Differentiating Exceptional Performance

Defining levels of performance has been a topic for me for the better part of the year beginning with annual reviews in October, continuing through mid-term reviews in April and still today.

Recently, Kris at The HR Capitalist entered into the conversation here and here  and here  in a very valuable way. In addition to looking at defining performance from a manager's perspective, he looked at it from the employee's viewpoint. While this did not relieve me of my responsibility of defining levels of performance for my staff, it added a degree of employee responsibility - a shared component. How do individual employees differentiate themselvesfrom their peers, consistent with or in alignment with my expectations?

I went in for a haircut this morning with a new stylist. I sat in the chair and the new stylist asked me what I wanted. I asked her what she suggested. She looked at me, fingered my hair and instead of taking the ball and running with it, she asked how much I want to take off and where.  Well, I told her how much to take off and where to take it off.

I got exactly what I asked for but not what I wanted. I wanted a trendy suggestion from a stylist who had ideas about what would work best with my hair texture, and the shape of my face, something that would require minimal maintenance. I was relying on her expertise to lead the way and she gave the ball right back to me. So, I got a decent cut and it was satisfactory. Yet, the stylist failed to differentiate herself from others.

When I assess and rate, I consider experiences, obstacles, observations, product, feedback and also a requested self-assessment. This year, when I request the self-assessment, I will include the question: "how did you differentiate yourself over the past year?" For those who answer, I am ready to listen.

Differentiation is the message I am introducing to my staff as part of their individual performance management and to supervisors as a tool to add to their ever-expanding toolbox.