Rating Your Team

Just read an interesting article over at HBR Blog about Microsoft removing it’s rating system for staff management.  Certainly a bold move and one I’ve contemplated for a long time.  The most critical point the author makes is that the best leaders work with people as they are, not against some set of supposedly objective competency criteria.

Your team will always have strengths and weaknesses and your job as a leader is to help those people use their skills to the best of their ability.  This can mean coaching them to play to their strengths as much as it may mean developing a weakness.

I see this all the time when coaching teachers. There is a certain way that I teach and, of course, that will influence what I consider best practice in the classroom.  However, my teaching team is always made of a number of educators with very diverse backgrounds, experiences, and personalities.  They certainly won’t always teach the way I do and what works for me, may not work for them.

I remember a conversation I had with one teacher during probably our 4th feedback session after a class observation . He stated, “You know, I’ve seen you teach and I value your feedback.  However, I realized that it’s not about me teaching like you, it’s about me teaching to the best of my ability in a way that works for me and my students.”  This was a key point in his development and I think this is a common stage in learning and coaching.  First you try to emulate, but then you internalize ideas and practices to make them your own.

I think you also know you’ve done your job as a coach when your team is comfortable enough to tell you that they aren’t taking your feedback and this is why.  When you can help your team draw on their own strengths, it sets them up for success.  In learning, it’s always about finding where a person is and then helping them get to the next level.  This means that real development comes from understanding your team, not necessarily comparing them to a so-called objective set of criteria developed by someone else.

What do you think?  As common sense as this may sound, is it practical to apply at an organizational level?  How do you deal with talent management, pay increases, and other HR processes generally tied to performance management systems?

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