Thursday, February 03, 2011

Bringing Behaviour into 360-degree Performance Conversations

As learning practitioners, we are always interested in reflecting and learning for improved performance. Here's a little summary of some recent research in performance development trends.

Approaches to performance development in organizations are shifting significantly. A clear trend is emerging, moving from ‘evaluation’ or ‘assessment’ - which has historically focused greatly on the achievement (or not) of quantifiable goals and contribution to the organizations strategic objectives - towards performance ‘conversations’ - which explore also the behaviours that account for specific business outcomes: the ‘how’ in achieving and contributing. Exploring this ‘how’ requires paying greater attention to professional ethics and inter-professional relationships. Hand-in-hand with this behavioural element of performance conversations is the trend towards a more ‘positive psychology’ - and a more ‘appreciative inquiry' - cognizant that performance conversations have great potential to incentivize and result in improved performance when designed and managed with a future-orientation, implying future success when positive traits are cultivated, key strengths encouraged and individuals’ motivational needs addressed.

Well aligned with these trends is the emerging and growing use of 360 degree performance conversations which are proving a powerful performance development approach. As conversations related to behaviours are subjective and difficult to quantify, these benefit from a 360 degree approach allowing much greater differentiation than any ‘assessment’ by one person alone. The 360 degree approach allows each member of the team to understand how his/her effectiveness is viewed by a wider variety of others (colleagues and potentially also customers) based on the behaviours they may variously see, generating a more accurate, balanced conversation. In the process, team members become more accountable to each other - an accountability intrinsic to the success of teams with interconnected, interdependent members - as they share the knowledge that they provide input and have the opportunity for positive influence on each member’s performance. Another great advantage to the 360 degree approach is encouraged communication, exchange of information and learning.

If you'd like to read more, try the following:

1. “360 Degree Feedback: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” by Susan M.
Heathfield, 2010.

2. “Positive Words for Key Strength Performance Reviews” by Erick
Kristian, 25 July 2010.

3. “Can a positive approach to performance evaluation help accomplish
your goals?” by Karen S. Cravens, Elizabeth Goad Oliver, Jeanine S.
Stewart, in Harvard Business Review, 15 May 2010.

4. “Embedding sustainability/ethics into performance reviews” by
Miriam and Marc, Harvard Business Review blog, May 24, 2010

5. “360 Degree Feedback” by Alan Chapman, , 2009.

6. “Performance Conversation Tips: Effective Performance Coaching” by
Joni Rose, 30 April 2006.

7. “Motivating Positive Performance; Understanding Motivational Needs
by Joni Rose, 15 April 2006.

8. “Appreciate Performance Communication Process - a Manual” by Unity,
2006, in the Appreciative Inquiry Commons.