How We’re Building Trust and Culture Through Performance Management

  • Culture
by Rachelle Henderson, Communications Specialist | Jan 06, 2021

Radical candor (noun phrase): direct feedback with compassion

Kim Scott’s Radical Candor opens with a story and pattern of behavior many of us have experienced. Rather than give honest and direct feedback to her direct report about things he needed to do better, because it would be difficult or uncomfortable, she stayed silent. In the end, they both suffered: her ruinous empathy robbed him from the chance to learn and grow, and he didn’t know there was a performance issue, so, eventually, was fired.

The key takeaway in Scott’s memoir is that in order to excel and be authentic in the workplace, we must be radically candid in our workplace relationships. Although her book focuses on managers and the relationships they build with their direct reports, her argument applies to all tiers of workplace relationships. Going one step further, radical candor facilitates innovation.

Here’s one way we live this concept at Wabash.

As part of an effort to modernize our work culture, HR leaders at Wabash redesigned how managers engage with employees. In the past, Wabash used the traditional, mundane annual performance review format. It was long, tedious, uninteresting and largely unhelpful. HR leaders recognized there were two issues: 1) an annual review only facilitates one point of contact in 365 days; 2) the format doesn’t facilitate the dialogue and radical candor necessary to coach and develop employees, which ultimately affects the bottom line.

Last year, we implemented monthly one-on-one engagement touch points between managers and their teams to draw the focus of performance management toward coaching, growth and radical candor. Consistent feedback is critically important to employees’ development, and feedback with radical candor removes doubt by clearly and regularly communicating to employees what they’re doing well and what they need to do better.

Dave Teeter, senior director of talent and organizational effectiveness, was part of the team responsible for spearheading the performance management overhaul at Wabash National.

“As employees of Wabash, we each deserve frequent and candid feedback, as well as open two-way dialogue,” he explained. “Not only does it help keep our activities and organizational focus on track, it is critical for continued individual growth, development and building of trust. The capability of our employees to continuously learn and effectively engage is directly related to the achievement of our goals, how we demonstrate our purpose, and ultimately our ability to delight our customers each and every day.”

The monthly touch points create the conditions for managers to be radically candid with employees and for employees to know they can do the same. This is where performance management meets innovation.

If you’re interested in the concept of radical candor, learn more here.  

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