Our organization is in the midst of mid-year reviews.  First off - the "Performance Reviews" HoF podcasts are awesome, and equally as applicable to a mid-year review as an end-of year review - thank you!  
So, my ask: Senior management distributed a nine-box grid labelled "Performance Overtime and Potential" to all managers.  The only guidance was a vieled implication that each direct should be in a different box.  The boxes are labelled:
1. Star
2. High Potential
3. Over Achiever
4. Core Player
5. Strong Performer
6. Solid Performer
7. Mismatched Performer
8. Inconsistent Player
9. At Risk
With further digging, I discovered the intent was to identify 1/2/3's as potentially having larger aspirations to become an executive.  It was left to the manager whether or not to share the rating with the direct.  Since it would seem that career-impacting preconceptions are being formed with this information, I choose to share it with my directs.  However, the bullets describing many of the ratings seem to run contrary to the label.  For example:
Solid Performer

  • Delivers performance as expected in the current role. 
  • Keeps current skills up-to-date, but demonstrates little effort to apply lessons learned to increase performance.
  • Does not effectively adapt to new situations. 
  • Has limited professional interests and does not invest in personal development.

My challenge is not defending a placement - I have documented O3's and feedback.  My challenge is that the mix of attributes make placement inappropriate for some of my directs.  
I'd appreciate the communities thoughts.

Chris Zeller's picture
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Hi J,

I feel your frustration. Anyone who fails to adapt to new situations and doesn't focus on personal developement wouldn't be a "Solid Performer" by MT standards. Most of us would consider someone who's "solid" to have no major weaknessess or glaring holes in their performance.

Hopefully (and you may have to confirm this), the focus here is to align the placement of your directs with the behaviors that are indicated and not the labels that have been assigned to those behaviors. Use the O3 records, feedback, contemporaneous notes, etc. to zero in on each of your directs' behaviors, find the box that most closely describes the behaviors that you've observed and put the name there, ignoring the label.

Resist your natural inclination to filter the labels through your own personal definitions and opinions and (if you really want to) indulge in a single self-congratulatory pat on the back for having higher personal standards than your organization. Then, grit your teeth and embrace the organizational language/frameworks when you're in the steel-cage death match meetings.

Be effective. Save your energy for thorough preparation and for speaking up when you need to advocate for your people.

Since you're choosing to share the results with each of your directs, you're going to have to put extra effort into how you communicate things to make sure that they aren't distracted by the label. If possible, you may want to drop the labels all together for that piece and just use the numbers if the system isn't something that they're regualrly exposed to.

Focus on behaviors, have concrete examples, and explain where on the 1 - 9 scale they currently fall. Then discuss what they'll need to do during the back half of the year to improve or avoid slipping.


jperrault's picture

Chris - thanks for taking the time, and the thoughtful response!