Wise Thoughts II

21 March 2012

This morning we held our symposium at the Commonwealth Club featuring Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, Head of Social Performance for BG Group, Rumanie Kunanayagam, Managing Director of Credit Suisse UK, James Leigh-Pemberston, and myself. The topic was “Social Entrepreneurship: A Solution to Poverty Alleviation?” I think we panelists gave a good account of ourselves and delivered real value to the audience in return for the price of admission (it was free). Please check out twitter for the continuing conversation.

The topic for this second edition of Wise Thoughts is one near and dear to every manager: employee performance evaluations. Since I am in the process of doing these for my Management Team at FINCA, I thought I would share the suffering and some observations I have made over the past 17 years.

1. Different Methodologies for Different Levels of Employees – While some Performance Management software will want to steer you into a common “one size fits all” format, resist subjecting a long-time, high level manager to the same process as you would the receptionist. While you may want to evaluate a receptionist according to how well (s)he “Keeps the work area tidy”, with higher level managers this is a waste of both your time. Similarly, you probably don’t need for your accounting staff to “think strategically” most of the time — and if they do, it’s time to start worrying because they may be planning an embezzlement.

2. With the top staff, choose the three highest priorities and give them the highest weight – While your managers may have a dozen or more projects on their plate in any given “marking period”, three of them are bound to be more “mission critical” than the others, and if little or no progress is made on them they will have a major impact on the company’s ability to perform and on YOUR ability to meet the targets for which the board is holding you accountable. Think long and hard about which these are, and then give them a combined weight of 40-50%.

3. Use the Performance Management exercise to produce better employees, not perfect ones – When I was starting out in FINCA, my goals was to zero in on every shortcoming/flaw in my team and try to correct it. As I look back, I realize that while I did help most of them grow in their jobs and meet the increasing challenges, some aspects of their management style were extremely resistant to change. Decide which suboptimal behavior you can live with as long as the priority projects and tasks are being accomplished, and the work of the team isn’t being disrupted, and move on.

Rupert Scofield


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