Performance Management – Why The Comparison?

It’s performance review time. We’ve heard from both leaders and employees alike how the traditional bell-shaped curve creates stress.  

Leaders and employees find this curve demotivating. It causes unintended competition instead of collaboration. Companies need to be agile in today’s fast-changing world.  

As leaders, approaching this process differently drives employee engagement and positive impact. Instead of asking what went well or what didn’t, start incorporating Growth Mindset language. Ask questions like: “What can you do today that you were unable to do a year ago?” Instilling a Growth Mindset helps employees see how they have improved or moved forward year over year.  

To create a Growth Mindset, there needs to be a shift. Once this shift takes place, employees will seek out feedback and take on greater challenges. This accelerates growth, agility, and innovation and drives a culture where people discuss and learn from their shortcomings. 

When leaders adopt this approach, employees see how they’ve moved past their comfort zone. It builds greater levels of confidence. As we coach leaders, one of the points we regularly make is this: “If your direct reports are not feeling more confident, you are not developing them fully. I might go as far as to say that you are doing something wrong!” 

There’s another important factor in these upcoming performance reviews: focusing on employees’ superpowers. Where is their area of mastery? Where can they apply this area to future business challenges? This type of dialogue engages people, especially when they can see where they have the greatest impact. 

Focus on where your employees can take risks and go outside their zone of comfort in the future. How can you instill the notion that mistakes are not failure but rather opportunities to grow and step into a Growth Mindset? Imagine asking the questions: “If you couldn’t fail, what would you ‘go for’ in the next calendar year?” This question ignites dreams and motivates employees from within. Encourage your team members to “go for it” and help with what’s needed to succeed.  

To grow and continue to build capability, use the 80/20 rule. Here’s how it works. Employees should stay 80% in their comfort zone in the space where they excel performing tasks and projects. Then, raise the bar and insist they go 20% outside their comfort zone. This formula helps expand your employee’s capability and grows their confidence. 

These small shifts might make people look forward to performance reviews. They can inspire employees to celebrate their successes, stretch toward growth, and know that if they don’t achieve their desired outcome, they can adjust and try something new.  

I’ll leave you with a final quote that came to me in meditation one day, “When you compare two things, you lose the beauty of both.” As a leader, avoid comparing one to another. See the unique qualities each employee brings to the table.  

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