Coaching and performance management (HR Manager's Bookshelf)

Masterful Coaching • Coaching Made Easy • Performance Management • Performance Appraisal Source Book • Perfect Phrases for Setting Performance Goals • Abolishing Performance Appraisals

As HR professionals, leaders and managers, we frequently find ourselves in a coaching role. The first two books reviewed here offer rich insights and practical guidance on the important, challenging and highly responsible coaching relationship. Next we take a look at several recent books on performance management: strong frameworks for designing the right process, handy tools in terms of ready-made, customizable review forms and checklists of performance goals. Last, but not least, two authors identify the performance appraisal as a “hopeless ritual” and propose, in its place, a more constructive approach to addressing the needs of the organization and its people.

Masterful Coaching
By Robert Hargrove
296 pages, Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer (revised ed., 2003)
ISBN 0-7879-6084-5
Available from Wiley Canada

This update of the influential 1995 book expands on the role, skills and qualities of those who take on the journey of masterful coaching — “engaging people’s greatness and engaging them in creating an extraordinary future for themselves and their organization.” The book offers insights and practical advice on transforming individuals and groups through conversations, learning, meaningful feedback, creative collaboration, breakthrough goals and “getting people to bring their whole selves to work.”

Masterful Coaching has been designed as a step-by-step method that aligns personal and organizational ambitions and aspirations; it takes place in a period of a year or more, rather than in a three-day classroom experience; it is grounded in the real work “situation,” unlike abstract training programs; it provides real-time feedback, not a 360-degree computer printout; and finally it is transformational, not transactional.

Coaching Made Easy
By Mike Leibling and Robin Prior
181 pages, Kogan Page (2003)
ISBN 0-7494-3953-X

Here’s a practical guide to coaching aimed at managers, trainers and HR practitioners for use in both day-to-day work relationships and in structured coaching relationships. The book is built around the A-B-C technique:

•A — understanding the situation;

•B — understanding what could be better; and

•C — understanding how it could be better.

The authors lay out a step-by-step guide featuring sample questions and dialogue, issue analysis and emotions that arise in the course of coaching situations.

The processes and learning within this book will work not only for those with a strong people orientation, but also for those who have been more task-oriented and for whom coaching may have been a previously unwanted part of the day. As the benefits of “coaching easily” become evident, you will find that your range and capacity to develop people will increase.

“10 great coaching questions” include:

•What do you need (from me) right now?

•You want to leave this session at X p.m. having achieved what, exactly?

•What have you achieved, that you might not have been aware of at the time?

Performance Management
By Hari Das
310 pages, Prentice Hall (2003)
ISBN 0-13-041379-9

Part of the Canadian PH Series in Human Resources Management, this is a comprehensive plain language book written as a text for college and university students, but useful also for managers and HR professionals. It covers performance planning, rewards, job design, employee involvement, individual and team performance assessment and performance improvement through training and counselling. Current management concepts, case studies, how-to lists and sample forms are included. The final chapter’s focus is on auditing and improving the performance management process.

A sound performance management system is a planned, ongoing process, not an isolated or one-time exercise. It is an integral part of an organization’s overall plan to compete and succeed in the marketplace. Organizations with performance management systems have clear plans, objectives, targets and standards of performance. They also strive to improve performance through a variety of activities including continuous process improvement and total quality management.

Performance Appraisal Source Book
By Mike Deblieux
224 pages, Society for Human
Resource Management (2003)
ISBN 1-58644-037-3

Subtitled “a collection of practical samples,” this manual starts with performance review process design and implementation pointers. The bulk of the book is devoted to presenting more than 40 detailed sample forms (in hard copy and on the accompanying CD-ROM) for many purposes, including introductory period reviews; employee input; reviews tied to job competence; duties and goals; management reviews; upward and 360-degree reviews. Additional guidance is provided for profiling the workforce, the current system and improvements for future application and questions to use when interviewing employees and managers for their input.

If your system is going to work, it must include a mechanism for tracking examples of performance during the review period. Managers need to be encouraged to keep notes, work samples and other performance information to help them remember key events.

If there is any one reason for having a performance review system, it is to provide direction for future performance. Your system should be designed to ensure that improved future performance is its primary goal. In fact, your system’s success should be measured by the quality of future performance.

Perfect Phrases for Setting Performance Goals
By Douglas Max and Robert Bacal
174 pages, McGraw-Hill (2004)
ISBN 0-07-143383-X

After appraising performance, the essential followup step is to set goals for the next time period. This handbook of examples is a job aid for both managers and employees, helping them focus on the important parts of the job, state expectations and align employee and organizational goals. In the first section, readers find tips on setting specific and measurable goals. Next are checklists of hundreds of sample goal statements for generic skills (punctuality, attendance, teamwork, work habits, communication), general management roles (planning, hiring, retention, leadership, organizational results) and for specific industries and jobs ranging from customer service to IT, production, food services, trades, HR, finance, sales, security and administrative support.

Performance goals should specify the results the employee is expected to achieve rather than how the results are to be achieved. We don’t want to be too rigid about this, since means and ends are not so black and white. In situations where the process to be followed is as important as the result, it should be mentioned. Often process-based goals (means) can be turned into results (ends), but let’s focus on common understanding and flexibility.

(This book is a follow-up to Perfect Phrases for Performance Reviews, McGraw-Hill ISBN 0-07-140838-X and Bacal’s Perfect Phrases for Customer Service, McGraw-Hill ISBN 0-07-144453-X.)

Abolishing Performance Appraisals
By Tom Coens and Mary Jenkins
338 pages, Berrett-Koehler (2002)
ISBN 1-57675-200-3
Available from McGraw-Hill

From their legal, consulting and HR perspectives, the authors make the case for “letting go of a hopeless ritual” and present their views on why appraisals backfire (outdated and flawed assumptions, political problems, rating errors, bias and a general poor track record for the process). Instead, they propose a solid, analytical approach and renewed emphasis on coaching, feedback that makes a difference, redesigned pay structures and better ways to deal with development, promotions and poor performers. The final section of the book addresses transition steps to disconnect appraisal and create consensus for becoming “free at last.”

Ask yourself the questions rarely contemplated by managers and organizations that perpetuate the use of appraisal today:

•Why do you use performance appraisals?

•Do they accomplish your intended goals?

•What are their real effects?

•Do you really need any kind of performance appraisal system?

•If not, are there alternative ways to accomplish your intended goals?

Ray Brillinger is a certified management consultant who works with clients on organizational change, HR strategy and performance improvement. He can be reached at (905) 547-8193 or [email protected].

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