasons to excel in her current role.

Having quality reasons incites quality action. Based on your own experience, you’ll know that completing a task because “it has to be done” is rarely motivating. Compare that with completing it because it tests your abilities, helps your department grow, provides opportunities for others, plays into your strengths, makes your colleagues feel good, or is aligned with a personal goal such as advancing your career. The task you’ll perform better is self-evident.

What to do: Look over your team member Jane’s written answers. If you succeeded in setting the right tone beforehand, her responses will give you an honest perspective of how she feels about her work responsibilities and her environment, and where she is stagnating instead of making meaningful progress. Now you can prepare for how you will address these issues during your one-on-one PGP session.

Lastly, set and measure Projections for success

“What gets measured gets improved.”

–          Robin S. Sharma, leadership and personal development coach

Since Jane’s happiness stems from her growth, you need to make sure she recognises the fact that she is growing. Many employees are unhappy simply because they don’t realise how much they contribute to an organisation. The progress they make isn’t measured or celebrated, so they fall into the mindset that what they do doesn’t really matter. After all, it’s hard to perform at your best when you view a task as meaningless.

This is where the power of clear, measureable and meaningful goals becomes your best friend. Goals are not the same as role responsibilities. Because they are fuelled by your employee’s own natural desire for happiness, they are resonant. Because they are both action and time specific, they are motivating. And because they are measurable, they impart an empowering sense of progress. (See my earlier post on goal setting for further clarity on this vital distinction.)

What to do: The final, face-to-face component of the PGP is essentially a goal setting workshop between you and Jane. Use your newfound knowledge about Jane to identify her strengths, weaknesses and ambitions. Work together to create a set of written, measurable goals that have clear benefits attached to their achievement. Simply by having meaningful goals to strive for, Jane’s growth, and therefore her happiness and performance, will inevitably improve. You may be astounded by just how much.

Want to give it a try?

You can download the full list of Personal Growth Projection preparation questions here. I hope that they will bring your employees and your company the same growth benefits as we’ve experienced a E-Web Marketing. Please let me know if they help you and your team to achieve greater Happiness, Success and Fun.