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Episode 91: Why Performance Assessments Suck and How to Fix Them

by Hannah Rose | May 15, 2024 10:00:00 AM

Assessing performance can be challenging for both the person being evaluated and the evaluator. However, there are ways to make the process easier for both sides when you understand measuring performance and the role assessing performance plays in your growth.



Additional Resources:

Show Notes:

Pre-Show Banter: 

  • It feels like summer where Doug is.
  • Doug is about to have The Revenue Acceleration Framework book in his hands. He’s excited but also nervous to hear what people have to say about the book.
  • Doug suggests building a dinosaur-themed amusement park.
  • Doug and Jess discuss whether the team would know and understand “older” songs, like “Come on Eileen.”

Like many of us, Jess struggles with assessing performance because it’s hard and requires a lot of brain power. Jess would much rather spend her power on data migrations and data structure.

Some of the challenges Jess faces when assessing performance:

  • Not having a framework to assess the team is hard
  • Not having knowledge or expertise like those she manages makes assessing hard because what they do is outside her area of expertise. She struggles with knowing whether they’re doing a good job.
  • Less of the specifics around what people are doing are part of Jess’s knowledge, so she has a hard time anchoring on what someone has done.

Let’s break this down for everyone on what you can do if you also struggle here. 

Doug and Jess start with the people she manages who aren’t within her area of expertise. 

To Doug, it’s easier to assess performance in areas where you lack expertise as opposed to where you have expertise. There are two areas of performance which are where this gets tough:

  • Absolute performance
  • Relative performance

Absolute performance is, “my investment is up 50%.” Relative performance is, “the average investment was up 80%.”

Absolute performance is all about results. It may be an indication of future performance. When you’re looking at performance you’re managing two elements: 

  1. Production
  2. Production capability

One thing that’s nice in areas where you don’t have expertise is that the person you’re assessing should be able to communicate what they’re doing in a way that you don’t need the expertise to understand. That’s a pretty good signal that there’s a weakness.

One reason performance is hard to measure is because it seems objective, but performance is really relative, not absolute.

Whenever we’re assessing anything we need to have a hypothesis. If you don’t, you’re going to end up looking based on what you’re seeing today, not when you started.

This is where scorecards are valuable. Having a rubric provides a consistent element for the inconsistency of life. The rubric pulls you back and that’s what enables learning.

Why assess performance? 

It’s to figure out if a person is in the right role and where they are going within the company. It feeds into many areas within the business. It’s a way to figure out how to grow the person and how to impact their learning.

The other place we get lost in performing is we focus too much on either the judgment or we’re conflating it with leveling up. What is the framework?

The framework is, where are we? Where do we want to be? What’s our plan? What’s our hypothesis and strategy? What did we learn?

Assessing performance gets screwed up when it becomes too much about judgment. 

As you get further out and have more responsibilities, how do you assess someone when you don’t see firsthand what they’re doing?

This is a major subjective question that we shouldn’t focus on as much. The important part of assessing performance is establishing a basis for learning.

This is where self-performance evaluation comes in and where you shouldn’t come in and be hard on yourself or soft on yourself. All progress begins with honesty.

To help our team, we switched up our rubric from a scale of 1-10 to a scale of 1-5 to now a scale of ++, +, +/-, -, -- to make it easier to position ourselves and to take the emotion out of the decision.

Jess’s Takeaways: 

  • You need a framework for assessing performance.
  • Make sure you have a mutual understanding of what you’re measuring.
  • Have a hypothesis.
  • Have a scorecard and a rubric as you’re measuring performance. 
  • Stay tuned for part two of this episode where we dig into and build out the framework based on what we talked about in this episode!

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