Habit talk with Tom Vanfleteren
Tom Vanfleteren is Head of Cloud and Industrialized ICT at Proximus. Whilst valuing self-development and leadership, he affirms that performance review is not a one-time and one-side story where a leader evaluates employees one time a year. For this weeks habit talk we asked Tom some questions about the performance review and good habits to create an all-year feedback culture.
Good feedback culture habits
For me, feedback and performance appraisal differ from each other, but are part of the same process. During the first part of performance appraisal, you formally agree upon expectations and objectives for the coming year. After 6 months, you agree on the progress and eventually re-assess those targets. At the end of the year, we look if the targets have been reached. We also provide a scoring based on the achieved realisations. Feedback is something you give on a day-to-day base about the activities and behaviours of someone and can be formal or informal. On the one hand feedback is key for development of people. On the other hand however, feedback is a perfect tool to check if everyone’s still aligned with the targets and give the opportunity to change behavior or attitudes if needed. As a consequence, the outcome in the performance cycle should never be a surprise!
Do you see changes within Proximus in the performance appraisal culture?
Since a few years, we’re having an extensive cultural change program, called ‘Good to Gold’ (G2G), because we believe we need to align our culture with our strategy. Our new culture is based on 3 key corporate values: agility, collaboration and accountability. We need these 3 pillars to fulfil our mission, which is differentiating ourselves by putting the customer first. One module of G2G is about coaching an feedback, as this is a key requirement ton install the new culture in every layer of the organization. This module is a 4-day training to become a better coaching, providing more and high quality feedback.
Did you change or create won habits to align with this culture change?
I lead approximately 80 internal and external technical experts in Proximus. In the scope of coaching and feedback, I practiced 2 new habits. First, I start the day thinking about all the interactions I had the previous day. I choose one interaction and give feedback to the person I had it with. My second habit is thank people after a meeting when they presented something (especially) for me. In addition, I started to take a coaching-attitude when speaking with my employees, by asking open questions. The implementation of those new habits is a process of trial and error. It’s important to build in some moments of reflection to think about whether or not you’re still aligned with what you want to change.
If you think about a successful leader at Proximus, what do they do during the year to make sure the performance review moment isn’t something dreadful to think about?
They provide clear expectations and give regular and proper feedback on performance. The employee knows at tall times where he/she stands. Employees know what is going well and what can be done better. People also see it a growing opportunity. They don’t pretend the performance review does not exist, but communicate about it with their employees. They prepare the performance review independently of the input of the employee. Of course they ask the employee to do this as well. Comparing both versions is a great cross-check to see if, along the year, manager and employees are sufficiently connected to each other. Giving regular feedback and organize coaching moments is the DNA of the leader. Consequently people don’t perceive the formal performance review as a burden but as a formality. It’s actually only a summary of what has been said during the year.
Is there specific feedback you consider very important?
I try to get feedback from everybody, not only from my manager. I’m always eager to receive feedback from employees and peers as well. Also… Every day, I strive to become better than I was yesterday. The opportunity to grow and learn matter. So for me, the most important aspect of feedback is the part where they tell me what I can do better in the future!