Monday, December 2, 2013

Mission: Possible!

Even given the tools to retain good staff, an organization must have the will to apply them.  - Sharon Armstrong

As many blogoshpere citizens have noticed, highly ranking on the Citizen Reading List is The Essential Performance Review Handbook by Sharon Armstrong, because of the comprehensive coverage of the subject ~ and also simply because no other management topic is both simultaneously as important and as shunned within many workplaces where great performances are required. And, as we work toward being loved like the Sun and taking full ownership of our duties as Epictetus so eloquently advised, we at least now have the sensible tools which can, along our journey, guide us into top performance.

Often dismissed as too formal a process within the casual family environment which private estates sometimes represent, career domestic workers will be interested to learn the formal performance review, when performed correctly, is only the middle act - not the the entire play - of a dynamic working relationship between the employers' service expectations and their workers' service delivery - yet the most important act required for the whole story to unfold. This book is useful for both managers and non-managers alike, as everyone will like its appeal - because everyone will have a starring role!


IMF Agent Ethan Hunt reading his performance review.

Regular visitors to The Domestic Staff Citizen will recall our example in an earlier post ~ where we referenced a quote from Winning by GE's luminary Jack Welch ~ of how even the smallest of domestic staffs can realize value with performance management. Well known as the CEO who steered General Electric into great success, he conducts the very same process at home with his entire domestic staff ~ totaling one housekeeper ~ providing her, first, with the information she needs up-front about expectations and then reviewing with her, regularly, if she's meeting them. As with all effective management, not only are results examined, yet just as importantly, how the staff is meeting them~  through behaviors. Welsh reports:

You simply cannot manage people to better performance if you do not give candid, consistent feedback through a system that is loaded with integrity... it should measure people on relevant , agreed-upon criteria that relate directly to an individual's performance. The criteria should be quantitative, based on how people deliver on certain goals, and qualitative, based on how they deliver on desired behaviors.


Of course, the stage freight for all concerned is certainly natural, in those cases where simply too much emphasis is placed on this one, solitary performance. And, as with anything perceived unpleasant, we might just skip the call-back audition and get back to business as usual, quickly filling out a downloaded check-box form, announcing good job, thank you, now let's get back to work.... and whew! So glad that's over! However, as Ms. Armstrong so succinctly begins, 

It's not supposed to be this way....

...Appraisals are meant to clarify and reward, and to be interactive and fair. They take real time, real dialogue, and a real focus on the future, rather than just the previous months. And they need to work successfully for all employees - not just the terrific ones!

To begin, as you will discover while enjoying the author's own great written performance, a review may be annual (the better ones, in my opinion, are quarterly), yet what's being reviewed is the real plot ~ having already laid it's storyline in the many previous readings with your staff or your supervisor and discussing, precisely, what is being reviewed. Hard-working domestic staff team members, without clear direction and practice in what values will be seen in the spotlights - are then left to ponder not only what their jobs really are, yet if they are doing them well. Regular readers of The Citizen will recall #11 of what Gallup discovered the best workers really need, to maintain their high level of performance. And these best workers ~ the ones you want to bring on your team ~ will always hunger for this feedback, because they're the type of character who are naturals at performing well to established team standards and values ~ those built into the storyline by the employers' explicit wishes ~ not simply by staff members' own individual, personal standards.

Focusing on demonstrated performance, then, as measured by previously agreed-upon standards, values, and objectives of the team, is not only an accurate method of assessing the real work of domestic service to an employer, yet is also we discover in the book as the most fair. After all, is it really fair to workers to get their clues from a supervisor who simply expresses varying degrees of like-ability towards them? Instead, what the conscientious, best-in-class domestic worker needs, and deserves, is real, credible information and feedback, so they'll always have the fair opportunity to correct (or be commended for) their actions.

...no matter how many insights it produces, an appraisal that focus on potential, on personality, on promise - on anything that is not proved and provable performance - is an abuse.  - Peter Drucker, management guru

Abuse is a rather strong word, yet coming from Mr. Drucker, it's worth our consideration. We're
Delivering a less polite style of feedback.
doing a great disservice to anyone who works for us by limiting our feedback to them in manners which contain no real, usable information, yet simply are helping us to shortcut through ~ or avoid altogether ~ our coaching efforts to align our team members actions toward the common good. And as we recall, our best workers will expect good teamwork and coaching!



Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision, the ability to direct individual accomplishment toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results. - Andrew Carnegie, industrialist, businessman, philanthropist

Ethan rates excellent for achieving his objectives!
No shortcuts here, indeed. Assessing proved and provable performance, in any workplace including staffed households, is possibly the hardest work a manager could ever do - and their hard-working and conscientious staff members are deserving of absolutely, and positively, nothing less. Because with a thoughtful performance management process in place, your staff will now be starring in... Mission: Possible!