On OKRs and Performance Management


Devon Brown headshot
Devon Brown

Organization Development Consultant and Executive Coach at Inciting Leaders

Episode notes

It all starts with meaningful conversations. That’s what Jenny Herald’s guest on this episode of Dreams with Deadlines believes, and he’s got data points to back it up.

Devon Brown of Inciting Leaders shares insights on the evolution we’ve seen over the past decade from traditional top-down performance management techniques to a more continuous, ongoing framework that encourages ongoing communication.

What you will learn

  • Why meaningful results start with meaningful peer-to-peer conversation
  • The difference between (and mechanics behind) one-on-ones versus check-ins
  • How to apply OKRs and measure for individual success within a team context
  • Driving what matters: Choosing to emphasize behavior, delivery, or both
  • The future of performance management — what it looks like and what it needs

Show notes

  • [00:00:35] About innovating the transition from traditional performance management to continuous performance management, starting in 2009 and accelerating as the function has shifted away from HR.
  • [00:01:50] Why shifting the performance management model away from top-down annual event to ongoing, frequent conversations empowers managers and employees.
  • [00:03:04] About the potent combination of Conversation, Feedback and Recognition (CFRs) with Objectives & Key Results (OKRs) at the heart of visionary leadership.
  • [00:04:06] What poor management looks like versus a continuous, integrative approach that seeks to develop skills and adapt to situations on an ongoing basis.
  • [00:06:33] Distinguishing between leaders and managers, where their skills overlap, and why their tendencies are often (wrongly) conflated:
    • Leaders create change while managers react to/execute on it.
    • Leaders are people-focused, while managers tend to be process-oriented.
    • Leaders seek feedback, while managers avoid or minimize vulnerabilities.
  • [00:09:00] How the tension between the organizational, team, and individual application of OKRs can be managed to create a culture that supports progress across the enterprise.
  • [00:14:30] Applying OKRs to and measuring for individual success – and growth – within a team context within a robust continuous performance management framework.
  • [00:17:28] Why performance management is trending towards a team emphasis:
  • [00:18:43] Defining “check-in” versus “one-on-one” conversations:
    • Check-ins are ongoing conversations about performance, development, expectations well-being, and general feedback.
    • One-on-Ones are solution-oriented, task-oriented, operationally oriented, and tactical.
  • [00:20:25] A deeper dive into the big-picture, strategic nature of “check-ins,” including these four types:
    • Assessing and adjusting to effectively manage expectations and goals.
    • Short- and longer-term career development.
    • Ongoing feedback conversations, both positive and negative.
    • Overall, holistic well-being within a personal and professional context.
  • [00:22:50] Why well-being conversations are key to the current workplace landscape:
    • Pandemic-related recognition that people are not computers and have emotions.
    • Potentially isolating hybrid conditions.
    • The need to be in touch with whether workers are engaged – or not.
    • To maximize retention and corporate loyalty.
  • [00:27:01] How “performance” and “relational” currencies impact outcomes – and why.
  • [00:29:13] Driving what matters: A look at which levers to pull in measuring for success and how they vary based on whether the emphasis is on behavior, delivery, or both.
  • [00:34:16] Distinguishing between the “what” (results) and the “how” (behavioral) in managing OKRs for both teams/individuals.
  • [00:37:00] About identifying and incentivizing individual behaviors that build towards positive team results (without leaving behind a trainwreck).
  • [00:41:20] Looking at the future of performance management:
    • A move away from the individual towards team management through ongoing feedback.
    • A tremendous need for enhanced leadership and training for stronger ongoing conversations at all levels of the enterprise.
    • Integrative software systems to support ongoing agility and adaptability.
  • [00:46:39] Quick-Fire Questions for Devon:
    • What is your dream with a deadline? To impact 1,000 leaders in 2023 with positive downstream results across company cultures and individual lives.
    • What is the No. 1 thing leaders can be doing to uplevel performance? There’s no one thing, but frequent and ongoing conversations are essential.
    • What advice would you give to people undertaking an OKR journey? It’s easy to get excited by the idea of results, but stay attuned to how concepts like stretch and transformation actually fit into your workplace culture and history.
    • What book has shaped the way you think about leadership and performance management?

Relevant links

About our guest:

Devon Brown headshot
Devon Brown

Organization Development Consultant and Executive Coach

Devon Brown transforms teams and organizations using neuroscience research for insight, habits, and performance. He considers both individual and organizational behavior change with a systemic approach. Certifications include NLI Brain-based Coaching, Hogan, DiSC, MHS EQ-i/360, KAI, and Linkage – Purposeful Leader.

Additional resources