AFTER THOUGHT : Is networking worth more than experience?

A less experienced colleague is being promoted above me. I’m sure it’s because of their networking skills rather than their ability to put in the hard work and be productive. How can I continue to provide value for my company without being overlooked again in the future?

Yes, very demotivating experience indeed. First thing though, are you sure this is the real situation? How do you know that you have more experience than the other person? Are you actually using the right measures? Perhaps there is something that your employer is looking for that you may have overlooked.
That said, the ability to network is vital skill for the modern manager. Building and maintaining self-sustaining relationships is key attribute for leadership. As you point out, the other person is clearly demonstrating this ability.
Another essential attribute of management is having some form of specialist skill that makes you of high value to your employer. In the past there has been tendency to develop managers to be very good generalists so that they can operate effectively across wide range of situations.
This is still required but due to the increasing use of technology and growing complexity and sophistication of systems and work methods, manager needs to also hold some form of specialist skill because it increases their value to the employer. So I recommend you check to see if the person who was promoted above you has such specialty.
Moving forward, the question for you is what can you do to improve your situation? Probably the best thing would be to sit down with your own manager, if that is possible, and have discussion around the whole issue. Tell them how you feel and ask them if they can help you identify what you need to do. People may not have realised you are looking for promotion and this sort of discussion will give the right signals.
It will also help you get an external viewpoint and feedback on the reasons for this person being promoted over you which would help you check what the real picture is. At the best it may help you identify what you can do to gain promotion next time and at least it might help you gain full perspective on the situation and reduce any negative feelings you may have at the moment.

I have always been popular as manager but now find I have to appraise colleagues for their performance. I find it hard to tell them where they are not performing well. Any tips?

The biggest tip I can give you is ‘don’t tell them’. Instead, create the situation where they are able to tell themselves. Appraisals are really about giving feedback to another person. We do this for three reasons. First to help them see what is really happening in their work and what the outcome actually is. The second reason is to provide an opportunity for continuous learning. Then, third, to help them build on their performance and improve and grow.
Appraisal relates equally to both good and not so good performance. If person is achieving their targets, then the aim is to help them increase that performance and be even more successful.
Where they are not achieving their goals, the aim is to help them identify how to get back on track. Many managers hit barrier when doing this as they have mindset that says appraisal is about ‘telling people where they are not performing well’ to quote your original question.
However, appraisal is really about being ‘mentor’ and giving clear feedback that enables the person to assess and understand what is actually happening in their work. Then, if appropriate, to move them on from this by ‘coaching’ for improved performance.
The appraisal process has developed as management tool over the years for two main reasons. The first being to ensure we are linking and aligning people with the strategy and business goals of the organisation. Secondly, to provide opportunities for personal development and growth.
Next time you do this, try to see the appraisal as mutual discussion between colleagues about what has been happening in the person’s work. Ask the question what has been going well / not so well recently? Then encourage the other person to explore and learn from this. I think you will then begin to see the appraisal process in different space to the one you see it in now.

Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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