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Viewing posts categorised under: Leadership

“I’d like to give you some feedback…”

Posted by David Wight in Business Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Organizational Change | 0 comments

What’s your immediate gut emotional reaction when you hear those words?  For most of us, our hackles go up and we’re saying something to ourselves like “Here it comes….”   Inevitably it’s perceived as a potential threat to our status or sense of self-worth.  And according to the work of the NeuroLeadership Institute, this naturally invokes a “fight or flight” response since that’s how our brains are hot-wired to respond to perceived threats.   Often the person on the receiving end will try to suppress that initial emotion, particularly since our culture promulgates the myth that if you are a mature adult, you should be receptive to constructive feedback.  But let’s be honest, how many of us truly like or welcome criticism?  Suppression of emotions is not the greatest of long term strategies, so you may sit there and grit your teeth, but sometimes it doesn’t even work in the short term, and the receiver responds with defensiveness and even anger.  In any case, the conversation’s emotional charge from this point on, makes it difficult for the receiver to really hear what the person is saying.   Even if you follow all the rules for giving effective feedback, like “be descriptive not judgmental,” it still feels like criticism.  So, what happens in the traditional Performance Review?  The manager takes the employee’s work effort for an entire year, reduces it to number representing EVALUATIONS for different dimensions which yields a single number representing the overall EVALUATION of the person’s 12 month performance.  If I’m the employee, what am I supposed to do with this information?  Since these numbers all represent an evaluation of performance over time, they’re seldom specific enough to be actionable.  And if it’s not actionable, how am I supposed to improve my performance. Without being told, often the evaluation is a comparative measure, meaning my performance vs. yours. But no manager in their right mind is going to sit there and tell me that my performance is not as good as one of my co-workers.  Talk about a threat to the person’s status..,all the employee hears is that he or she is better than them .You thought the conversation up to this point was emotionally loaded?...That’s a recipe for an instant fight.  And yet, that’s exactly the message being sent when companies go to forced distributions or rankings often for Pay for Performance compensation purposes.  And since these comparisons inevitably involve employees doing very different jobs, the ranking process often turns into a political football.   And then executives shake their head in wonderment when Gallup releases a white paper showing only 2 in 10 employees strongly agree that their performance is managed  in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.  (Gallup, “Re-Engineering Performance Management,” p,4)   Actually most executives know that the vast majority of their employees (including managers) hate performance reviews.  Many executives don’t bother doing them for their own direct reports.  What does that say about how senior management perceives the value of the process?   Finally, however, some major companies like Cigna, Microsoft, Adobe and GE are doing away with formal employee evaluations, and the number is growing.  According to a recent article from the NeuroLeadership Institute, their research show the number of companies making this change increased from 55 in 2015 to 155 in 2016.  (NeuroLeadership Institute, “Want to Kill Your Performance Rankings?  Here’s How to Ensure Success”)   Instead most of these companies are revising the process to emphasize managers giving continuous feedback to their employees, and having conversations regarding employee development.  Are we there yet, where the process will no longer be perceived by employees as threatening.   No….but at least these steps are starting to move us in the right direction.

Explain to Me Again Why We’re Doing Performance Management Reviews?

Posted by David Wight in Business Management, Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

I wish I had a dollar for every time a manager or attorney told me the reason why companies have Performance Management programs with formal annual reviews, is so they can terminate employees and protect themselves from being sued. Here’s my response: “Pretend you’re a prosecutor in a murder case. The police find the murder weapon, a gun, with fingerprints on it, but no fingerprints of the defendant. Would that support your case or make it more difficult for you to get a conviction? The answer is obvious: The gun makes your case more difficult to prove. If there are other fingerprints on the gun, this indicates that it wasn’t wiped clean before the police found it, and, if the defendant committed the crime you would expect his prints to be on it. The same is true for annual Performance Reviews. When a manager who wants to terminate someone, goes to that employee’s past Performance Evaluations or Reviews to support their action, 90+% of those Reviews are glowing. They make it harder to justify terminating the employee! As the manager, you’d be better off if they didn’t exist. Let’s look closer. First you need to determine if the reason for termination is associated with disciplinary action or poor performance. Discipline involves some form of unacceptable behavior or conduct. When it occurs, the employee becomes subject to the company’s (hopefully) progressive disciplinary policy with some combination of verbal warning(s), written warnings, possible suspension from work without pay, and ultimately termination of employment. The important point is that the employee has usually done something unacceptable, a specific behavior like fighting at work, using drugs on site, or excessive absenteeism or tardiness, and often there is a company policy that identifies such behavior as being subject to disciplinary action. Some behaviors like fighting or on-site drug use are usually grounds for immediate dismissal. Unacceptable performance seldom involves one specific behavior. Instead, it usually focuses on the results the person is producing, and this shouldn’t be subject to disciplinary action. A better approach is a Performance Improvement Program (PIP) which usually gives the person a certain amount of time to improve their performance to a satisfactory level or risk termination. The important point is that the Performance Management process is not the time or place for in-depth conversations in either case. If the person is on a PIP, the issue is unsatisfactory performance, and an additional discussion with the person as part of the Performance Management process becomes redundant. As the manager, you should are already be meeting with and giving the person feedback as part of the PIP. If the person has received disciplinary action earlier in the year, then it becomes a judgment call as to whether the manager should continue to discuss it during any Performance Management conversations based on the gravity of the unacceptable behavior, where the person is in the disciplinary process, when the unacceptable behavior last occurred, and how the person has responded. Imagine a situation where an employee received a verbal warning for excessive tardiness in early March of the current year, but following that, they stopped being late. If you’re going to talk with them about their behavior later in the year as part of the Performance Management process, probably the only thing you’ll be saying is that you’re glad they corrected the excessive tardiness and encourage them to continue to do what they’ve been doing. Why would you want to say anything else? The word discipline, despite it’s current negative connotation, originally meant “to teach” in Latin. If the employee has “learned,” there is little to say other than to acknowledge it. The approach I advocate for what I call the Performance Planning, Management & Development Process eliminates the year-end Employee Performance Review or Appraisal. Instead, the process focuses on the employee and manager having high quality discussions during the year to help them identify and manage what to do going forward The meetings are designed to review the status of the agreements that the employee and manager made at the beginning of the year in terms of desired results, and their behavior and decide what, if anything needs to change to get better performance. Any year-end discussion focuses on "lessons learned." The year-end Employee Performance Appraisal just gets in the way. You can’t manage the past; you can only learn from it!

Change Is Not A Dirty Word – Part 3 of 3

Posted by David Wight in Business Management, Leadership, Organizational Change | 0 comments

In Parts 1 & 2, I explored why the word “change” tends to have a negative emotional connotation and I introduced a systems perspective as a way of looking at resistance to change. 

Energy and Perseverance Organizational change is all about positive energy and finding a new internal balance that enables companies to function more effectively.  This requires leaders to create and sustain a critical mass of energy to outlast the system’s natural defensive reaction to the perceived threat to its current dysfunctional balance.  Most leaders don’t understand this, and they’re not prepared for the frustration they experience. The harder they push, the harder the organization pushes back, resulting in the expenditure of a tremendous amount of energy with little movement. And since followers far outnumber leaders, they have a lot more energy. (read more)

Emotions and the Workplace – Venturing into the Quicksand

Posted by David Wight in Business Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Team Building | 0 comments

Emotions and the workplace have always been uncomfortable companions. For a long time a lot of managers would have said that the workplace was no place for people’s emotions. The conventional thinking went along the lines of: “Businesses operate better when governed by objective rational thinking. Emotions cloud people’s thinking and judgment. It’s better if people leave their “feelings” at home or drop them off at the front door of the workplace.” To read more, click on the following link: Read More

The Performance Review Cycle Continues…And Nothing Ever Changes!

Posted by David Wight in Business Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Organizational Change | 0 comments

How Come We Keep Doing the Same Thing When We Know It Doesn’t Work? According to a 2010 survey by Sibson Consulting Inc. and WorldatWork, a professional association, one academic review of more than 600 employee-feedback studies found that two-thirds of appraisals had zero or even negative effects on employee performance after the feedback was given. Here we go again, folks. It’s that time of the year.   For companies whose fiscal year corresponds to the calendar year, managers will soon begin writing up their evaluations of employee performance for 2015 and get ready to review them with the person. And despite all the studies and research showing how counter-productive the review process is, and how much both managers and employees feel that the process is a waste of both time and energy, companies continue to hang on to the same old approach.  

Management by Objectives (MBO) Is a Great Tool…Just Don’t Use It to Evaluate Employee Performance

Posted by David Wight in Business Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Organizational Change | 1 comments

Part 2 of a 2-part article In Part 1, we discussed the four basic steps in the Managing by Objectives (MBO) process and how each step can lead to positive organizational results. In Part 2 we discuss why the MBO process should not be used to evaluate employee performance, however, and how doing so undermines the value of the process.  

Some Musings on Motivation

Posted by David Wight in Business Management, Leadership, Organizational Change, Team Building | 0 comments


  I had a wrestling coach who once told me “You don’t have that much potential, but you can make up for it with hard work.” I’m still trying to figure out how that works. It was right after a match……despite being tired and sweaty, I remember thinking, “Huh?...Doesn’t potential kinda set the ceiling?”   The funny thing about this incident is that my coach was trying to encourage me; I shudder to think what he might have said otherwise. Luckily I had no illusions about my l wrestling capabilities; I’d always been somewhat of an over-achiever so the impact of his statement about my potential was minimal. I just loved the sport; it’s probably one of the most natural sports for a little boy growing up?  

Trust Me…It’s Complicated (Part I of II)

Posted by David Wight in Leadership, Team Building | 0 comments


Imagine the scenarios for the executive teams of two different companies. The team for company A has been together for a number of years and they have been very successful in overcoming a variety of difficult problems. While they often disagree among themselves when making decisions, they respect each other and overall they share positive working relationships as well as temporary leadership with the president when a particular issue calling for their competencies emerges. Each member would tell you that they communicate openly and everyone thinks in terms of what is best for the organization. The company B team has been together for a shorter time and their interaction is characterized by very different dynamics. They have struggled to make decisions that everyone supports.   The members have a lot of hidden agendas which prevent people from saying what they really think, and there is a lot of backbiting, and a lack of respect for each other. A number of members have been known to say that they think they could be doing a better job than the current president.  

Trust Me…..It’s Complicated (Part II of II)

Posted by David Wight in Leadership | 0 comments


In Part 1 of this two-part article that can be found on this same web site, I discussed why trust is so scare in organizations, and some of the basic dynamics involved when a person decides whether or not to trust another individual. In this second part, I’ll discuss different ways of building trust and what two individuals must do to maintain that trust.