6 vs. 9

My experience as a people leader, and from working with and speaking to many people leaders, is we often default to a normal distribution when it comes to performance evaluation: if we’re evaluating people’s performance out of 10, we’ll say most people are a 7.5, maybe there are a few 9’s or 10’s, and while we hope it’s a rare case, there might be a few people at a 6 or below.

The problem with trying to evaluate and rate your team on a 10-point scale, is with the exception of extremely strong or weak performers, we tend to default to fairly average and normal distributions, which can make it difficult to actually differentiate the team. One great tip I received is to force the question: “are they a 6, or a 9 out of 10?”. No in-between. You can only pick one. It’s a simple and effective way to quickly assess your team or have someone else assess theirs.*

I find this works really well in any scenario where you’re trying to quickly assess quality. How was the new pizza place you tried on the weekend? Don’t tell me it was a 7.5. Or an 8. Was it a 6, or was it a 9?

(*This is of course intended to be a quick and dirty tool and does not allow for or consider the nuanced and complex nature of people and performance management. Sometimes the quick tool is a helpful starting place though.)