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Books in Brief - Improving Employee Performance Through Appraisal and Coaching

HR Magazine, May 2006

Improving Employee Performance Through Appraisal and Coaching
By Donald L. Kirkpatrick, AMACOM, 2006
List price: $27.95, 253 pages, ISBN: 0-8144-0876-1

Why appraise employees performance? Businesses do it to make pay and promotion decisions and to help employees improve in their current jobs. At least thats the idea, but, too often, performance improvement gets short shrift, according to consultant and University of Wisconsin management professor emeritus Donald L. Kirkpatrick.

Managers can make performance appraisal a key part of employee improvement, no matter what formal system their companies use for appraisals, Kirkpatrick says.

In Improving Employee Performance Through Appraisal and Coaching, Kirkpatrick focuses on three areas: clarifying whats expected of employees, appraising and communicating the quality of performance, and coaching employees for improved performance.

Kirkpatrick shows readers how to break down positions into significant job segments and how to establish performance standards for those segments.

Readers also learn how to avoid rating employees too highly or not highly enough, how to keep performance records, and how to get employees to do effective self-appraisals.

Managers get 10 guidelines for conducting appraisal interviews, including encouraging the employee to talk, focusing on performance rather than personality and concentrating on future performance rather than past problems. Kirkpatrick helps managers evaluate appraisal interviews after the fact.

He looks at mistakes managers make in overseeing performance improvement plans, such as supervising too closely or failing to keep the employee informed. Kirkpatrick covers the managers responsibilities under a performance improvement plan, such as providing continual help to the employee and making changes to the plan when needed.

A section about on-the-job coaching includes tips on giving positive reinforcement regularly and correcting poor performance quickly while keeping emotions cool.

The book also offers information about building an effective performance review system and evaluating training courses that offer performance appraisal and coaching help, gives a detailed case study of how one real-life employer boosted performance, and includes sample forms.

Leading Leaders
By Jeswald W. Salacuse, AMACOM, 2006
List price: $27.95, 218 pages, ISBN: 0-8144-0855-9

Call them the organizations elites. Theyre smart, talented, rich and powerful people who know their own interests well and will protect them, even if it means alienating others just as smart, talented, rich and powerful as they are.

If you manage or just deal with these eliteswhether theyre board members or vice presidents, department heads or technical expertsyou need to hone special skills, and in Leading Leaders, author Jeswald W. Salacuse provides techniques for getting the most from these vital, but not always cooperative, people.

Salacuse emphasizes that elites dont see themselves as followers, may believe theyre entitled to special treatment or benefits, and might be more loyal to outside entities, like their professional peers, than to your organization.

Readers learn the art of strategic leadership conversation, or how to talk effectively with elites. Salacuse illustrates this lesson with a realistic situation: The reader must gain the cooperation of a senior software engineer who has no patience with and sees no value in the new weekly staff meetings that are important to building a new work team.

Most leadership books view the topic from the leaders angle, Salacuse says, but he concentrates on what elite followers expect from leaders:

  • Direction. Learn to build coalitions and get commitments from elite followers and spot potential resistance to your vision for the organization. Learn how to negotiate the organizations direction in ways that make elites feel you use a fair process that allows them real participation.
  • Integration. Turning individual stars into a team can be tough if your followers dont see their common interests, have a negative history together or include spoilers who undermine you. Ways to remove barriers include using retreats, strategic planning processes and other strategies to show stars their common interests and to isolate or co-opt spoilers.
  • Mediation. Disputes between elites can be intense, even when the topic seems minor, Salacuse says. Readers get specific tools and processes for mediating disputes between elite followers.
  • Education. How do you teach those who already are highly educated? Salacuse discusses how to break through to the most educated employees, who may be the most resistant to further training.
  • Motivation. Those who lead leaders must learn about their elite followers interests and constituencies and the psychic benefits beyond pay that motivate people who seem to have everything.
  • Representation. Elite followers expect their leaders to lead outside the organization too, drawing in resources, managing relationships with other companies and clients, and projecting the organizations public image.
  • Trust creation. Capitalize on your leadership of the smart, talented elites by earning their trust. Show that you trust them; get them to trust each other and see their common interests through activities like joint training. Identify barriers to trust, from an overly competitive environment to exaggerated egos.

The Management Bible
By Bob Nelson and Peter Economy, John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2005
List price: $19.95, 295 pages, ISBN: 0-471-70545-4

The Management Bible condenses management topics ranging from hiring to performance management to discipline into one volume laced, the authors say, with doses of reality from their own experiences and business leaders advice.

Bob Nelson and Peter Economy, two of the authors of Managing for Dummies, also add question-and-answer boxes dealing with managers daily problems, and pop quizzes at the end of each chapter challenge readers to consider how what theyve read applies to their own workplace.

Nelson and Economy cover the qualities to seek in new hires, job descriptions, how to find the best candidates, brief dos and donts of interviewing, and an overview of the selection process including reference checks and job offers.

Readers get creative and inexpensive ideas for motivating employees, from giving small gifts related to the employees hobby to arranging lunch with a company executive. Other motivators include providing information to employees on the companys finances and their roles in the companys success, as well as creating a more open work environment where suggestions are acted on and mistakes are seen as learning opportunities.

The book offers coaching and mentoring basics, including a sample career development plan to help managers develop employees strengths and a top 10 list of ways to help employees develop.

Nelson and Economy next focus on setting the right goals for your organization and communicating those goals clearly. A managers success depends on the ability to delegate, the authors say, and they present steps to make delegation go more smoothly. They identify tasks managers should always delegate, such as repetitive assignments, and duties they should avoid delegating, such as performance appraisals and politically sensitive tasks.

Readers get advice on making employee performance goals measurable. A chapter on performance appraisal gives steps toward creating a specific, continuous, written evaluation system.

Nelson and Economys plan for building a high-performance organization centers on communication, teamwork and meetings.

Communication ideas include ways to improve listening skills, tips for creating better presentations and documents, and ideas for using technology to link to other businesses or get market data.

The teamwork section explains differences between informal teams and formal teams, like committees. Managers learn how to empower teams with real authority and eliminate turf battles. Nelson and Economy provide eight keys to better meetings, such as having fewer but more-focused gatherings.

The Management Bible also touches on discipline, fair and legal terminations, downsizings, ethical codes, and office politics.

Social Intelligence
By Karl Albrecht, Jossey-Bass, 2006
List price: $24.95, 289 pages, ISBN: 978-0-7879-7938-6

Author and management consultant Karl Albrecht characterizes social intelligence (SI) as a combination of a basic understanding of people and a set of component skills for interacting successfully with them. Social Intelligence aims to improve the readers social intelligence and to apply that intelligence in business and professional settings.

Behaviors can be toxic, nourishing or somewhere in between, Albrecht says. People exhibiting toxic behavior have a low SI, cant connect effectively with others, and may even alienate or offend others.

Albrecht describes toxic behaviorsall of which, he notes, are variations on selfishnessthis way: Social halitosis is insincere communication like the pitch of persistent telemarketers or the repetitiveness of those with only one story to tell. Social flatulence describes crude or inappropriate remarks that show a lack of respect for accepted behavior. Social dandruff means imposing ones interests on others or taking advantage of others politeness to get your way.

Readers can work on five aspects of social intelligence:

  • Situational awareness. The ability to read a situation and understand peoples feelings and intentions in a given circumstance. To improve this situational radar, learn to understand peoples use of and need for physical space, their possible behaviors in given situations, and the messages their language choices really convey.
  • Presence. How you affect people with your appearance, mood and body language. Albrecht says presence relates to whether you seem approachable and whether you project traits like shyness or hostility. Albrecht offers building blocks for improved presence, including recording yourself talking with friends and listening to your own clarity and sincerity, and asking friends to describe how they first viewed you.
  • Authenticity. Reflects how honest you are with yourself and others, how much you respect yourself, and how much faith you truly have in your own values and beliefs. To keep track of whether youre being your authentic self, Albrecht suggests exercises such as creating a personal mission statement or keeping a record of situations in which people tried to get you to act in ways that contradicted your valuesand how you did or didnt stick to your beliefs.
  • Clarity. The ability to express yourself clearly. Albrecht contrasts role-speak, the official language of a job, and real-speak, the ability to turn facts into stories that engage listeners. Guidelines include communication techniques and ways to throw negative, aggressive, sarcastic or dogmatic terms out of your speech.
  • Empathy. Measures how aware and considerate you are of others feelings. Empathy helps make an effective connection with another person, Albrecht says. Studying those who seem to connect with others, assessing how toxic situations got that way and brainstorming ways to interact with those who seem unreceptive can bolster your empathy skills.

An exercise helps readers assess their own interaction skills to see where they fall in the spectrum between toxic and nourishing and then set priorities for improvement.

SI in the workplace gets its own chapter, which looks at workplaces with toxic cultures, discusses how SI can positively affect workplace diversity, and advocates more ceremony and celebration in organization life.

Compiled by Leigh Rivenbark, a freelance writer and editor in Vienna, Va.

Inclusion of a book does not imply endorsement by SHRM or
HR Magazine .


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