Jack Welch’s Approach to Appraisals


I like Jack Welch’s (the very successful, former CEO of General Electric) approach to performance appraisals.

Manager presents to the employee a handwritten sheet of paper.  The left column lists the manager’s view of employee’s achievements.  The right column contains items the employee could do better.  Both lists focus on performance metrics and team behaviors.

Manager and employee engage in a meaningful conversation.  Manager gives examples, “Your error rate is less than .03 percent, almost a ten percent improvement over last period.” “I like that you went out of your way to help our new engineer learn our software tool.”

Sum up by reporting, “Shelly, you are in the top twenty percent of our employees, and I’ll recommend a good pay increase.” Or, “Jackson, your overall performance puts you in the solid seventy percent of our team and your raise will reflect that.  I would like to see improvement in meeting deadlines and reducing errors.  I’ll help you with those.

Or, “Alford, I’m disappointed that, after considerable training, your response time is still the slowest in our group.  Let me help you find another position that is a better fit.”

Conduct these interviews at least twice a year and allow about thirty minutes for each session.

The Five Toughest Personnel Decisions


Part 3 of 5

“I’m at a loss about what to do about Margaret.” a manager said to me.

“What is the concern?” I asked.

“We hired Margaret about a year ago to manage a troubled group.  Although she has worked very hard, performance continued spiraling downward.”

“Were your expectations clear?”

“Yes, and she admits that she has fallen far short.”

“Did you give Margaret enough support?”

“Yes, we fully financed what she requested.  We met frequently and often agreed on needed changes.  For some reason, Margaret was unable to effect the changes or she took too long.”

“Were there unexpected challenges, things that blew up seemingly out of nowhere?”

“Not really, she had issues with a couple of employees and she had to replace a vendor but nothing too unusual.”

Margaret is an example of a good cooperate citizen who tried hard but was unable to achieve a tough goal.  There is a temptation to lower expectations and continue supporting hard working employees who do not achieve desired outcomes.

I believe, though, this is a case where the person just did not have the wherewithal to get the job done.  While it is heart-wrenching to remove a hard-working, committed employee, I think it would be better for all—including Margaret—to replace her and try again.

Put Your Employees in a Place Where Their Fire Can Burn


After completing her engineering degree, Margie took a job in an aerospace firm.  Although Margie worked hard, she struggled to complete design assignments.

Margie’s manager lamented, “She is cooperative and smart but I don’t think Margie will be able to do what we need to do.  It breaks my heart but I think we may have to let her go.”

As managers discussed the “Margie issue,” the sales manager offered, “She has a great personality and a good work ethic.  I’d be willing to give her an opportunity with our sales team.”

When approached about the sales option, Margie was devastated.  “I’ve always wanted to be an engineer.  I know nothing about sales.”

However, facing a fork in the road—go sales or go home—Margie opted for the sales experiment.

After extensive training and a few months experience, Margie’s confidence grew.  She soon became a key member of the team.  “I never would have guessed it,” Margie said, “but I really like sales.  I awake every morning energized.”

Humans, like wood, have energy stored within them.  Under the right conditions, wood releases its energy—it burns.  Effective leaders put their employees in a place where their fire can burn.