Archives June 2023

Stop rewarding people based on Performance; start Promoting Potential.

We’ve all been there.

Once a year, our manager would call us into their office and review what we had done well throughout the year – or, more likely, what we had done wrong eleven months ago. Then we would leave the manager’s office and return to work exactly like before.

Nothing changed! This is why it’s time to replace the performance review process.

Read more about the difference between High Potential and High Performance.

Need more reasons?

Performance Reviews Aren’t Effective – Performance reviews rarely lead to a change in behaviour by the manager or the employee. Year after year, most managers give employees the same feedback. And most employees don’t do anything in response. One reported that as little as one-third of employees showed improvement after their annual review. That’s likely because performance reviews rarely offer actionable steps for employees to take when struggling.

Performance Reviews Aren’t Reliable – Seventy-seven percent of HR executives believe performance reviews don’t accurately reflect employee contributions, according to CEB research. And CEB’s HR practice leader Rose Mueller-Hanson agrees with those executives. She states, “Our research shows that individual performance ratings have zero correlation with actual business results.”

Performance Reviews Are Time-Consuming – A recent CEB survey found that managers spend an average of 210 hours yearly in performance management activities. Managers said their employees, in turn, each spend 40 hours a year. Deloitte reported that its approximately 244,000 employees spent more than 2 million hours a year on performance reviews. That’s much time spent on something that is proven to be unreliable and ineffective.

Performance Reviews Are Costly – Besides the time it takes to perform annual reviews, there’s the actual cost. According to information from the CEB, a company spends about $3,500 per employee on yearly reviews.

Given the time and cost of performance reviews, it’s surprising that more companies haven’t given them up yet. But if those aren’t enough reasons for you, the new research on how ineffective and misleading they are!



It’s time to stop evaluating performance and invest in potential.

High potentials can be challenging to identify for two reasons:

First, high performance is easy to observe and drowns out the less obvious attributes and behaviours that characterize high potentials—such as change management or learning capabilities.

Second, few organizations codify the attributes and competencies they value in their ideal employees—which means that managers don’t know precisely what to look for to assess potential.

As a result, most managers focus exclusively on performance, which can be a problem.

When performance is the only criterion employees are evaluated on, high performers will be the only ones moving up—and high potentials will move out.

You should value and reward performance, but it can’t be the only entry point.

Learn more about the Better Leader Inner Circle

What are the key characteristics of high-potential employees?

The characteristics of high-potential employees include Ability, Aspiration, Behaviour, Social Skills, Adaptability and Leadership. These traits are critical to identifying employee abilities that can contribute to the business and enable employers to put development programmes in place to maximize the skills of these individuals.

Ability relates to performance, an individual’s expertise, innate skills, and capacity to work autonomously and consistently deliver results. 

Aspiration is the desire to grow, taking accountability for decision-making. They share a drive to achieve, individually and as a team, and support and encourage growth.

Behaviour is one of the easiest traits to identify. High Potential Employees Show an increased capability to learn, cooperate with others and manage their behaviours and emotions and how they behave under pressure.

Social skills and High Emotional Intelligence allow High Potential Employees to adapt their personalities to different responsibilities and changing circumstances.

Adaptability. Under pressure, High Potential Employees usually remain calm, continue to perform, and can pivot easily.

Leadership is imperative for High Potential Employees to understand and respect quality leadership and aspire to fulfil such roles successfully.

Performance Management Fails And 6 Steps You Can Use To Fix It

Most of us hate performance management programs.



  • Performance management is usually seen as a bureaucratic HR process you are forced to do.
  • We are not sure of the value performance management adds to the business.
  • Performance management models change as often as the soup of the day.
  • We have all had performance management nightmares.
  • Mine:
      • One employer changed the performance management system five times in 13 years;
      • Another had a rigid, complicated and frustrating system with no connection to pay or promotions;
      • Another had never completed performance management for anyone, ever.

If you want to improve your current process, here are six issues to address to ensure you get the highest return on your investment.

Challenge #1: Lack of strategic focus

The company’s strategy and goals must be integrated into its performance management process to deliver real business value. Too many goals will likely leave your employees feeling confused, unaligned, and inefficient.

Simplifying and prioritizing your company goals and focusing your performance management on a few critical goals will help your employees understand how their everyday work and individual goals will help achieve them.

Read about connecting performance management and strategic goals

Challenge #2: Lack of timely, meaningful feedback

When you wait until the formal performance review to provide feedback, employees may feel blindsided, leading to disappointment, confusion, frustration, and disengagement.

Train your managers to provide timely, meaningful feedback when positive behaviours or performance issues occur. Waiting too long to give feedback hurts your company’s employee morale, engagement, and, ultimately, your business performance.

Read about recognition


Challenge #3: Lack of leadership support

Leaders must be committed, actively engage their teams in performance management activities, and support and recognize managers and employees who exhibit the expected behaviours and actions.

Without leadership support, performance management will not be successful, no matter how well-designed the process is.

Challenge #4: Lack of proper training and communication

Leaders and managers may not fully understand what performance management is and what’s in it.

It is crucial to explain the benefits of performance management and provide ongoing training to help leaders and managers obtain the appropriate knowledge, behaviours, and skills to engage their teams in performance management activities properly.

Challenge #5: Lack of appropriate recognition and rewards

Rewards are significant in recognizing and promoting top performance and keeping your employees engaged, motivated, and inspired about their future with the company.

A valuable reward and recognition program should have clear expectations and criteria around the behaviours and actions that drive your company forward.

Read about good objectives going bad.

Challenge #6: Lack of simplicity

Whether you currently have performance management in place or not, the process you ultimately implement should be simple, easy to understand and use.

Managers and employees should not have to spend hours learning your new processes and tools or look for the performance-related information and forms they need.

Final Thoughts

Poor performance management is costly, delivers very little value, and can lower your employee engagement level and harm your business growth.

When done right, the impact of effective performance management is significant on your bottom line and will stop your top performers from walking out the door.

Theirs is but to do or die – Actions to Ensure Honesty When Speaking Truth To Power

Sadly, old-fashioned ideas like “Theirs not to reason why, Theirs is but to do or die” still exist.

‘Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die’: these lines have become famous, though they’re often misquoted from the 1854 poem ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92).

The actual lines come from the second stanza of the poem inspired by one of the greatest calamities in British military history: on October 25, 1854, during the Crimean War, the British Light Cavalry Brigade, comprising some 670 men, charged disastrously against some 25,000 Russian soldiers.

The stanza was not about quiet courage; it was about blind obedience.

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.

Into the Valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.’

So, as a leader, what can you do to make sure people can reply and speak truth to power in your team?

And how do you do it upwards?

How not to F Up conversations with your team

The Power/Truth Imbalance

The whole concept of speaking truth to power rests on an imbalance of power and information.

The Leader has the power, but often the follower has the information.

Why isn’t transferring valuable, truthful information a simple thing?

It’s because a combination of weaknesses, opportunities, and threats are at play wherever those imbalances exist. What they are and how followers can do something about them is worth examining as a follower, too.

Studying these imbalances helps you, as a leader, understand why people might not bring you their ideas.

Let’s look at an old-school SWOT analysis:


What must the Leader do to ensure followers speak the truth to them?

They need to create conditions that minimize the followers’ weaknesses and threats.

      1. Do pass your experience on to your followers about why you are making the decision.
      2. Do give Followers the context behind the decision.
      3. Do not punish those who offer him their logical opinions and well-reasoned judgments.

The third bullet (above) third is the most difficult for a leader. If you can’t make your followers comfortable challenging you, don’t expect to reap the benefits of their honest opinion.

Improve your conversations through silence.

What does the follower need to do?

First, this must be based on a bedrock of competence and professionalism. If you are a constant complainer, your moment of truth to power will be taken as another complaint.

But to be listened to, try to avoid threatening the Leader.

      1. Please explain how you see issues and facts in light of his grasp of the situation and detail.
      2. Do so in a way that doesn’t threaten his Leader’s ego.
      3. Do not threaten the Leader’s authority.
      4. Do not diminish the effort that the Leader has made so far.

How might that look? Try to:

      1. The Leader’s attention is grabbed in a way that doesn’t threaten his ego.
      2. Puts the problem up front as an observation based on the follower’s knowledge.
      3. Offers a solution rather than demands a change.
      4. Reduces the threat to the Leader’s authority by giving them the power to decide.
      5. But finishes with a question, which creates a ‘closed loop communication.’ The Leader has to respond.

Frame your difficult conversations with the power of Facts, Feelings & Future.

Get attention, state the problem, offer a solution, and ask for agreement.

How does it work?

First comes the attention-getter. Recognize the Leader’s position by saying:

‘I know you have a tough job as our boss, and I am sure I couldn’t do better. But would you be open to hearing my thoughts on this project?’

Second, state the problem as you see it. Use a statement. 

“We plan to take the same action we’ve taken several times.”  

Third, offer a solution and use strong language:

“I know it seems like the safest option, and we’re under time pressure. We should take a few moments to repair the problem before we proceed.“

Finally, seek agreement. This is important because it focuses on the Leader to reply. It closes the loop of communication:

 “Do you agree?”

I wouldn’t go so far as to say this technique will suddenly lead to your boss listening to you and agreeing with every point you make.

However, it is backed by research in the airline and medical industries that shows it increases the chances of leaders listening to followers. It’s also shown to improve the quality of outcomes as well.


Follower or Leader: Improve your chances.

So, if you’re a leader, pass your experience on to your followers, give them the context and avoid punishing or otherwise damaging those who offer their logical opinions and well-reasoned judgements.

Teach your team to use the technique above and recognize it when it’s in action. When they use it, your team tries to tell you something you need to know.

Remember that complainers don’t get listened to when you are a follower.

Only competent professionals get to have their truth heard. Use the technique above to improve your chances of being listened to. Explain how you see issues and facts.

Do so in a way that doesn’t threaten your boss’s ego or authority.