11 Chapters
Medium 9781576752005

4 Coaching Employees In the New Workplace

Coens, Tom Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I have nothing but confidence in you—and not much of that!

Groucho Marx

Leadership must move from the performance appraisal system to appraisal of the performance of the system.

Ronald D. Moen, Quality Progress

Coaching. Once a buzzword metaphor, it now capsulizes everything a good supervisor is supposed to do. It’s an easy concept to endorse because it has no particular meaning—it means one thing to one person and something else to another. Rarely do we take time to think about or clearly state what we mean by coaching. Nor do we ask the important questions: Through coaching, what are we trying to accomplish? What are its processes? And who is responsible to ensure that people get the coaching they really need?

Despite a variety of perspectives about coaching, there’s one overriding trend pertaining to the concept of coaching—it’s called performance appraisal. Nearly every design of appraisal touts that it is an effective coaching tool. Appraisal is proclaimed as the instrument that facilitates coaching. It’s prescribed by well- meaning H.R. departments to ensure that supervisors are doing their job in coaching, guiding, and developing employees. But does it help? Or does it get in the way? 74

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7 Staffing, Promotions, and Development

Coens, Tom Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

There is no need to institutionalize the process of helping people with their future. The way to decrease someone’s dependency on us is to keep clear that their future is in their hands.

Peter Block, Stewardship

Employees need to take personal responsibility for their own career development.

Paul Squires and Seymour Adler, Performance Appraisal

Like compensation, career advancement is a sensitive issue. Depending on the individual and how things turn out, it may be a motivating factor or a de-motivating factor. When people talk about a good employer, one of the first things they often mention is opportunities for promotion—they say the selection process is open and fair, or proudly exclaim, “Our company promotes from within.” On the other hand, perceived unfairness in advancement drastically impairs loyalty, commitment, and motivation. To keep employees happy, and to comply with civil rights laws, employers increasingly are relying on “objective” processes and tools for promotion and career advancement. A good many organizations, in varying degrees, rely on appraisals to screen and select applicants because of its objective appearance.

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5 Feedback That Makes a Difference

Coens, Tom Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Ultimately, managers aren’t responsible for their people’s performance. People are responsible for their own performance. There’s feedback all around you—if you pay attention. If you’re not getting enough feedback, ask for it.

Anne Saunier, Fast Company

In any well-functioning organization, anyone ought to feel free to give anyone else feedback.

Peter Quarry, Feedback Solutions

Giving good feedback. Everyone thinks it is important. It’s what supervisors are supposed to do. If supervisors were organized like Boy Scouts, “to give good feedback” would be the first item of the official oath. And while everyone acknowledges its value and importance, timely and helpful feedback is conspicuously absent for most people in organizational life. The “art” of feedback is seldom practiced by many, and when practiced, it is practiced badly. In large part, the culprit is the prevailing practice of appraisal, which engenders many false notions about the nature of feedback. Beyond appraisal, many of us fail at giving and receiving feedback because we do not understand its true dynamics. Our expectations of feedback are unrealistic, and we fail to see the barricades that obstruct and distort the flow of communication and openness to change. 116

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2 The REAL Goal: Improving the Performance of the Organization

Coens, Tom Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

We live our lives in webs of interdependence and yet we keep telling ourselves the story that we are independent.

Peter Scholtes

With any turn of a century, it is common for new possibilities to emerge, new approaches to become common practice, new philosophies of living to become popular, and new qualities of leadership to give birth to a new world.

Robert Fritz, The Path of Least Resistance

As the nineteenth century came to a close, the horse and buggy was the prevailing mode of transportation. The automobile was viewed as an expensive amusement. People laughed at the possibility of the sturdy, reliable horse and buggy being replaced by a mere machine. With the dawn of the new century, however, the automobile quickly emerged as the preferred choice in transportation. The horse and buggy became an amusement.

And now, having closed the twentieth century, this book proclaims that the performance appraisal is just another “horse and buggy” to be left in the past (though the track record of the horse and buggy was far superior!). Yet, appraisal is still a widely used tool in workplaces that are radically different than those of 100 years ago, 50 years, or even 20 years ago. The appraisal survives more out of unfounded belief and habit than any demonstration of success. As the prevailing paradigm of organizational life continues to shift, the inherent flaws of the performance appraisal are becoming increasingly evident. 34

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1 Good Intentions That Never Deliver

Coens, Tom Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

It is not enough to change strategies, structures, and systems, unless the thinking that produced those strategies, structures, and systems also changes.

Peter Senge, The Dance of Change

It seems quite probable, as we continue to question our current practices, that most systems of performance appraisals… will be unmasked as detrimental to human spirit.

Dick Richards, Artful Work

Abolish performance appraisal. Yes, it feels uncomfortable to say that. Appraisal represents the conventional wisdom. We’ve grown accustomed to it, in spite of its inevitable flaws. Letting go of it feels like we’re going on a course to abandon people and their needs—the need for feedback, good coaching and development, the need for a measuring stick so people and the organization can know where people stand.

Our discomfort is quite natural. It stems from the truly good intentions behind appraisal. Abolishing appraisal does not mean abandoning its good intentions. It is diametrically the opposite—it is about getting serious about those intentions and finding pathways that can deliver without bringing on the perennial problems of appraisal. In this chapter, we separate the wheat from the chaff, keeping the worthy intentions of appraisal while we thresh out its structures and underlying beliefs. It is those potent beliefs and the resulting structures that ensure failure and the unintended toxic side effects.12

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