A few years back, I was working within an HR department at a large healthcare organization when I found myself in charge of a performance management revamp project. We were implementing the latest software — a system with all the bells and whistles you could buy. So many different ways to set and measure goals. “This project took up 50% of my time but is
about 33 1/3% important and I completed 4 out of 5 goals.” What? In the end, it all added up to a number.

We rolled it out, used it for a while and then, boom it hit me. This is awful. I remember one conversation with an employee distinctly. She said, “I am not a 4.27. I have never been a 4.27 in my life.” Hard to argue with that. How did we work on it so long and still come up with this clunky dehumanizing system that assigned a number – to two decimal places – to a human
being? Although I knew I didn’t like it, I didn’t know what to replace it with.

Fast forward several years and I’m in a meeting where an HR professional is presenting various alternatives. Her documents were a little jumbled and unclear, and then she summed up her presentation with one of my least favorite disclaimers: “Well, those are just my thoughts.” Alright then, it’s great that you’re sharing your thoughts, because that’s what we’re paying you to do. Or should we perhaps discard everything you’ve done, because they’re just your thoughts?

So, here’s the part where my personal experience with coaching made a difference. Instead of thinking “low performer, not even worth a 3.19” I thought “she could use a little coaching.” And I found myself wanting to do it. After years of working with a wonderful career coach, my brain had actually transformed to see the situation completely differently. He taught me that slip ups, errors in protocol, awkward moments are just coaching opportunities. Now I have a pretty clear idea what we should replace performance management systems with and it’s effective coaching. Stay tuned for another blog with more on this topic.