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Another Look at Employee Performance Appraisals

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Sep 8, 2014

Ever since reading Bringing Out the Best in People by Aubrey Daniels I’ve been a big fan of his techniques for improving work performance.  employee performance review form resized 600A recent blog by Aubrey Daniels,  6 Things To Do Instead of Performance Appraisals, offers his insights why performance appraisals are a poor investment for improving business performance.

Like Daniels I’ve questioned the value of performance appraisals, preferring to believe that performance is best assessed daily, discovering performance through daily metrics as provided through an effective Daily Huddle.  Or as Johnsonville Sausage CEO Ralph Stayer expressed in The Flight of the Buffalo, “Do the people in your company know how well they’ve done before they go home every night?  People perform what they measure – help the performers to measure the “right” stuff.”  

Here are some of the great insights contained in Daniels article. 

Did you know several studies show that 80 percent of employees think they perform in the top 20 percent of the employee population?  What’s that mean?  It means at least 60 percent of employees are dissatisfied with their performance ratings at a given time.  Would you consciously choose to do a practice in your business that actually makes your team feel worse about their performance levels?

Or do you believe by doing performance appraisals you’re giving the people how need it the most – a reality check- to face the brutal facts?

Examine your reasons for doing performance appraisals.  For example Daniels feels performance appraisals are doomed to failure due to their design to benefit the organization rather than individual employees.  What’s the purpose of your performance appraisal?  Is it to give you a measure on which employees are failing to improve and thus need to be removed?  Many companies use appraisals to rank employees.  The approach is flawed since it assumes employees are hired according to some bell curve.  The ranking of employees tends to label and divide employees.

Daniels also feels appraisals are based on traits rather than behavior – which defy objective evaluation.  I might need to dedicate an entire blog to discuss this issue.

Here’s an interesting twist on appraisals and accountability.  Daniels feels appraisals are a reflection on the performance of the manager, not the employee. 

Measuring the success of the manager is a better system than using appraisals to identify or eliminate weak links.  Don’t measure your managers based on improving the average performance but instead on increasing the number of employees who are performing. This concept is similar to what GE did to measure performance or what we ask our customers to do each quarter by ranking the employees they manage on how they’re moving in the 4 quadrantdescribe the image performance matrix.  It’s on the managers to move their staff toward “A” quadrant in the upper right hand column.

Daniels recommends quickly replacing managers who take credit for team accomplishments.  He suggests that any manager who brings attention to himself is a liability.  Building a successful team is next to impossible when the leader takes all the credit.   He also urges you to not simply believe a manager who says, "I couldn’t have done it without a great team.”   Actually audit how they perform in action to discover if they are delivering that same message to their team members.

Another critical idea is to ask employees for help in solving problems.  You can truly magnify employee engagement by soliciting and using suggestions offered from every level of your staff.  Employees who approach you about any question even if not job related should be reinforced.  Any employee who approaches you with a question is in itself an indication of a positive relationship.  It indicates an employee respects you or another supervisor’s opinion.  This creates loyalty and increases employee engagement. 

Daniels correctly points out that the path to strong performance starts long before performance is appraised.  Hiring and promoting right is essential.  It’s one reason we consistently promote Topgrading in our Best Practices for any growth business.  People skills are especially important. 

Remember Jim Collins admonition in Good to Great, “First who than what!” Finding people who possess the skills of being approachable, friendly, help-focused, who look to positive reinforce versus focus on criticism is critical.  People who perform well are good candidates to promote but people-centered employees are frequently the most viable at getting increasing levels of performance through these behaviors that support and inspire others.

If you’d like to learn more about Topgrading and the Performance Matrix process, along with annual and quarterly planning join Positioning Systems' Mastering the Rockefeller Habits Four Decision Workshop.  Download the Mastering the Rockefeller Habits Four Decision Workshop flyerRegister to attend this event November 12th in Cedar Rapids.

Ever wonder why you’ve not been able to develop a pattern for getting things done consistently and predictably in your business?  Perhaps it’s because your business fails to have a rhythm and habit for doing just that.  The importance of meeting rhythms presented next blog. 

Topics: employee engagement, employee performance, People, People Decisions, Aubrey Daniels, performance

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The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

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