THE INTERVIEW: On Performance Management And Authorship

by Shonali Burke on December 3, 2010

Managing up, managing down

Managing the performance of others, from the first team members to the growing company, is a challenge to every entrepreneur. And most have a string of failures along the way. So how do you beat the odds?

Today’s interview is with Sharon Armstrong, author of The Essential Performance Review Handbook.

We talked about her newest book as well as her advice for aspiring authors.

In too many organizations, performance reviews are an annual occurrence with little or no performance planning or management or feedback along the way. Everyone dreads them.

And recently a number of business publications have published articles and research recommending doing away with such reviews completely. So I asked Sharon what she is seeing companies actually do now.

She said many are “increasing the training of both employees and managers on how to effectively manage performance all along.”  That more progressive organizations understand: “Performance reviews are the culmination of all the conversations taking place each day at work. That ongoing workplace conversations are key to effective performance management.”

Executives need to “understand each employee’s motivation and create the environment for success.” Sharon recommends “using self-assessments as the blueprint for personal and professional development.”

She does address the changing nature of the workplace and the ways organizations are adapting to it in one chapter of her book. One of her examples is similar to several of my clients’: a quarterly system of goals and achievements documented in a one-page format.

She talked about the virtual workforce with its changing teams and needs: “Managers need to learn how to manage, motivate, and collaborate with their tele-commuting staff …. ; be able to focus on output and not hours.” This demands “clear goals and frequent communications.”

And that is often difficult for entrepreneurs who feel pulled in too many directions. Yet it is critical if you want to succeed and grow. Sharon calls this “making your convictions operational.”

Too often I have seen company founders use a performance review process from their previous employers, without realizing how ineffective or inappropriate it may be for their goals and culture.

Taking ideas from others can be smart. But you need to carefully consider what is realistic for you and how it supports your desired results.

Thus, a valuable feature of this book is the wide selection of sample forms she offers. Sharon attributes these to the “many terrific HR folks who offered their organization’s forms to help others.”

I found this book easy to read with clear ideas and checklists you can adopt. Sharon has authored several other books, including The Essential HR Handbook and Stress-free Performance Appraisals.

Want to write a book? Seen all the advice that every entrepreneur should?

I asked Sharon for her advice for other entrepreneurs or consultants who want to write a book. She told me that her first book, a humor book, was a total learning experience: “We had no idea what we were doing” in trying to get it published. She learned about agents and editors and the tremendous effort the author has to make to sell the books.

She says of writing professional books:

“Don’t expect it to be a money-maker.”

“Invest in an editor” before you submit it to an agent or publisher.

“You will need a publicist and a good website” – more investments of your own.

“You need to be able to find speaking engagements and otherwise publicize your book so it sells.” Sharon says that writing a book while also working and maintaining a life is “daunting.”

But she sees her author role as “a gift” which offers her a chance to “do research, read good business books, talk to many people, and learn of good practices in a wide range of organizations.”

“It’s a great journey” and “many people are willing to help.”

More from Women Grow Business:

Photo © Sharon Armstrong, used with permission

Patricia A. Frame is an experienced Human Capital issues speaker and management consultant. She founded Strategies for Human Resources to advise organizations facing organization and people challenges. Previously she designed and managed human resource functions for GE, Software AG, Maxwell Online, and others. A Wharton MBA and an Air Force veteran, she actively supports the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Check out her website, SHRinsight.com, for management and development articles.

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