Examples Of S.M.A.R.T Goals For Performance Reviews The Performance Matrix

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The Performance Matrix

The reality is that there are large differences in individual performance. Statements like “she does the work of three people” or “he’s worth his weight in gold” are often more truth than myth. The best managers recognize this and make every effort to identify and promote high performers, and develop or remove underperformers. Decisions about people – who to hire, who to fire, who to promote, who to spend time with – make or break most leaders.

To assist in this process, the Performance Matrix can be applied periodically (semi-annually or annually) as a basis for hiring, performance appraisals and talent reviews.

Most performance appraisal rituals consist of annual numerical rating systems that provide little insight into how to truly classify and differentiate employee contributions. Yet effective leaders and managers intuitively know that seemingly comparable employees, with comparable salaries, often make very different levels of contribution. It’s not uncommon to hear phrases like, “that person is worth at least twice as much as that other person.” Why is this? And how can we develop performance appraisal systems that encourage and acknowledge these dramatic differences in individual contribution?

First of all, we need to recognize that there is a clear difference between the contributions of self-centered people and people who are more focused on the well-being of the organization as a whole. While everyone acts on some level out of self-interest, some people act primarily out of self-interest and really cannot contribute to any discussion about the welfare of the entire organization without invoking (explicitly or implicitly) their own needs. This is what we mean by egocentric people.

Egocentric people are quite easy to recognize. They are the ones who will distort the dialogue, regardless of the issue, in any way necessary to get them to tell you what they think or talk about their background. They like to tell you what they know and frankly aren’t too inclined to listen to what you might know. They often start with the assumption that they have the answer. They overgeneralize from their own experience, all the way to grand theories about the universe. Especially if they are in higher positions, they expect the administrative staff to obey their every whim. Finally, they are much more likely to be men than women.

Egocentric people believe that the world revolves around them and that’s how it should be. Their need to consider their own personal agendas when dealing with any organizational issue is often more obvious to those they interact with than they realize.

The significance of all this for our purposes here is that self-centered people have been shown to make poor leaders and managers. There are several reasons for this:

Egocentric people tend to blame others for failures, instead of accepting responsibility, and this naturally prevents the establishment of a constructive learning organization.

They believe that it is impossible to conduct a true dialogue on any organizational issue without explicitly or implicitly inserting their own personal agenda.

Great leaders learn to love the people they work with, their peers, and those who work for them. Egocentric people love themselves first, and everyone else only afterwards, if at all. Potential followers sense this and emotionally run away from self-centered leaders. Simply put, people know whether their boss cares about them or not – and there’s no way a boss can fake it. No matter who thinks they should lead, no one is actually going to follow a self-centered boss over the hill.

The actions of egocentric leaders are driven primarily by increasing their organizational power base or their personal financial returns, rather than improving the market power and efficiency of the organization as a whole.

This brings us to the second dimension by which an individual’s contributions can be assessed – the level of performance and results that an individual can achieve – either directly or by managing his work group. It is a fact of organizational life that individuals differ greatly in this dimension. Based on their values, attitude, talent, life circumstances, knowledge and experience, we could imagine three levels of performance:

High performance performers. These are individuals who can be counted on to consistently do a huge amount of work per unit of time. High performers tend to be internally driven, as evidenced by a personal history of achieving high results over the years, regardless of organizational context.

Solid performers. These are individuals who can be counted on to deliver results above the acceptable standards of the organization.

Poor performers. These are individuals whose individual contributions do not meet the organization’s standards. Often these people can “talk a good game” but when it comes time to deliver, the results are not seen.

By bringing together these dimensions of performance, the Performance Matrix can be used to classify and differentiate different levels of individual contribution to organizations:

Headaches are poor performers who are also self-centered. These are people who not only complain, but add marginal or negative value to the organization. Changing headache-inducing individuals into valuable organizational enforcers is a low-probability proposition. The solution for these people is simple to imagine, although not always so simple to implement – they have to leave the organization, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Hearts are also weak, but they have the best interest of the organization at heart. The challenge with grief is to provide them with skills training, performance targets and mentoring support to enable them to improve their performance. Heartfelts who can become respected professionals are some of the most loyal employees an organization has. On the other hand, unfortunates who do not want to admit performance deficiencies or cannot improve their performance must leave. These are some of the most difficult actions that a conscientious manager must take, because he knows that the employee really wanted to succeed. The best organizations go to great lengths to give pain every chance to succeed, before concluding that they cannot succeed.

Cowboys and Cowgirls are employees who mostly think about themselves, but are still capable of delivering results. In high-tech companies, a classic example of this is a rogue developer who produces software that works but refuses to follow any kind of structured process to do so. Sellers who send the message “don’t tell me how to sell or ask me to follow a process, just leave me alone to go sell” are another example. The basic assumption of Cowboys and Cowgirls is “only results matter”. The problem with tolerating these people is that their interpretation of results is too narrow – if the organization only focuses on what is achieved, but does not pay attention to it how if achieved, then nothing has been learned to ensure that the results can be repeated (or improved) in the future.

Professionals are people who show up at work every day, work hard, take care of the interests of the organization and deliver results. They are the “backbone” of the organization. Retaining experts, and identifying and mentoring those who can become Business Builders, is indeed a key proposition for many organizations in today’s knowledge-rich, talent-poor economy. In a knowledge-based organization, much of the real assets of the company reside in the brains of these professionals. Only when these brains are actively involved does the organization have a chance of success.

Rock stars in organizations tend to behave roughly like rock stars on VH1. They love to be on stage, to show everyone how much they know. They crave attention and tend to dominate (and often ruin) meetings where the organization is actually trying to get something done. They are very bad at sharing ownership of the task (how many rock stars really like to share the stage?). They enjoy showing off how smart they are, and will go to great lengths to orchestrate situations to get the chance to do so. Sometimes they are not so subtle about it; one of us once had a colleague who was a classic rock star get up from his chair at a board meeting, take the presentation pointer from our hand mid-sentence and start finishing the presentation.

The most irritating thing about Rock Stars is that in a knowledge-based company, you need some of them. They simply bring too much talent for high individual contribution to the table, and often too much experience, to get rid of them. However, you need them in the right role. We have one guideline here that is very important and very simple – Rock Stars should not anyone working for them. As we have seen, all self-centered people are bad leaders and managers, and rock stars are some of the worst – because they truly believe that they are good at everything. (The best managers start out with the belief that they have something to learn from their direct reports – that’s rock star heresy). We have seen this guideline violated many times, with enormously destructive consequences for the organization – probably because Rock Stars have charismatic personalities that superficially suggest that you should to be good leaders. Instead, Rock Stars belong in staff roles or individual contributor roles within the line organization – where a strong leader above them can maximize their contribution and minimize their harm.

The most important professional development is the one that turns professionals into business builders. Another important development focus is to turn Heartaches and Cowboys and Cowgirls into professionals. On rare occasions, Rock Stars can also become Business Builders, but this usually doesn’t happen because Rock Stars get too much ego satisfaction from performing on stage. (They are too busy dealing with these ego needs to focus on anyone else much of the time).

Operationalization of the performance matrix

Use the performance matrix in your hiring process. The best employee development system is to get the right people in the first place.

Use the performance matrix in your talent review process and performance appraisal system. Categorize each employee in a performance matrix. Set specific goals as to what percentage of your employees should be professionals, business builders, and rock stars.

Use a performance matrix in your employee development system. Give your Cowboy and Cowgirl employees every opportunity to become professionals by communicating visions, strategies, goals and programs that represent an organization-centered view. Give your Heartache employees every opportunity to become professionals by defining outcomes, leveraging their strengths and helping them find their fit.

Do not tolerate the self-centered behavior of Cowboys and Cowgirls, even though they may generate narrowly defined short-term results. It won’t pay off in the long run, and the short-term consequences of self-centered actions are more severe than you think.

Don’t let Rock Stars lead or manage anyone. Ever.

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