Are You Focused on Grading People—Or Helping Them Get An “A”?

Evaluation Below Average, Disappointed WomanBest-selling business author Ken Blanchard believes that instead of using performance review as a way to sort and grade people, organizations should use a process that helps everyone “get an A.”

“I’ve always talked about helping people get As. Early in my career as a university professor, I was often in trouble because I would give my students the final exam on the first day of class. Then I would spend the semester teaching them the answers so that they could pass the exam. I didn’t see why I should spend time trying to sort people out. It makes even less sense in a business organization where leaders should want everyone to succeed.

“For example, a manager who wants a direct report to get an A wouldn’t say to the person, ‘One of your goals is to set up a major client conference by the end of the year’ and then just wait around to see if it happens. Instead, the manager would say, ‘This is January and the client conference needs to occur in October. So within the next month, I’d like you to identify clients we should invite and maybe get a start on organizing the publicity.’ The manager would work with the direct report to identify all the different pieces that need to come together for a successful conference.

“There’s no value in seeing where everybody falls on a standard distribution curve. Organizations focused on that usually don’t have their eyes on the goals they are trying to achieve. Why would you want a certain percentage of your people to accomplish their goals and not the rest? Why wouldn’t you want everybody to get an A?”

Helping people get an A begins by setting clear goals for them at the beginning.  In the latest issue of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Ignite newsletter, Blanchard explains that, “The best organizations hire high potential people, set clear goals with them, and help them achieve success. All good performance starts with clear goals. If people don’t know what you want them to accomplish, what are the chances they will be successful? Not very good.

“It’s very important to have work goals that are observable and measurable,” explains Blanchard. “Peter Drucker used to say, ‘If you can’t measure something, you can’t manage it.’ Measurements are important to give both managers and direct reports more clarity when assessing performance.”

The difficult part of goal setting is that it takes real focus and time, says Blanchard. “You have to think it through. You can’t do it by yourself.  It works best when it is a continuing dialogue with your boss and coworkers.”

Blanchard points to leaders like Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Company, who coauthored the book Helping People Win at Work. “At WD-40, everyone sees the organizational goals, which are observable and measurable. Then the managers and direct reports work together to examine the individual’s job responsibilities and identify three to five observable and measurable individual goals that will contribute to the organizational goals.

“We want individuals to focus on the 20 percent that will give them the 80 percent. That doesn’t mean they don’t do some activities that aren’t on the goals, but you want to make sure goals are set on the key activities that will help the person become a high performer.”

Blanchard encourages all organizations to take the time to make goal setting a priority.

“Whatever you do with people, it has to start with clear goals. Identify what are you working on and what good behavior looks like. If you take the time up front to do it right, it really makes all the difference down the road.”

You can read the complete article with Ken Blanchard in the January issue of Ignite.  Also, be sure to check out the free goal-setting webinar Ken Blanchard is conducting on January 27.  Blanchard will be personally helping over 500 individuals and teams from around the world complete their 2016 goal setting during the online session.  The event is free courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.

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