Performance Management: Let’s Be Honest…

Posted on: September 13, 2016

perfomance-lets-be-honestIn our last article on performance management, we looked at the different trends.  Most trends require more frequent check-ins between managers and employees or between employee peer groups.  This yields several benefits; everyone gets better at giving (and receiving feedback) because they are practicing more frequently and employees are more engaged because the feel like someone cares about their success and development at work.  While most of us want more feedback, many people are uncomfortable giving honest feedback to others.  Below are the instructions for one exercise we use when working with clients to practice giving and receiving feedback.

Step 1: Positive Feedback

Get a group of 6 to 8 people who work together and seat them at a round table or in a circle.  Be sure everyone can see everyone else.  In the first round of the exercise, choose someone to be the first “subject”.  Once the first subject is identified, each person at the table will tell the subject the one thing that this person brings to the group that is the most valuable – it can be a skill, behavior, talent, etc.  Once everyone has provided feedback, the subject ends their turn by stating the one thing of most value they think they bring to the team. Move around the circle until everyone has had a chance to be the subject.

Step 2: Constructive Feedback

The second round goes a little differently.  This time, the subject starts with themselves and identifies the one thing they need to change or eliminate from their behavior for the good of the team.  It is best to start with the most senior person of the group if there is a hierarchy in place.  Once the subject is finished speaking for themselves, everyone around the circle takes a turn to tell the subject what they think should be changed or eliminated from their behavior for the good of the team.  After the first subject is complete, go around the table and complete the process for everyone else.

Quick Tips For Success

Here are a couple of other rules to ensure the process runs smoothly.  First, do not defend or argue with the giver of feedback.  The feedback recipient can ask clarifying questions and/or say thank you for the feedback.  That’s it!  Many of us want to justify our action, rather than actually listening to the intent of what the giver is saying.  Everyone should participate and “skipping” their turn is not allowed.  We all need practice and it is best to encourage everyone to practice.  Finally, your culture must be one where people are willing to take risks and be honest without fear of retribution.  Set the stage for people to share with good intent – to help support and develop each other.

feedback-quote2There are a few typical reactions to performing this exercise.  Everyone gets a little nervous with the first round, but they quickly become comfortable.  After all, the first round is where you get to hear what others appreciate about you.  However, most move into the second round with a lot of trepidation.  They don’t want to hurt others feeling and often aren’t sure how to say things.  Once the process gets started, people will frequently have “aha” moments where they learn something about themselves or how others view them.  Many times we have blind spots that we don’t see or don’t want to admit to and this can be a good way to highlight potential issues.  By the end of the second round, most people find that they are more comfortable with giving developmental feedback and appreciate the insights others have shared with them.  Before ending the exercise, I challenge people not to have the “meeting after the meeting” where people talk about each other.  Rather, have the honest conversations in the meeting or arrange a time to further discussion.  Everyone will benefit.

Have you ever tried this exercise or one like it?  If so, I would appreciate hearing your observations.  If not is this an exercise you think you can try with your team?  If you have questions or would like help facilitating an exercise like this contact The Persimmon Group. Be sure to check out our Blog inside Insights & Tools next week as we continue on the topic of Performance Management.


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