10 Dysfunctional Characters at a Talent Review Meeting

A talent review meeting is an important part of any leadership development and succession planning process. It’s when a leadership team gets together to discuss the performance and potential of their organization’s employees. They often use some variation of a 9-box performance and potential matrix.

I usually have the managers fill out their grids independently (plot each of their employees on the 9-box), consolidate the results, and have them review the results together.

It’s a great way to efficiently and effectively calibrate the expectations and perceptions of any leadership team. A consensus top talent (high potential) list usually emerges, as well the identification of problem performers and everything in between.

It’s a deceptively simple and straightforward process. However, what can make it messy are the different dysfunctional characters (or behaviors) that can show up at the meeting.

Here’s my list, based on my experience from facilitating hundreds of talent review meetings (I’ve alternated genders).

1. The used car saleswoman.
The used car saleswoman shows up prepared to “sell” every one of her employees. She’s got a long list of overly positive, exaggerated claims, complete with 2-3 examples for each one. Any fault is masqueraded as a strength. After a while, the rest of the team just gets worn down and starts buying everything she has to sell.

2. The defense attorney.
There’s a time when the rest of the team gets to share their perceptions about another manager’s employee. If it’s anything less than 100% positive, the defense attorney will leap from his seat and shout “I object”! Each possible fault is torn apart and disputed, just like Johnny Cochran and a glove that doesn’t fit.

3. Your Grandmother
To your grandmother, everybody’s just wonderful, and nobody could possibly have any weaknesses. Constructive feedback or conflict is considered rude, and everybody is encouraged to play nice. At least she brings cookies to the meeting.

4. The toe tapper.
The toe tapper has better things to do than to sit around and talk about damn people. He’ll tap his foot like Thumper the rabbit, roll his eyes, and interrupt any discussion that threatens to prolong the process.

5. The wimp.
The wimp couldn’t take a stand if her life depended on it. She’ll have an employee in a 1A box – and drop them down to a 3C based on an innocent comment – and then back up based on the next. All feedback from the wimp is couched with disclaimers (Well, gee; I really don’t know them very well, but…”).

6. The invisible man.
The invisible man sits there and doesn’t say a thing – unless called on. Once his turn is over, he disappears again.

7. The mean girl.
The mean girl doesn’t just offer constructive feedback – she goes for the jugular. Comments about other manager’s employees are meant to ruin careers, not develop. She’ll spread gossip and lie to make her point.

8. The storyteller.
The storyteller seems to have at least one – sometimes more – long-winded yarn about EVERY employee. He’s the good old boy that knows everything about everybody, and loves to share, no matter if it’s relevant or not.

9. The process engineer.
The process engineer loves to take a simple and easy process and make it more complicated. Instead of 9 boxes, she’ll suggest it be broken down further, into say, 27 boxes, or 81. She wants to attempt to quantify the scales, and suggests that everyone comes to the next meeting prepared with “data”, not just subjective opinions. She gets so wrapped up in trying to make the process perfect she can’t see the forest from the trees.

10. Jessica Simpson.
Jessica just can’t seem to understand the difference between performance and potential, and keeps getting the two mixed up. He struggles to follow where names have been placed and keeps yelling “bingo” whenever he has three employees in a row.

How about you? Have you met these or other characters at a talent review meeting (or any meeting)?