Getting Performance Without Performance Management

elise-morris's picture

Purposeful Feedback

By Elise Morris on October 7, 2012


For decades organizations around the world have struggled to achieve 'real' (large scale) shifts in performance.  “Real” shifts in performance that are transformational for both the individual and the organisation are rarely experienced and even more rarely, sustained.

Traditional performance reviews engender fear and create a disconnect in most, if not all, organizations. Under the traditional model, an unconscious barrier develops between the employee and his or her manager. This barrier stifles engagement, sustained improvement and connectedness.

The barrier often sits just below consciousness, yet is responsible for the way in which the employee behaves and interacts with their manager.  At some stage in everyone’s career, most will think, “I can’t tell my manager that, if I tell them what I really think/feel it will affect the way they treat me, my pay, and potentially my future!”

Traditional performance reviews do aid organizational control, but impose a ‘one size fits all’ approach irrespective of the person or role.  Although not intentional, development then tends to be surface shifting as opposed to transformational.

Purposeful Feedback hands control back to employees, empowering them to self-manage their engagement and development with the organisation.  With a focus on the premise that when we feel more empowered, connected and in greater control of our direction, we go over and above the call of duty. This results in greater overall job satisfaction and improved organizational performance.

Being self driven, it removes the “one size fits all” approach and caters to individual motivators. This is fundamentally different to how we have been conditioned to manage our people.  For many managers, this approach appears flawed and risks a very low level of participation.

Some managers may be afraid that their employee will not want to engage with them or drive their own performance. This however, runs contrary to human behavior which we know centres around a need for belonging, inclusion and connectedness.

Purposeful Feedback is all about leading our people to achieve, grow and live with greater fulfillment, creating the right conditions for performance to take place and thrive.


First Steps (extra credit) 

So, how does it work?

Step 1

Coaching: Understanding self and authenticity (for managers and employees)

Underpinning the success of Purposeful Feedback is effective coaching. It’s imperative that managers and direct reports are coached on self-awareness and how to have purposeful conversations from the outset.

Building this mutual understanding from an early stage is vital to the employee selecting the discussion / feedback approach that is best for them. In turn, the manager learns a great deal about the employee’s individual needs, thus doing away with the traditional “one-size-fits all approach.”

Over time, this customised and authentic coaching foundation builds trust, confidence and in turn sustained performance over the long term.


Step 2

“Way of Work” documentation

The employee and manager document the agreed feedback approach. Following this, the employee’s goals, projects and aspirations are posted on the company’s internal social network (if they are comfortable doing so). This provides others the ability to rate and provide 360 degree feedback on the employee’s work.


Step 3

How am I going?

Throughout the year, employees may re-visit their initial “Way of Work” discussion to obtain greater clarity or re-clarify their needs. This helps the employee grow in their role and in turn benefits the organisation. A menu of feedback options must be regularly communicated and accessible to support an individual’s development, however the participation must be employee-led, ensuring the employee is empowered to direct their own future.

This includes greater transparency on projects, development opportunities, and their progress in the company over the course of their employment. By relinquishing our control over our people and truly empowering them, we can transform ourselves our people and our companies.


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al-jones's picture

I agree we need to let the individual become more self directed. We need managers to let go of the command and control "tower of power". Purposeful conversations need to occur throughout the organisation and when the manager no longer signs off on the performance review at the end of the year, then you open the door for robust personal development and greater commitment. The manager manages the 20% of staff who need time and 80% of the remainder focused on the coaching and team/organisational goals.

sarah-ryding's picture

I love this approach. Empowering individual, providing the opportunity to own their roles, careers and respecting differences. By truly allowing our people to transform and grow, so will the organisation! Remove the fear, the barriers and increase the trust and ownership. Love it!