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Start, Stop, Continue

By Marcia Dickerson

In this blog post, I want to share a simple, but powerful idea that can help you with managing performance for yourself or others called “Start, Stop, Continue.” With this exercise, a person reflects on their past behaviors and considers their future goals, then chooses three specific actions. First, what will you START doing in a set time period? Second, what one thing will you STOP doing? Finally, what activity or behavior are you currently engaging in that you want to CONTINUE doing?

Start, Stop, Continue in Performance Appraisal

Most employees and managers dislike performance reviews—they’re time consuming, can create uncomfortable or difficult conversations, and may not result in better performance. A lot of my clients who own small businesses don’t have a formal performance appraisal system, and it’s often because a long, involved form doesn’t work for them. But, without a formal performance review, you lack a meaningful basis for promotions and raises, and it's harder to help employees improve their performance.

The good news is that you don’t need an enormous system or multi-page form for a decent performance appraisal. The start, stop, continue framework can be a jumping off point for regular performance evaluation. By asking an employee to reflect on a prior time period and then suggest behaviors to start, stop, and continue, this begins a conversation that’s both collaborative and goal-oriented, rather than a list of errors and complaints. This allows you, as a manager, to be more than just an evaluator—you can also become a performance coach.

Here are some examples:

· I worked with a business owner who had a great front desk receptionist—organized, pleasant, and efficient. But, she ate at her desk and left food wrappers, crumbs, and empty cups all around. A “start” goal for this employee would be to start clearing off and wiping down her work area every day at 1 p.m. Instead of an annual performance appraisal full of accolades and one complaint (“Your desk is a mess!”), this one specific, measurable goal takes the emotion out of the conversation and allows the business owner to track progress.

· Another business owner in the service industry had employees becoming more and more lax during small windows of downtime, such that they’d routinely be sitting in the reception area on their phones. It got bad enough that clients would come in and be ignored by employees who were focused on their screens. Some managers don’t want to be the bad guy and have to tell an employee to stop doing something. But, when identifying a “stop” behavior is a routine part of the review process, it makes the topic easier to broach. This behavior represents a clear “stop” goal—employees needed to stop using their phones in the reception area. Not only can this be a concrete and easily assessed performance goal, we formalized this in the set of employee policies.

· Managers sometimes have a hard time remembering to praise employees or to communicate that they value sustained good work. It's easy to overlook those folks who do their jobs well and seem to do it effortlessly. But, if you don't show these employees that you appreciate them and that you do see their hard work, you risk losing them. Having a regular conversation about what you want someone to “continue,” it makes sure that steady performance isn’t overlooked. And, for employees who have had trouble and are improving, the positive feedback from "continue" is valuable.

Start, Stop, Continue as a Coaching Tool

The stop, start, continue framework works well for performance appraisal, but it's also a great tool for coaching others. One of the primary roles of the coach is to give feedback and help the coachee set goals. By asking the coachee what he or she wants to start, stop, and continue, the coach can give them a chance to use the feedback they've gotten to set three small, achievable goals.

What next?

So what’s your next step? If you’re looking to invest in yourself, consider coaching. I'm a certified business coach, and with assessments, individualized plans, and accountability, I can help you meet your goals.

Maybe you know your organization’s performance appraisal needs an update, or you don't have one at all. Performance appraisals aren't one-size-fits-all, and I can help you design one that meets your needs. Get in touch, and we’ll work on it!


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