David Rock and the Inconvenient Truth of Performance Reviews

David Rock, one of the most requested presenters from last year's i4cp conference, came to the 2014 conference stage in the sometimes difficult right-after-lunch time spot. His fascinating research and message were so on point, however, that attendees were nodding agreement instead of nodding off.

He began by asking for a show of hands from those who felt their performance management (PM) system was performing well. In line with the majority of current research in the industry, few hands so much as twitched. After establishing the dearth of effective PM at organizations, Rock then explained why—in spite of myriad variation on the traditional model—rating-based systems were doomed to fail. Put simply, being judged and ranked elicits a threat response by attacking the individuals social standing, a psychological construct that's as important to most as their physical well-being. Rock recommends applying some of the neuropsychology research—and workforce research undertaken by i4cp—which suggests that having personal, forward-thinking conversations is much more effective than assigning employees a number.

Rock discussed a "line of courage," which separates those organizations that assign numbers to employees from those that don't. To cross that line, he explained, you have to encourage a growth mindset, which promotes openness and acceptance, while moving away from a fixed mindset that steals the power to improve performance from the individual by promoting the afore mentioned threat response. He further shared some techniques on how to achieve this; as he says, you can't be a judge and coach at the same time.

For those unable to attend this year conference, One Simple Idea that Can Transform Performance Management by David Rock is online, free, and provides a good summation of his current research on this subject.