CEOs who tend to manage both sides of a conversation invariably lose out because they don’t know how to…


…trust that the other party might, heaven forbid, meet their needs voluntarily. This is, I concede, a generalisation, but one borne out by many years of observation.

A good example is the dreaded annual appraisal of senior leaders by even more senior leaders.

I have prepared scores of people for these on both sides of the table. The most common mistake by the appraised is that they don’t allow the appraisers to do their job. Conversely, appraisers fail to use the process to create an environment in which their direct reports might feel more motivated to perform better.

It’s not unusual that both parties have sleepless nights. The appraised will spend hours second-guessing the line of potential questioning as will the appraiser, the potential answers. I tell them that their attempt to manage both sides of the conversation is doomed because they can’t.

Masters of The Universe they may feel themselves to be, but none yet has found a way to control another’s thoughts, let alone their feelings. I advise both parties to follow three steps to avoid this angst.

Step 1: Agree on the underlying purpose of the appraisal before the meeting

Is it to tick a box in a mandatory and tiresome process? Or, is it a “bollocking” masquerading as an appraisal – a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Or is it a chat, a catch-up, an honest review and genuine effort to help meet each other’s and organisational needs?

Step 2: Agree on the approach before the appraisal

Will it be a traditional form-filling exercise? Or, will the boss say “three good things and three bad things” with a right of reply? Or will there be an honest attempt to articulate and meet the three needs – appraised, appraiser and organisation?

Step 3: Agree on a rough agenda beforehand as follows

What does the business need? What does the appraiser need? What does the appraised need? Are these being met? What behaviour should stop, start or continue? Above all, what does the appraised need to thrive?

These steps, if followed, can lead to higher levels of performance, deeper trust and restful sleep. I find.

Ciaran Fenton

November 2016


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