Pancakes and Performance Management

I love pancakes. I love to make pancakes. For a blog that features pancakes, I don’t write enough about them. I also am an HR professional and deal a lot with performance management. Because I run a lot, I have a bunch of time to think about pancakes and performance management and how they are similar. Like maple syrup, stick with me.

With the upcoming HR Technology Conference, the discussion around performance management solutions will be plenty. There will be slick suits selling slick software to cure-all your performance management needs. But good performance management does not come from a box. And neither do good pancakes.

One of the basic tenets of performance management is building a foundation of trust. If you do not have trust in your relationships with your team, any efforts to give and receive feedback will be lost. Your employees won’t be able to learn, grow, and show up as their best selves if they don’t trust you. Building trust takes time and it doesn’t happen overnight, but it starts day one.

Think of your basic buttermilk pancakes as your trust builders. They are the foundation of the pancake world. You have to make sure you have the right ratio of flour to sugar. Baking powder, baking soda and salt all have to be at the right mix. Do you use a griddle or a frying pan? What’s the right temperature? You can’t jump into strawberry cheesecake pancakes without learning the basics of the buttermilk pancake. Sure you can follow the recipe, but if you haven’t practiced the basics, your cheesecake bites will go to waste.

Once the foundation of trust in a relationship is built, then the magic happens. Conversations around growth and learning are richer and more meaningful. You are able to be open and honest and vulnerable with your employees. They are able to share their hopes and fears with you without the fear of retribution. Feedback is frequent and direct. It may be harsh, but it is received because your employee trusts you and knows it comes from a place of good intent.

Like trust, once the buttermilk pancake is solid, you can start to add some twists. Maybe it’s a handful of chocolate chips to see how that resonates with your guests. Maybe you toss in some blueberries or a cup of Greek yogurt. Feeling saucy? Go for some pumpkin and a little spice. Even if these fall flat, at first, you have built the credibility of the buttermilk pancake and your audience knows that. They see you stretching that comfort zone and for some reason it just tastes a little better.

Good performance management takes time. It requires a lot of care, patience, and practice. Just because your employees report to you on an org chart or because you have a shiny new boss title, doesn’t mean you will be good at it. You have to be open to failure and making mistakes. You have to be open to honesty and receiving feedback. Great pancakes require the same thing. And a tasty cream cheese glaze.


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