How would you alter a performance management discussion based on behavioral style or generation?

This question fits more into my consulting work through The Nielson Group but I’m using Success Discoveries as my central HQ on the Internet. If you want to see what The Nielson Group is all about go here. John Smith, Instructor at University of Phoenix in St. Louis, has posted before on this, and gives his reader’s digest version here. His thinking and mine are so aligned, I felt he said it all more eloquently than I could and wanted you to benefit from his writing (and my thinking). So I have re-posted John’s take here which is mine as well.  You can find John on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/johnesmith.

John Smith: I don’t buy off on the idea that there are significant differences between the generations based on behavioral profiles (CARL: If you are not familiar with behavioral styles, contact me for a complimentary behavioral assessment and debriefing at ). While I’m sure that the percentages change somewhat based on age groupings, I have a feeling that similar shifts could be observed within cultural, geographic, or industry groups, to name a few. 


I understand the technological and phenomenological differences that can be observed between generational groups. As an obvious example, Baby Boomers are adopters of current technology, while Milleniums just use the stuff. This strikes me as somewhat superficial, since every generation encounters new technology and grows up used to other technology. There was a time when being able to field dress and prepare an animal for eating would have been as natural as air to much of this country’s population.

I once did some very preliminary research using a DISC behavioral profile [: See my earlier entries “You’ve Got Style"] within a management group in a non-profit organization. At first, I believed that I had hit on a trend - older members skewed more toward I and S behavior, while younger managers were more representative of D and C.

What I ultimately determined was:

  1. The general employee population was very representative of the general population statistics that assessment companies have published over the years.
  2. In this relatively small sample, the hiring practices of the organization’s leader were influencing the hiring process - not unusual, but in a small group, very impactful. [: Ask me how to change this in your organization!]
  3. There was still a representation of all the Classical Profiles across the organization. Regardless of whose “numbers” were at the top of the list, a full range of behavioral preferences were evident.
Now, to the issue of behavioral styles in relation to performance reviews, I would assume that the same management practices of flexing one’s preferred behavior in order to communicate more effectively with others would hold here. So, simplifying significantly, here are some thoughts for those who deliver performance reviews:
  1. If you have high D tendencies, you may need to soften your language, take the time to establish rapport, and be more mindful of the other person’s receptiveness and reactions. You know how to deliver the truth directly, but need to understand the impact of your message, if you are really trying to help someone improve their performance. Practice your active listening skills:).
  2. If you have high I tendencies, you probably have the rapport thing down, but make experience difficulty getting to the point. You are good at engaging others and getting them to talk, but remember to focus. You may need to fight your tendency to avoid unpleasant news and remain focused on the reason for the meeting, which is to help the other person get better at their work. Practice listening more than talking.
  3. If you have high S tendencies, you are able to create a calm and supportive atmosphere. Great . . . but don’t get too comfortable. Part of performance management is to map out potential future actions to remedy issues and to get agreement from the employee that they will take these actions. Practice closure.
  4. If you have high C tendencies, you already have enough facts at your fingertips to clearly and conclusively paint a picture of the person’s current level of performance. That’s nice, but the point is to get them to another level. Practice active listening and avoid the tendency to insert your solutions to their problems.
The above is based on the four primary quadrants, but a really thorough analysis would be based on the more complex profiles that mix two or three of the factors listed above, which reflect the reality for most of us that we have some combination of behavioral preferences driving our behavior.

This is probably a superficial response, but I enjoyed thinking about this.

John Smith, St. Louis

[CARL] Thanks John for speaking to this issue. I have felt lonely watching people buy into the keynote speakers out there spinning the generational differences theme.

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