March 24, 2020
Why do some individuals get great performance reviews? Is it just random? Did the stars align for them that year? This is a question I have frequently been asked and pondered myself. I am lucky to have a lot of data at my fingertips. While the sample size I am sharing today is not very large, I found the results to be quite compelling.
I looked at a dataset of 179 leaders who were given a 360-degree assessment rating on a series of 49 behaviors. On average, each leader was evaluated by 11 others (manager, peers, direct reports, and others). Their manager also gave each person a performance rating, and I was curious which of the behaviors were most strongly associated with the performance ranking. Eight behaviors were all highly significant.
1. Trend and Problem Spotter
I have always been amazed at how long people will put up with a flawed process, glitchy program, or a broken system. Even though people find a way around the problems, they resist just fixing what is broken. Everyone gets so caught up in their day-to-day tasks that they fail to notice important things happening right before their eyes. Fixing a problem will help everyone recognize your value. At the same time, another way to add value to your organization is to notice a new trend.
2. Norm Challenger
Every organization engages in some redundant and even borderline wasteful activities, and if you can be the person who asks respectfully, “Why do we do this?” There is a chance that unnecessary activity might not need to be done anymore. Often these “unnecessary” things are reports that are created (which no one reads), processes that take too much time for the value they create or meetings we have for the sake of meeting. Be bold enough to challenge these norms, but wise enough to do it politely and constructively.
3. The Role Model, not Rebel
I admit I get a certain joy out of being a rebel and not following the herd, and when others see my rebellion, they tend to follow. Organizations are successful when people collaborate and work well together. Take a minute and think about the behaviors you want your team members to emulate and the ones that you hope others don’t follow.
4. Popular Cooperator
Set a goal to be more cooperative with others, especially in other parts of the organization. We all love our independence and our freedom. Take the time to consider how what you are doing will impact others in the organization, and rather than letting them be surprised, give them a heads-up.
5. Potential Problem Anticipator
This is an advanced skill that is not difficult to master. People who do this well are always recognized and appreciated. All that is generally required to anticipate problems is when you start a new activity, make an important decision, or institute a new procedure, ask yourself the question, “What could go wrong?” The research is clear that most problems can be anticipated, but most people never take time to ask the question, “What could go wrong?”
6. Trusted Advisor
A lack of trust from others can have an extremely negative impact on a person’s performance and effectiveness. When others question your motives or lack faith in your abilities, that can create significant problems. Our research on trust revealed three enabling behaviors that improve trust. The first is improving relationships with others. To put it simply, we trust people that we like. The second is knowledge, judgment, or expertise. We trust people who have correct insights and understanding of problems or solutions. The third is to be more consistent. If you say you are going to do something, then make sure you do it.
7. Salesman Mentality
People don’t want to be told, they want to be sold. They want to be persuaded rather than commanded. Even if you believe you have the authority to tell others what to do, asking others and thanking them is always a better way.
8. Challenge Acceptor
Be willing to take on and do something that is challenging and difficult. We all feel like we are too busy and have too much on our plate to take on another difficult assignment. But when a person signs up to do something difficult, others notice and appreciate the effort. What is interesting is that people that choose to take on a difficult task are more satisfied with their job and engaged in their work. In addition, taking on a challenging assignment may help you to learn a new skill, which increases your value to the organization.
As I read through the list, I identified several behaviors that will make me more valuable to my organization, but at the same time, it will create more satisfaction for me in my job and life. I hope you will find a few helpful ideas you can act on to make your next performance review one to remember.
—Dr. Joe Folkman
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