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5 Tips to make your Performance Planning more powerful and motivating this year.

It’s that time of year when leaders are getting ready for the new year, and the Performance Planning Cycle, and setting new goals.

Drawing '2016 Goals' on transparent white board with blue marker.

For some, it’s about as inspiring as mowing a lawn that’s been ravaged by crows looking for chafer beetles (you have to live in Vancouver, BC to get that one).  There are a number of reasons why setting performance goals might not seem very inspiring: Your staff are experienced and their goals should be obvious, it feels like a ‘tick the box’ requirement for HR but it’s not your  priority, or you do this every year but it doesn’t seem to make a difference in performance.

Well, here are 5 ideas that will take your Performance Planning process to the next level, and make it more valuable for everyone involved, including you.

1/ Model the Way.   In The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner describe how the best leaders in the world model the way.  Before you ask your employees to set goals, make sure you’ve thought about your own goals, identified key priorities, and what the benefits will be to achieving those goals. Here’s why:

  • You’ll have more integrity, having done what you’re asking others to do.
  • You’ll have more credibility with your staff.
  • You can use your goals as examples for them – to help them identify their own goals.
  • Importantly, they’ll be able to ensure their goals support yours – that’s organizational alignment.

2/ Recreate that Compelling vision.  Again, in The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner talk about how the best leaders in the world, inspire a ‘shared vision’, and help their people see how they contribute to that vision.  Research shows that most people want to make a difference, to have a meaningful impact.  Take the time to remind existing employees how they contribute to the big picture.  If it’s a new employee,  introduce them to the ‘bigger picture’ – Why you do what you do.

3/ Draw out THEIR vision.  Yep, that’s right.  What do THEY want to achieve in their life, at work, in the next year. This is what Andy Kimball, CEO of QB International calls a ‘Connection Meeting’.  A connection meeting can be done in your office, over a coffee, or even on your way to the next call.  This is where you are authentically interested in your employees hopes and dreams, and you take the time to find out.  You can ask questions like:

  • Where would you like to be in say, 3-5 years from now?
  • What would like to be doing more of?
  • What do you need to learn to get there?
  • What might be challenging?
  • How can I help?

Here are a few benefits:

  • you’ll understand what motivates them. Now you can put your requests or recognition in terms of what they care about – much more motivating.  For more on this, get the book What Motivates Me by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton – it’s packed with research on how to motivate others.  Or, come to our one day What Motivates Me workshop we’re offering at the end of January.
  • you’ll inspire higher engagement – really.  As Gallup shows in all of their research from their Q-12 Engagement survey, when employees feel they have a “manager or someone at work who cares about me and my development”, they are much more likely to be engaged.

4/ Involve them in setting their goals.  Whether you’ve got a seasoned employee, a higher performer, or someone who is struggling, people want to be involved in setting their goals.  This does not mean you have to leave it completely to them, nor does it mean you have to sit with them for 4 hours while they fill out their performance management template.  {Although you might spend a couple of hours with a brand new employee who has never done this before}.  But you could:

  • Ask them to give some thought to what they see as their key priorities.
    • then they can either send them to you as a draft, or you can meet with them to discuss.
  • Encourage them to think about how their goals contribute to the vision, or help support your goals.
  • With an experienced employee you can ask them to go ahead and draft their goals, key milestones, KPI’s, and even the benefits of achieving those goals, before you meet with them.
  • Do meet with each individual, even if they are experienced, to talk about their goals and add in your thoughts: goals you’d like them to pursue and what success looks like to you.
  • You can also set up some contingencies – what if goals change? What if they’re off track? What if another goal takes precedence?

5/ Ask how you can help.  It’s part of the connection meeting as well, but before you sign off on the goals and launch into the work year, take time to ask them:

  •  ‘what challenges might show up?’.
  • ‘What help will you need?’
  • ‘How can I help?’

Not only will this help build trust, it will give you insight into where they think they may have challenges, and gives you a heads up on where you might need to lean in. The best leaders in the world, strike a balance between giving their employees autonomy (not micromanaging) yet being ‘available’ should you be needed.  Don’t guess, ask them, ‘how can I help?’.

Ok, you know me – I said 5 tips, but I can’t leave without offering you just one more.  I know you’re busy.  I know  you have a million tasks yourself to deliver on, I know that having people who report to you, is one of the most challenging jobs in the world.  So this one is with you in mind.

6/ Proactively set up your first Check-In meeting.  That’s right. Before you leave the goal setting meeting, set up your next performance review meeting – close in -like a month or 2.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ll remember to check in -you’re busy – things show up.  Next thing you know you’ll having to ‘tick the performance appraisal‘ box and realize you haven’t talked to them about their performance for a year.  (again, don’t laugh – it happens).  Please don’t read my ideas here as cast in stone – for some folks, meeting monthly works best, for others quarterly, for high performing experienced employees, maybe all you need is to provide positive feedback and check in every now and then.  But don’t leave it to chance, do your due diligence, set it up ahead of time, book it!

  • The best leaders in the world, treat each employee differently, not the same.  In their book First Break All The Rules, one of the rules Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman suggest we break is the rule that you have to treat everyone the same. The best leaders treat each employee according to their unique needs.  Meet with each employee and find out what they need.

Every employee deserves the right to know What’s Expected.  The performance management process can help with that.  Done correctly, it can help clarify goals, reignite motivation, and set you and your team up for success.  Follow that up with regular feedback and development opportunities and you’re modelling the practices the best leaders in the world use to get results consistantly.


Model the Way / Recreate that compelling vision / Draw out their vision / Involve them in setting goals / Ask how you can help.

Thanks everyone. And if  you want to learn more, check out our Coaching for Engagement program coming up February 5th, 2016.



igniting the best in self and in others.


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