Individual growth Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2008
Ed Trevis wants to provide consistency and long-term relationships to his customers. And to do that, the president and CEO of Corvalent Corp. has to start by retaining employees at his company, a designer and manufacturer of industrial mother-boards that posted 2006 revenue of $12 million.

“If you tell everyone in the world you are going to supply longevity and consistency and you have such a high turnover in your company, then it does-n’t match,” he says.

Trevis retains employees by finding people who want to grow and challenging them.

“Stability is created when you create a situation where you are part of the team and you have been challenged by learning,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Trevis about how to evaluate employees and how to help them grow with your company.

Q. How do you evaluate employees?

We have tried several things in the past with very little success. We used to have performance evaluations. Today, we have adapted our own version of a system called Catalytic Coaching, a career development process developed by Gary Markle from Energage.

We don’t necessarily look only at the past performance, but we focus (on) the future. We are always looking at present and future performance.

Employees, in most cases, really don’t care about what happened in the last 10 to 12 months. The new process allows them to recap their past achievements and disappointments but doesn’t focus on it. What has been recognized was recognized then.

To sit down with an employee and say, ‘In the last 12 months, you have been bad or good,’ is not necessarily the focus of our future career development process. We are into designing a process where an individual looks at the future and does not focus on the past.

We are not here to rate people. We are here to work with people that want to grow and develop themselves. So far, we have seen better results.

Q. How do you look to the future without focusing on the past?

We take the past as basically an experience standpoint. We aren’t necessarily telling the individual in the past what he has done but actually concentrating on the future. ‘These are things we need to get done in the future. These are things we can see you grow into.’

We help the individual identify what the plan is for the future. We don’t tell them what to do, but we help them identify and get back to what they think would be the things they want to do in the future to grow in our company.

Q. Why did you change your process of performance evaluation?

People hate to be rated. It’s not a theme that anybody appreciates. I’ve seen many performance evaluations that, if you had to ask an employee an hour later after the performance review what would he remembers, the only thing he’d remember is his raise. That is not something that creates accountability or excitement or willingness to grow and loyalty.

What we’ve found is that if you work on a process with an individual over several sessions where you define the individual’s ability,

define a path for growth and let the individual come back and tell you how he or she is going to get that done, then it creates accountability and excitement and responsibility.

Part of the performance and growth evaluation is defining where we are going from here, not what we have done.

Q. What is a pitfall to avoid in business?

Most CEOs are made to be the visionaries and give directions to the company. Most CEOs make mistakes in their career of not empowering people at the time they need to be empowered. They micromanage or get into a situation that they don’t delegate or hire the right people.

Sometimes, you have to stop and listen. That’s another problem I see in CEOs. They don’t quite listen as much as they should listen. That’s a big mistake.

You come quickly to a solution, based on your experiences, in every single part of your company that you don’t stop, listen and look for solutions. Many people walk into your office with a problem, and if every time they walk into your office with a problem, you give them a solution, then that becomes a behavior. I realized, in the past, I forgot to ask the question, ‘What would you do?’

I always tell my direct reports, ‘Tell your own people, too. Before you come to my office with a problem, think of a solution.’

I like my direct reports to have a conflict conversation with me or between their peers to analyze problems and solutions. Don’t be afraid of conflict. Argue a position and discuss, but always keep honesty and common sense and professionalism behind it.

HOW TO REACH: Corvalent Corp., (888) 776-7896 or www.corvalent.com