Making Performance Management Work


Many organizations have a love/hate relationship with performance management systems and tools. On one hand, they see the need and value in them, on the other, the results and unintended consequences of implementing them often sour their perspective. That’s why some organizations are getting rid of these systems. But are they throwing out something valuable just because they haven’t figured out how to make it work?

If your organization is struggling with your performance management system, changing to a new one, or considering implementing one, this webinar is for you. Led by leadership expert and best-selling author Kevin Eikenberry, this interactive and highly practical session will explore the major challenges and barriers to making performance management work, and what you can do to jump those barriers and get the results and impact you are hoping for.

Whether you are an HR leader looking at implementing a new performance management system or trying to reinvigorate what you have, a learning and development leader thinking about how to help your managers implement your systems more effectively, or an individual leader who wants to make your performance reviews more effective and less stressful, you will gain useful tools and ideas you can immediately use after attending this session.

Join us to improve the performance in your organization – and reduce the cynicism and stress performance management often creates in an organization.

Participants will learn:

  • How to identify the biggest barriers that keep performance management from working
  • How to identify the underlying belief that dooms performance management success
  • To use at least four ideas to give more effective feedback in performance management conversations
  • Ways to make performance management conversations more successful – and less stressful
  • Where to start to improve performance management in your organization

Who should attend:

  • HR leaders
  • Learning and development teams
  • Supervisors and managers

Sarah Cirone:
Hi, everyone. Welcome to today’s webinar, Making Performance Management Work, hosted by HRDQ
and presented by Kevin Eikenberry. My name is Sarah and I will moderate today’s webinar. The webinar
will last around one hour. If you have any questions, just type them into the question area on your
GoToWebinar control panel. We’ll answer them as we can or after the session by email. I’m excited to
introduce our presenter today, Kevin Eikenberry.
Sarah Cirone:
Kevin is a recognized world expert on leadership development and as the chief potential officer of the
Kevin Eikenberry group. He’s spent more than 25 years helping organizations and leaders from around
the world on leadership, teamwork, communication and more. He has twice been named by as
one of the top 100 leadership speakers and top 100 leadership management experts in the world. He
has been included in many other exclusive lists. He’s the author, co-author, or contributing author to
nearly 20 books, including the best-selling Remarkable Leadership, From Bud to Boss with Guy Harris,
and The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership with Wayne Turmel. It’s an
honor to have you speaking with us today, Kevin.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Sarah, I’m glad to be with you. I’m excited to talk about an important topic for everybody today. That
topic is Making Performance Management Work. We all want our folks to be successful. Performance
management is something that in your organization, you either have a process or looking to build the
process. I’m going to help you think about all of that today. So, there’s me. You already saw that. Okay, a
little bit. I want you to stop and think for a second. You don’t have to type at this point, but I’d like you
to think about what do you really want to get out of our time together? What is your fondest wish for
the session? If you’ll take just a second to do that, it’ll help clarify and clear your mind. Lord knows we
got plenty of things going on in our world today. Take a second to think about what do you hope to get.
What is it the most valuable thing that you want to get from our time together? If you’ll do those things,
for just one second, I’ll be quiet, and then we’ll continue.
Kevin Eikenberry:
So, today, on March the 18th, there is a big elephant in the room. It’s not about performance
management. We all know what’s going on in the world around us right now. So, I think it’s important
that we take a second to just take a deep breath and try to be focused on what we’re going to do today.
For me to tell you, as Sarah already mentioned, that one of the things that we spend a lot of time doing
is working with remote leaders and remote work. Let me say a little bit more about that at the end of
this webinar. But I want to want you to know, too, that as we go through this, if you have specific
questions about how we do performance management connected to remote, we can have that
Kevin Eikenberry:
So, if there’s a specific question that is in your mind today about the intersection of performance
management and our work that might be different than it might have been 10 days ago, feel free to ask
that question. We’ll see what we can do to help. At the end of this webinar, we’ll talk a little bit more
about some things that will help you in that whole remote work, remote leading, remote stuff, given the
crisis that we’re all living through in right now.
Kevin Eikenberry:
So now that we’ve gotten past the elephant, let’s get on with our topic. So, my question for you is this
what are your biggest concerns with performance reviews? I would like you now to type, as Sarah
suggested to tell you to type in the question box there on your panel. I’d love to know what your biggest
concerns are with performance reviews. What are the issues that you face? What are the challenges
that you hear? I want to have you type those in real quick because I want to know what they are. So, I
can address them as we go. So, I’ll give you just a second to type and then I’ll ask Sarah to share them
with me.
Sarah Cirone:
[inaudible 00:04:11]-
Kevin Eikenberry:
Yeah, go ahead.
Sarah Cirone:
Amy says, “Too long of a process.” Elliott says, “Making performance expectations smart.” John’s
response is “How to move beyond once a year performance cycle?” Julie’s response is “They often fail to
explain how to make changes.” Sharon says, “Doing a review for a person on the job only six months.”
Liz says, “Performance reviews that aren’t value added, don’t see the value.”
Kevin Eikenberry:
All right, that’s more than enough to get us started. So, thank you for that. You guys can continue to
type. Sarah can tell me more later. Again, two more questions for you to think about. That is, what
would you like performance reviews to accomplish? What’s stopping you from accomplishing those
things? I think that’s important. Those are important questions to think about. If you are in the HR,
human capital function, then you’re probably in a situation where you were either involved in the
creation of this process or are involved in the maintaining of this process.
Kevin Eikenberry:
So, you have some things you’re trying to accomplish, right? We have some things we want to
accomplish with performance reviews. Hopefully, it’s not just because we’ve always done them. But the
thing that I want to get across to you today is that wherever you sit in the organization, an awful lot of
what we are seeing as problem, like the process is too long, making them smart, getting beyond the
once a year frequency, et cetera, that most all of those things can be addressed by the individual leader.
Kevin Eikenberry:
So, it’s important to recognize that our role as a leader, as a deliverer of performance reviews is a role
that allows us to make a huge impact on how successful they will be. I know you can’t change the form,
right? But there’s a lot of things about the way it works that you have a huge amount of influence over
as an individual leader. We’re going to talk about that as we go.
Kevin Eikenberry:
We’re going to talk about how to make performance management really work. We’ve got to start with
looking at what we can do and not saying, “Well, man, they need to fix it at corporate,” or “They need to
fix it over there in HR,” or “I really wish we had a different form.” Because those are the barriers. Let me
talk about one of the barriers that I hear over and over. The first one that I hear is well, you all just told
me, the process is too long. This form, “I don’t like the buttons on this form. I don’t like the words that it
uses. I wish we had it different.” So, one of the big barriers that people have is they don’t like the
process. They think the process is flawed. The process is too lengthy. It doesn’t happen often enough.
Form is a piece of crap, whatever. That’s a barrier.
Kevin Eikenberry:
The next barrier is what’s people’s perception of its use, or its usefulness, or how it gets used in the
organization. Oftentimes the perception that people have about performance reviews and performance
management is not real rosy. So, if everyone’s kind of got that, “Well, this is something we’ve got to do”
mentality, or “We’ve all sort of got this. Well, we got to do it,” or “Man, I wish it was better,” or “I’ve
never had a good one in my life.” If that’s the perception is there, that’s a barrier to us making it really
work. Another barrier is the organizational culture. There are some organizations where they don’t
appear to anyone to have a very significant value other than that we do them.
Kevin Eikenberry:
So, your culture, the way they get delivered by individual leaders, and all of those things, sort of what
people are saying about them in the organization can be a barrier to making performance management
really work. Even if people come from other organizations, our past experience isn’t necessarily positive
either. So, all of us, or most everyone, is coming into this process with baggage, not necessarily things
that are positive. So, all of these get in the way. Excuse me. There’s another big barrier. That is no one
wants to be praised, evaluated, reviewed, or managed. Yet isn’t that what we call these processes?
Kevin Eikenberry:
We call it performance appraisal, performance evaluation, performance review, performance
management. That’s even the title of the session. The reality is as human beings, we don’t really love
these things being done what? To us. We don’t want these. These don’t feel good. These ideas and
these words that can put us on the defensive. I’ve never gotten anything that was going to be very
helpful to help me actually change, as we heard earlier. We as humans don’t want these things. But
here’s what humans, people do want. They want the chance to develop, grow and improve. Nearly all of
us, nearly all of the time want this. So, we don’t want performance management, performance
appraisal, performance evaluation. We don’t want that, but we do want to develop and grow.
Kevin Eikenberry:
So, I believe the first step, and even if your organization doesn’t change this, the first step is to change
how we think about it and how we talk about it with our teams. I believe we should call it performance
development. We want to develop the performance of our teams or team members to a higher level.
We’re not trying to manage them; we’re trying to grow them or help them grow. So, I believe the first
thing is to change our mindset from this being about performance management to being about
performance development. If you’re saying “Well, Kevin, we call it performance management.” I get
that. Now I understand your point.
Kevin Eikenberry:
My point is, regardless of what others call it, we can choose to describe it. We can choose to think about
it. We can choose to deliver it in a way that’s more aligned with developing our team, rather than
managing our team. Not only does it still get us what we want, but it does something that others want
too, right? So, the existing underlying mindset is that people are just another resource to manage and
control. Now, no one wants to say this, but the way we’ve structured most performance management
processes, this is how it ends up feeling. Doesn’t it? That “Well, we manage a budget, we manage our
inventory. We manage our production schedule. We manage our people. It’s something else that we
manage and control.”
Kevin Eikenberry:
I believe that rather than this underlying belief, rather than this mindset, we want this mindset. We
want the mindset of it is our job as a leader. It is our job and responsibility to give people the chance to
grow and develop. Will they all take it? Maybe not. But it’s our responsibility to give people the chance
to grow, and develop because they can, and because we need them to. I really can’t stress this enough.
Before we start talking about what we can change about our skills or our approach or our process, we
have to focus on the mindset that I’m suggesting to you. That the first problem we need to address is
the mindset problem. I’ve just outlined it for you. I believe that you can change your mindset and
therefore, begin to change the mindset of your team and how they think about this process with you as
their leader by changing this mindset.
Kevin Eikenberry:
The second problem that we have with performance management, I haven’t really mentioned yet. The
second problem is one of what I call a time horizon problem. Performance management is all designed
and focused on looking backward. What did people do in the last year? What did people do in the last
six months since they got here? To one of the questions. So, all of this conversation and all of this focus
is backward. We’re going to talk a lot more about this in a few minutes. But I believe that fundamentally,
this is part of our problem, too, is that we have, again, what I call a time horizon problem. The time
horizon that we’re looking at is all historical. Whether it happened last week, last month, last quarter, or
11 months and 24 days ago. The time horizon problem, we’re going to talk about how to deal with that
in a bit, okay?
Kevin Eikenberry:
So as an individual leader, I have two solutions for you. If you’re here thinking about this
organizationally, I have the same two solutions for you, and here they are. The first one is we need to
have a process for better feedback, which is the core of the performance management process. We
need to have better performance management meetings. We need to have a better conversation, a
more effective conversation when we’re filling out the form. So, we’re going to talk about both of these
things for the rest of our time together, better feedback, and better meetings, okay? Again, you can
agree with me that these things are in your control, regardless of what your form looks like, how long it
is, et cetera, et cetera.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Regardless of how much time the process takes. Even by the way, you say, “Well, we have a process
that’s annual, and I’d like to do it more frequently.” There is no one that’s going to say, “You can’t have a
more frequent meetings,” helping people about their performance. You may only have one time a year
to fill out the form for others. But before we’re done today, you’re going to see how there’s more ways
to think about that than just what the organization requires, okay?
Kevin Eikenberry:
So, this gives us a framework for what we’re going to talk about for the rest of our time together. So,
let’s talk first about feedback. Let me ask you this. I just want you all get ready to type. Sarah get ready
to get people’s answers Let’s say we all work together. All of us are around the coffee pot, or some of us
around the coffee pot. I happen to mention that I need to give Sarah, our lovely and talented host, this
hostess. I say “Hey, I need to give Sarah some feedback today.” What are you all immediately thinking?
Just type in what comes to your mind when I say to you that I need to give Sarah some feedback. That’s
all I said. What do you think of? What are you thinking about Sarah? What’s going through your mind
when you hear that phrase?
Sarah Cirone:
Negatives coming through Kevin. Audrey says, “Run.”
Kevin Eikenberry:
Sarah should run.
Sarah Cirone:
[crosstalk 00:16:18].
Kevin Eikenberry:
It’s going to be a bad day for Sarah, right?
Sarah Cirone:
Yeah. A lot of negatives. It’s “difficult conversation that’s going to come up,” and “What did she do?”
Kevin Eikenberry:
What did Sarah do? Uh-oh, bad day for Sarah. Sarah did something wrong, but I don’t know what she
did. All of that, what comes to our mind is uh-oh spaghetti-oh, Sarah did something wrong. By the way,
if you don’t think there is that negative baggage to that word, think about your boss telling you on a
Friday that they want to give you feedback on Monday. Ruin your weekend, right? Because your mind
goes to all of those same places. So, the first thing I want to say is even though I believe that feedback is
truly powerful, important, and valuable. That word itself carries a whole bunch of baggage that isn’t in
the dictionary definition. Yet when all I said was, “I need to give Sarah some feedback.” You all went,
“Oh, no.” Right? So that’s what comes to mind.
Kevin Eikenberry:
So, most of us would say, “Well, there’s probably two kinds of feedback.” There’s the negative feedback
that we were all thinking about Sarah, and there’s positive feedback, too. But why is it that we think
about the negative most? Well, that’s because the one that’s the one we hear the most. But a bunch of
reasons why, I’ll get into some of that little bit later. The reality is all we have this first thought about
feedback is it’s going to be bad or it is bad. And then, we then translate ourselves to “Well, there’s only
two kinds.” Rather than thinking about two kinds, I think they’re actually four kinds of feedback. The first
one… Though, I may have to sneeze in a second. The first one… No, first of all, I’m isolated. Second of all
no, I don’t have any issues.
Kevin Eikenberry:
So, the first one is negative feedback, which is what you were all thinking about Sarah. Here’s what
negative feedback is. Feedback about something that someone did in the past that was negative.
Negative feedback is something negative about past behavior, right? That’s exactly where you all went.
Kevin’s going to give Sarah some negative feedback. Well, you say, “There’s another kind of feedback,
Kevin.” There’s what we would probably all refer to as positive feedback. Positive feedback is what?
Something that someone did well in the past. Last week, Sarah did this. This morning, Sarah did this.
Three months ago, Sarah did a great job with this report or this project or whatever. Positive feedback is
about something that someone did well, did right, did correctly. When? In the past.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Now we’re going to get to our time horizon problem because guess what? If you think about this, you
realize that all of this type of feedback is history. It’s a history lesson. That’s generally what happens in
most performance review meetings. It is a review. We’re looking back. The thing is you don’t have to
type you can just answer this in your head. What can you change about the past? It’s over. The past is
over. You can’t change it.
Kevin Eikenberry:
So, if all we’re doing is telling people what you did this right, you did this right you did this wrong. You
did this wrong. You did this wrong. You did this wrong. If you’re doing all that, what are you doing to
help people move forward? You’re not giving people ways to change as someone asked the question,
because there’s nothing constructive about this. It’s just a history lesson. It’s useful, but by itself, it
doesn’t drive anything that necessarily changes, improves, or maintain something valuable. Because it’s
all about the past. I believe there are two more kinds of feedback.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Third kind of feedback. Well, to do this, I’m going to tell you a story. So, my daughter is now 21. She just
came home from overseas a little earlier than she planned. But when she was younger, we had next
door neighbors that had three children all around Kelsey’s ages. The four of them would often play
together. Oftentimes those three kids all in one house would come knocking on our door and say, “Can
Kelsey come outside and play?” I’m like, “Sure, I’d love for you outside and play.” But I wanted them all,
including Kelsey, to be safe.
Kevin Eikenberry:
So, I would say like most parents, something like this. “Hey Kelsey, when you go outside, don’t play in
the street. When you go outside, don’t play in the street.” I was giving Kelsey negative feed forward. I
was telling her what not to do in the future. When you go outside future, don’t do this. Don’t play in the
street. That would be negative feed forward. It’s telling people what you don’t want them to do. Make
sure you don’t do this, don’t play in the street, okay?
Kevin Eikenberry:
Now, there’s a fourth kind of feedback. If you are just sort of following along, you can probably guess
what it’s going to be called. It is in fact going to be called positive feed forward. What does that mean?
Well, let’s stay with Kelsey playing in the street for a second. Why am I telling her that? Well, I don’t
want her to get hurt. I want her to be safe. So, I don’t want it to be in the street. The problem is when
we hear “Don’t do this, don’t do this. Don’t do this.” We’re hearing this, “Don’t play in the street, don’t
play in the street, don’t play in the street, don’t play in the street.” We all hear street, doesn’t
necessarily help.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Even though Kelsey is smart, was smart, would understand those words. We often get stuck when we
think about the negative of an idea plus the negative of an idea or the negative of a behavior becomes
self-limiting. So, let’s think about this. How could we say this in a way that might be positive feed
forward or what I do want her to do when she goes outside? Well, I could say, “Hey Kelsey, when you go
outside, play in the grass or play in the yard.” Now, question. If I tell Kelsey play in the yard, and she
hears me, listens to me, and takes the feedback, obeys, will she be in the street? No, she will not, right?
But if I say “Hey, Kelsey, don’t play in the street.” If she listens, hears, and obeys that, will she be in the
street? No, but will she be in the yard? I have no idea. She could be anywhere.
Kevin Eikenberry:
What would she say to me? “Well, Dad, I wasn’t in the street.” I would say “nut what I meant was…” A
lot of times as leaders, we know what we mean. We know what we want, but we just say, “Hey, don’t do
this.” It may be important to give people negative feed forward as context. But we always would want to
give it in connection to what we want them to do, right? So, what we’re really after is what has already
happened that worked or didn’t. That gives us reason to talk about next time. What we need to talk
about next time and say, “So given that, what do we need to do next time? How do we need to do it
moving forward? What do we want to avoid?” Negative feed forward, but how are we going to move
forward? This totally changes our dynamic. It totally changes how this all will work.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Okay, so I’m going to stop right here and just see if you’ve got any questions about what I’ve said so far
or want some clarification, type it in real quick because I don’t want us to lose that if it’s there. So,
Sarah, do you have anything that’s come in about that at all?
Sarah Cirone:
Catherine asked, how about evaluative feedback negative and positive?
Kevin Eikenberry:
Well, so we can talk a little bit more about that. Here’s the first thing that I want to say is I think we want
to talk about actual behavior, what’s actually happening, what was observed, right? So, I want to start
really with observation, and stay away from judgment as much as I can. Let’s just start here. Who asked
that question, Sarah?
Sarah Cirone:
Kevin Eikenberry:
Catherine. So, let’s just say that, if I’m going to give feedback to Catherine, what do I want? I want her to
hear it, to understand it. and to accept it. Now, if I start by giving Catherine evaluative feedback or
feedback that has judgment in it, what’s she likely to do? Get defensive. The minute that she gets
defensive, or gets on the defense, or is ready to justify, or rationalize her behavior, she’s not hearing,
understanding. So, there’s no way she’s ever going to get to accepting and taking any action on the
feedback. So, it’s important for us to keep that in mind.
Kevin Eikenberry:
So, if we have data, we need to share the data. We absolutely need to share with people they need.
“Here’s what’s happening. Here’s where your numbers are compared to other people. Here’s what your
timeliness is,” whatever it is, but that’s observable data. There’s a difference between saying,
“Catherine, you were late four times last week,” from saying, “Catherine, you’re always late. I need you
to stop being late.” The second statements are not going to go very well with Catherine. They’re more
evaluative. I want us to stay much more in behavior and data and facts as the starting point, will have far
more success, okay? Any other things quickly, Sarah, before I go on?
Sarah Cirone:
No, we can move forward.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Okay, cool. So, here’s a question for everybody. The question is, what should the balance be? Well, we
get a lot of negative now, we remember the negative longer than the positive. That’s why we are
thinking that about Sarah a little bit ago, right? “Oh, Sarah did something wrong.” Negative feedback.
So, the question I would ask you is, and get ready to type, what should be the ratio between positive
and negative feedback? In other words, how much? Like if you were to say, “Well, it’s 50-50, then it’d be
one to one.” What do you think the ratio should be of positive to negative feedback? I’ll just let you all
type for a second, and then I’ll have Sarah give us some responses while I take a quick drink. What do
you got, Sarah?
Sarah Cirone:
Virginia says “50-50.” John says, “five to six positive for each one negative.” Sandra says, “10% negative,
90% positive.”
Kevin Eikenberry:
Sarah Cirone:
Yes, 70 positive, 30 negative. 75-25. Lisa says, “I don’t think feedback ever has to be negative.”
Kevin Eikenberry:
Okay, so here’s what we got. We got a range between 1:1, 50-50, 9:1, 90-10. Someone says, “Why do we
need any negative at all?” We got everything in between. We got 9:1, 5:1, 3:1, 3.5:1, 1:1, and “Do we
need any?” There’s probably someone out there who didn’t type that’s thinking, “Well, Kevin, I can’t
answer that question because it depends.” I’ve got someone else out there thinking this, “How am I
supposed to find positive? This person isn’t doing anything right?” So, the research here is important. I
want to share it with you because I think that there’s room for us to have some target to shoot for in this
regard. This target is rarely reached in most workplaces and in most performance review sessions.
Kevin Eikenberry:
The research says that, again, we do as human beings remember negative stuff longer than positive
stuff. So, the researchers did ask this question, how much positive does it take to counterbalance the
negative, so both are remembered roughly, equally? They both end up having equal weight in the mind
of the receiver. That research says that it’s about 3:1. That about 3:1, we remember equally the negative
and the positive. Now, not everyone agrees with this research. It’s not exactly 3:1. It’s like 2.96257 or
something, not 3:1.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Not everyone agrees with that research. Other researchers say, “I don’t like the way they did the study,”
et cetera. It’s a famous study, but the reality is that most people don’t really disagree with the result.
They just don’t really love the methodology, okay? The same researchers asked a different question,
okay. If that’s the number that gets them equal, where’s the number where it’s too much? Is there a
point at which more positive won’t actually help? Where more positive might actually be a detriment
where people become cocky, when people become complacent? Where’s the ceiling? The research says
that the ceiling is at about 12:1, again, positive to negative. Now, I am not here to tell you that either
one of these are the right numbers. I’m giving you some research context.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Now, the Gallup organization every year does large numbers of surveys in organizations around
employee engagement. In their research, they asked one question that always leads to something in this
vicinity. The numbers change a little year to year, but not much. The question is how much positive
reinforcement, positive praise, positive appreciation you receive at work in the last seven days? Like
around 60% year to year changes very, very little. Around 60% of people said they got none, zero,
nothing positive. “I’m not getting anything positive. I’m only getting negative.” Now, this doesn’t mean
they didn’t, but it definitely means since they’re self-reporting that’s all they remember, is negative.
They don’t remember any positive at all.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Here’s my point. My point is odds are you’re not giving it a positive. My point is odds are that you need
to raise your ratio. Someone said, “Hey, I think it’s 9:1.” You may personally say, “Hey, I think I’m doing
this fine.” Maybe you are, to which I would say, awesome. I would say, from my experience and work
with leaders for 30 years, is that most leaders, most coaches, most performance review sessions don’t
get up to 1:1. I believe that 3:1 marks a pretty good place to shoot for.
Kevin Eikenberry:
If you can get to 5:1, 6:1, I’m fine with that, too of course. I do think there’s a place for letting people
know what they’re doing wrong or could improve. Maybe you don’t want to call that negative. Maybe
you want to call it corrective. But I believe there’s certainly the need to let people know the full view,
the full width, the full perspective of their work. Yet most of us aren’t spending enough time with the
Kevin Eikenberry:
So, what should the ratio be? Well, I believe something closer to at least 3:1 would be a good place to
start. Okay, so how does this apply to the performance review? Well, of course, it applies directly,
because first of all, the question would be what’s your balance? What is your current balance? When
you are doing a performance review or when you’ve received one, how much of each are you getting? If
you don’t think that balance is right, as the leader, then you can change that, right? It’s in your control to
change that. Here’s the next question. When are people hearing feedback? When? So, the very first
person in the earlier comment said, “Our process is too long.” Then another person said, “I’d like for us
to get our performance review session to go more frequent than once a year.” I agree.
Kevin Eikenberry:
If you’re giving me feedback today on March the 18th about something I did last April 1, how valuable is
that? Not very. How many times have I perhaps done it incorrectly or sub-optimally since last April?
Perhaps a lot. If I’ve not been doing it well or right, or is the way it could be done, I keep doing it a
different way, am I building a habit? Yes. You all know that once you have a habit, it’s hard to break it,
right? So, the question becomes when are people hearing the feedback? If they’re waiting for the
performance review session, even if that’s quarterly, you’re waiting too long. So, we should be giving
feedback in a balance. We should be giving feedback more frequently. I like to think about the idea of
timely feedback.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Now, does this mean that every piece of feedback we give has to be in a performance review session?
Of course not. But too often, the only time people are getting feedback is during the performance
review session. That’s where I want us to make sure we’re not getting lost. I want you to be thinking
about giving people feedback far more frequently. I like to think of the word timely. Think of the word
timely. What does that mean? It does not mean immediate. Here’s what it means to me. Soon enough
to make a difference for the next time. If people are hearing the feedback for the first time during the
performance review session, it is not soon enough to make a difference. The next time it is not timely
enough. So that I think is worth our consideration.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Now, there’s another question here because sometimes people say, “Well, Kevin, I don’t know about
this whole balance thing. I do have a poor performer. They’re doing a lot of things that need correction.
So, I’m not sure I can get up to a 3:1 ratio. They’re not doing enough things right or whatever.” I think
that it’s important for us to recognize this. Let me just say, I heard Sarah mentioned the name Elliot
earlier. So, let’s say that Elliot and Sarah both work for me, okay? Let’s imagine I wouldn’t tell them this,
but for all the rest of you.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Well, let me tell you about Elliot first, Elliot, Rockstar, whatever Elliot does is awesome, they only keep
getting better. It’s only a matter of time before Elliot has my job. Elliot is a rock star. Fantastic. Anything
you get to Elliot gets done. It’s done well, gets done on time. Awesome. Elliot is a rock star. Well, then
there’s Sarah. Well, bless her heart. She tries hard. I mean, I like Sarah. She’s a good person. She’s having
to pedal pretty hard just to keep up with the work. There’s a lot of things Sarah doesn’t quite yet. She’s
okay. I mean, you’re going to have some sea performers on your team, right? I mean, it just is what it is.
I mean, there’s Sarah, and then there’s Elliot.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Now, question for all of you. Please type. Which person, Elliot, the rock star, or Sarah, the sea
performer, is going to be more successful working for me? Which of them is going to have better
performance review? Which of them is more likely to be promoted? Just type that in. Sarah, I can
already tell you what people are saying. You’re getting way more Elliott’s than Sarah’s
Sarah Cirone:
We haven’t really been through. Yeah, you are right. Spot on.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Elliot, Elliot, Elliot, Elliot. Sarah’s like, “Wait a minute, Kevin. I know you, why are you talking smack to
me?” Here’s the thing. Once we’ve decided in our heads, made the evaluation, what am I looking for?
I’m looking for things from Elliot to confirm my belief, confirmation bias. What am I looking for from
Sarah? The things to confirm my belief. So, if you say to me, “I guess someone’s not doing anything,
right, Kevin.” You’re not going to even see the things they’re doing well. You’re not even going to notice
them. It’s just the way our brains work. So, a number of years ago, quite a number of years ago now. I
took my family on a family vacation from Indianapolis where I live to Washington DC to see my sister
and her family. We drove.
Kevin Eikenberry:
It’s an eight- or nine-hour drive from Indianapolis to the Greater Washington, DC area, and we drove. So,
we’re seven of the eight hours in, and I’ve been driving. I’ve been doing my best to be a successful and
safe driver. At this particular moment, there’s a lot of traffic and I’m on a road that I don’t know well at
all. So, I’m driving, focused on the road. I’m probably doing my best job of riding on the entire trip. I’m
focused on the road doing my job when all of a sudden out of the blue, my son’s 10-year-old fist hits my
shoulder. He’s sitting behind me, because it’s me, and Laurie, my wife, and Parker behind me, and Kelsey
over here. Parker just hits me on the shoulder really hard and says, “Slug bug black, no tag backs.” I just
got hit on the shoulder by my kid. I don’t know why I’m not very happy.
Kevin Eikenberry:
I said, “What did you say?” He said, “Dad, you know? Slug bug black, no tag backs.” I say, “I have no idea
what you’re talking about.” I look at Lauren, she goes, “Everybody knows the slug bug game.” I look back
at my sweet little, probably about four or five-year-old at the time, Kelsey and say “Kelsey, why did your
partner hit me?” “Daddy, everybody knows the slug bug game.” “I didn’t.” “Now if you don’t, I’m about
to tell you.” You may call it punch buggy. You may call it something else. But basically, the game is my
son saw a black Volkswagen. That’s the bug. It’s a legal way to hit people in the car because you saw the
car before they did. He hits me and basically says, “I saw the black Volkswagen before you, so I get to hit
you. Hahaha.” That’s the game.
Kevin Eikenberry:
So, after I calmed down and explained the game to me, I said I think we should play but we can’t hit,
because I can’t hit you, because I’m going to play. So, I convinced them we’re going to play the slug bug
game looking for Volkswagens. In the next 10 minutes, I saw three Volkswagens. In the seven hours
before. I’d seen zero Volkswagens. Does that mean those are the only Volkswagens of the trip? Highly
unlikely. This directly relates to Sarah and Elliot and your team members too, because once I was looking
for the Volkswagens, I saw them.
Kevin Eikenberry:
I won’t go into the details about how our reticular activating system, the filter in our brain, works. But
fundamentally what it does is this, when our conscious mind is looking for something, when something
matters when it’s important, our conscious minds say to our subconscious, “Tell me when you see this,”
and it will show up. We see what we’re looking for.
Kevin Eikenberry:
When we think about how we do performance reviews and getting the balance of feedback and giving
people the helpful feedback that they need, we need to make sure we’re looking for all of what they’re
doing. Including looking for the things that Elliot’s not doing so well and including looking for the things
that Sarah is doing quite well, even if that’s not where my head started. So maybe that’s a useful
reminder. I could talk about feedback for a long time. We could have a long conversation about
feedback, but we don’t have time. We need to continue talking about the rest of our stuff around
performance management. So, here’s the thing, if performance management at the end of the day is
about the other person’s growth, and development and success, that’s awesome.
Kevin Eikenberry:
If that’s what it’s about, then it means that it’s not about the form or the process. Now, I know you have
a form. I know you need to fill out the form. That’s fine. Don’t get stuck on the form. I know that you
may have to do the process twice a year or only once a year. That’s fine. You can do it more frequently
than that. If you are at the point where you believe this is about the other person and helping them
grow, develop, be more successful, get more accomplished, higher quality work, whatever it is, then
don’t make it about the form and the process. Make it about helping the other person grow.
Kevin Eikenberry:
So, let’s talk about what the meeting ought to look like. Okay, so here’s the meeting. The meeting,
number one, ought to be a conversation. The meeting ought to be a conversation. Many organizations
have a performance management process that encourages the form to be filled out by both the
employee and the leader, which I agree with 100%. Why? Whose performance are we talking about
here? The other person’s. So, I’m going to use Catherine because I’ve got Catherine’s name in my head
now, right? So, let’s say I am Catherine’s boss, and I’m doing Catherine’s performance review. Who’s this
for? Catherine. Whose performance are we talking about? Catherine’s. Who might have to change her
behaviors or actions or habits as a result if she wants to get better? Catherine.
Kevin Eikenberry:
So, it needs to be a conversation. Catherine needs to come as an equal participant in the meeting, which
means she should be filling out the form too. She should be coming to the meeting with the form filled
out ready to have a conversation about her performance. Now, will Catherine and I agree 100%?
Perhaps not. Will Catherine perhaps think that she’s doing far better than I think? It’s possible. But we’re
still far better off if this is focused on Catherine and not focused on me or the form. So, the meeting to
be more successful needs to be a conversation. The only way that we can make the meeting between
Catherine and I a conversation is if she goes first.
Kevin Eikenberry:
So, Catherine, “You know, we’re here for the performance review meeting. I’m curious. How do you
think the last X number of days, weeks, months have gone? What’s working from your perspective?
Where are the things where you think maybe you’re not quite where you’d like to be?” First of all, any of
the things that she shares, then will never lead to defensiveness because she’s already shared them. We
must start with the other person because as the boss, especially during the performance review
meeting, if we share all our stuff, if I share all my stuff and say, “So Catherine, anything you have to
add?” She’s not going to add anything, because she knows that this is already a done deal.
Kevin Eikenberry:
If we really want Catherine involved, we have to let her go first. Make it a conversation. Make it about
Catherine and her performance, her success, her development, her growth, her improvement, and her
understanding where she currently is, of course, right? If we’ll do that, and if we’ll make it an equal
playing field, then we can remove the anxiety and fear.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Here’s the other thing. If you’re having far more frequent conversations, there’s not going to be
anything that comes up in this conversation. That Catherine doesn’t already know about. So, the anxiety
and fear that often accompanies these meetings will start to melt away, because it’s not going to be
something brand new. The third thing about the meeting is to make sure that you don’t just think about
the past. What Catherine did, but also what do we need Catherine to do moving forward, how to
prepare her for her next assignment, how to help her be successful in the current assignment, all that
Kevin Eikenberry:
Now, someone said, “I need to make these performance reviews SMART? S-M-A-R-T, that set of words,
you’ve probably heard, are connected to setting goals that are clear and specific, and all of those things.
We don’t have time to go into that. If you don’t know what SMART goals are, Google it, and you’ll find a
million references. But the idea of SMART is to get at ways to describe a goal. So that it’s clear, specific,
measurable, et cetera, okay? So yeah, should these conversations lead to that being true? Yes.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Here’s the other thing. The other thing is that oftentimes the reason Catherine is not quite up to par is
perhaps she doesn’t know exactly what’s expected. So, we want to have clear expectations. If we start
doing this with some regularity, we should be clarifying expectations, making it far easier in the future
for Catherine to succeed. Think about it this way. If we’re having ongoing conversations and helping
Catherine improve, let’s say in an area that she needs to improve, during the course of time, hopefully
she’s made some improvement. So even if at the end of the year, she’s not to the standard you need
yet, you’ve got the chance to talk about the progress that she’s made, past and future.
Kevin Eikenberry:
I like to think about this question. Now what? Knowing where we’re at now, what are we going to do
now moving forward to improve, change, adapt, et cetera? So, make sure that your meetings are both
past- and future-focused. If you do that, you’ll have far more successful meetings, okay? So, let’s talk
about the process overall. Whoops, going to slide the slide forward here. The process overall, make sure
it’s ongoing. You may only have one or two formal meetings, that’s fine. Your organization may say,
“Hey, twice a year do the thing.” Fine, but you can have ongoing conversations about performance.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Think about your one-on-one meetings as a chance to make this an evolving, ongoing part of
performance development. The goal of the meetings themselves should be no surprises. So that people
are like, “Ah.” There was no surprise there because we’ve been talking about this stuff all along. If we’ve
been talking about it, and Catherine has been making progress, there should be an awful lot of positive
stuff to talk about during this meeting. Even if there are still areas she needs to work on and improve.
The overall focus should be about ongoing improvement in the direction of where we’re trying to go
organizationally and individually.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Notice, I haven’t been talking about the form. I haven’t been talking about the numbers or the rating
system. If you have to do all that, do it. Just don’t make it all about that. Make it about all the stuff we’ve
been talking about. If you do that, you got something, okay? So, the form is an output, not the focus. If
we do all the rest of this, the form will be filled out. I’m going to ask Catherine to fill it out. I’m going to
fill it out. We’re going to talk about it together. If there are differences, we’re going to talk those
through. We’re going to be clear about those differences. We’re going to go on beyond that, okay? If we
do those things to one of the points that came up earlier, it will be value added for both people.
Kevin Eikenberry:
If the person’s only six months in, you don’t have a year’s worth of data, but you got six months’ worth
of work every day to talk to people about, right? So, use what you’ve got. That’s what you’ve got, and
help people in that regard, okay? I could say lots more, but I’m looking at the clock. I want to make sure
that we get your questions in. We got two or three other things that I promised you as well. So, Sarah,
what’s coming in? So, if you have a question, by the way, everybody, just type them in. We want them
all, because even if we don’t answer them here, we’ll try to get you answers later. So, Sarah, what have
you got?
Sarah Cirone:
Yeah, so we’ll just give people a couple moments here Kevin to type their questions and you can type
them in. The questions box in your GoToWebinar control panel. I have a question here, Kevin. It says,
“What can I do as an individual leader right now?”
Kevin Eikenberry:
Well, I’m going to give you some thoughts in a second. But the first thing I would say is this. Think about
giving some feedback and feed forward to a team member yet today. That’s where I start. You know
what you’re doing is you’re starting, what is really the process of performance development or
performance management? I, for each member of my team, keep a log in a journal of what I’m noticing.
What’s working? Whereas maybe there’s an opportunity for growth or improvement. Maybe where
there’s an issue.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Obviously, I’m trying to address those as I go. But by keeping a running tally, or running sort of journal of
all that, I always have something we can talk about. I’m keeping track of all that for the long term as
required, as needed, I guess I should say, okay? What else? I start by giving someone some feedback and
some feed forward as soon as you can.
Sarah Cirone:
Virginia asks, “Our salary increases often in alignment with performance review or at a different time?”
Kevin Eikenberry:
I think that all depends on the organization, right? Some organizations, they’re tied directly. Other
organizations say that they’re not. There are all sorts of different opinions about that. As a business
owner, I think having them tied together makes a whole lot of sense. I know lots of leaders that find it
hard to have those together because they find it hard. Maybe they don’t have much room for the
variation in the salary treatment.
Kevin Eikenberry:
So, they feel like even if they’re trying to give them some pretty corrective improvement sort of areas
that they still get a raise. Or I can’t give them the raise that matches up with what that review is or the
substances. So, I know that there are some challenges with that. But at some level, I would think we
want to connect the performance of how they’re doing and how they’re contributing to the organization
to the compensation that they receive.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Here’s the other thing I will say, though, There’s far more reasons that people come to work than just for
a paycheck. There’s far more reasons that they might change their work on their performance besides
just the paycheck. So, don’t lose sight of or worry that “Well, the only lever I’ve got is pay. If that doesn’t
match up with the performance conversation, then it’s a problem.” Don’t get sucked into that.
Sarah Cirone:
This is a good question that came through from Ivan. He would like to know how effective can you have
a virtual performance appraisal?
Kevin Eikenberry:
That’s a great question. Given that I do some of mine that way. I think they can be, but I can tell you this.
They better be done like we’re doing right now. At least to that what I’m doing which is I’m using a
webcam. Because we have the best chance for richer, more complete communication if we can see each
other. Like the webcam is the next best thing to being there. It’s not the same as someone being across
the desk for me right now. It’s a lot better. So, if you’re virtual, or if you’re now virtual, and you’re going
to be doing them that way, yet, everybody used to use their webcams have more of your regular
conversations in that way. Don’t just save the webcam for the performance review.
Kevin Eikenberry:
If you do that, it won’t necessarily be all that effective, right? But chances are if you’re having virtual
reviews, that means people are probably working virtually or remotely or whatever word you want to
use. So, it probably will make sense. It can certainly be done, takes a little more nuance. It takes a little
more finesse perhaps, but the first thing is let’s get everybody comfortable with the technology. So, we
can have a rich communication face-to-face, closest thing we got right here, okay?
Kevin Eikenberry:
It’s one of the reasons why I’ve had my webcam on. I know that not everyone, when they do webinars
does it. I think it adds to the richness of what you get. Even if you don’t necessarily want to look at this
face. The visual nature that the camera gives helps you get a better picture of what I’m really trying to
communicate. That’s even more true in a one-to-one situation. Sarah, I think we have time for one
Sarah Cirone:
Yes, Aisha asks, “How do you encourage a person to be part of the process it does not want to be?”
Kevin Eikenberry:
Well, they don’t want to be because number one, they’ve never experienced it. So, they don’t know
what you’re talking about. The second thing is there may be a bunch of fear and anxiety. Are they going
to use what my thoughts against me? Does it even really matter? There’s a whole bunch of reasons why
they’re resistant.
Kevin Eikenberry:
So, the first thing I want to do is find out, Aisha, why they’re resistant, but I want to just be encouraging.
I just want to be share some of the things I’ve shared today. Hey, this conversation is for your benefit. I
don’t want to do all the talking because I don’t have all the answers. So, if you really do buy into the
mindset that I’ve been sharing, you just want to share that with them. Be patient. Give them some time.
They may not get there immediately but you’ll get people there overtime, okay?
Kevin Eikenberry:
All right. So, the question would be now what? Hopefully, you’re saying I got some good stuff here. But
there’s a lot more that could be done. I want to share with you a product that I had the chance to work
with the HRDQ team to create. It’s called shockingly, the Remarkable Performance Development. It’s a
training program that you can implement. You can see the facilitator guide there and the individual
workbooks that you can use to implement in your organization. We built it recognizing that we don’t
know what your exact process is. But we built the workshop so that you can include the pieces about
your plan, your process, if and how you need to do that.
Kevin Eikenberry:
If you agree with the mindset and the approach that we’ve taken today, and if you buy into the fact that
leaders can have ultimately a lot to do with how successful this will be, then I’d encourage you to take a
look at this toolkit of this training that you can employ inside of your organization. Well, I helped write
it. So, it’s going to fall in line with the mindset and with the approach in the philosophy that we’ve talked
about today. Sarah, anything else about what you need to let them know about how to reach out to find
out more about the product?
Sarah Cirone:
Yeah, thank you very much, Kevin, for that. We appreciate you all looking to HRDQ for your training
needs. To publish research-based experiential learning products that you can deliver in your
organization, check out our online self-assessments, our up out of your seat games, our reproduced for
workshops that you can customize and more. Either at our website where you can also give our
customer service team a call. They can speak to you more about this product itself. If you need help
learning your training program, or you’d like one of our expert trainers deliver it for you, we also provide
those services. Kevin, I’m going to hand it back to you to wrap up with some of the commentary that you
had about our upcoming webinar.
Kevin Eikenberry:
I do have some… Remember that slide I showed you at the beginning with the elephant on it? We all
know what’s really going on in our world. I need to step back now and applaud all of you for being here
to focus on this important topic, even given all of the stuff that’s going on in our world. But given all this
stuff’s going on in our world, I’m doing a webinar with HRDQ in a couple of days, called Planning
Overcomes Panic: How to Prepare for More People Working from Home Due to the Coronavirus. So, it is
being done on the same platform. Sarah will be with me. It’s on Friday from 2:00 to 3:30. I have content
to share with you. We’ll have an expanded Q&A to talk about whatever issues you’re finding in terms of
remote work.
Kevin Eikenberry:
The quick and easy way to get to that sign up is to just go to my name, That
will take you right to the HRDQU registration page. We’d love to have you join us. We’d love to have you
have others join us too. So, if you have found this useful and want to be connected with me, I want to
share a couple of things here for you. And then I’ll hand it back to Sarah to finish. Number one, if you
want to learn more about us, you can certainly go to You can see my blog there.
You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter and all that stuff.
Kevin Eikenberry:
I want to share it today very specifically because of what’s going on in the world, the crisis that we’re all
dealing with. We have created a page of resources available to anyone to use that struggling with
adjusting to a new way of working. The struggling with dealing with work in the time of all of this crisis in
chaos. It’s at a site called The site has been up about an hour. We’d love
to have you take advantage of those resources, share them on your team. It’d be an honor if you would.
Kevin Eikenberry:
Lastly, if you want a chance to get one of my books, and you can pick between the book Remarkable
Leadership or The Long-Distance Leader. So, I think I have a copy of right here, I do. There it is. If you
connect with me on LinkedIn, I’m going to give someone from this group a copy of the book of their
choice If your name is Catherine or your name is Elliott, and you’re still here, if you will, because I picked
on you. If you will reach out and connect with me on LinkedIn, I promise that you both get the book of
your choice. I’m going to hand it back to you, Miss Sarah, to wrap us up.
Sarah Cirone:
Great. Thank you so much, Kevin. That was great. Thank you all for participating with us in today’s
webinar. That brings us to the top of the hour. I hope you all enjoy lots of happy training. Thank you,
Kevin Eikenberry:
Thanks everybody.


bio picture
Kevin Eikenberry is a recognized world expert on leadership development and is the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group. He has spent more than 25 years helping organizations and leaders from around the world on leadership, teams and teamwork, communication, and more. He has twice been named by as one of the top 100 Leadership Speakers and Top 100 Leadership/Management Experts in the World and has been included in many other exclusive lists. He is the author, co-author or a contributing author to nearly 20 books, including the best-selling Remarkable Leadership, From Bud to Boss (with Guy Harris), and The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership (with Wayne Turmel). Learn more at:

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