Valentine’s Day can be a lot like Marmite. It tends to fall into two camps; love it or hate it. Personally, I’m not a huge believer in the holiday. I find it too commercial to feel personal, too contrived to feel meaningful. Isolating a single day of the year to show that you care simply doesn’t feel authentic to me.
Yet all too often in business, this is exactly how relationships are maintained. Performance management takes place once per year, when employees get a chance to discuss their past, present and future in the business. And then that’s it for the next twelve months. The relationship is left to cool again, allowing new problems to develop unchecked and old ones to linger unspoken. Nothing really changes.
But change and innovation are vital for organisations to thrive - and real change doesn’t tend to conform to a pre-determined schedule. Executive Coach Denis Gorce-Bourge puts it this way: “if people are unhappy coming to work in the morning, performance will not change over time,” he says. “Many leaders look for different ways to impose change based on complicated new models - but all they need to do is discover how they can help their people feel happy and proud of what they do today.”
If this sounds simple, that’s because it can be. In his book Catch the Coaching Habit, Michael Bungay Stanier argues that leaders can get the most from their employees (and ease their own workload) by adopting a coaching mindset. Instead of the now-dated annual appraisal, Bungay Stanier proposes a “time crunch” model, where leaders see their staff regularly - but for just ten minutes at a time. The process becomes an ongoing one.
If annual appraisals aren’t helping individuals and companies to grow, then they are letting every aspect of your business down. In contrast, when people feel listened to, included and valued, they’re free to produce their best work. We call it Intuitive Rapport, and it’s what makes organisational change come alive.
Strong business relationships depend on authentic leadership – every single day. Commercial pressures can set fires under backsides to get work done, but it’s the role of the leader to ignite fires in bellies to continually drive organisational success. Performance management is not just for one day of the year. It’s constant.