Performance worthy of a Pulitzer - what we can learn from the prodigious prize

Performance worthy of a Pulitzer - what we can learn from the prodigious prize

Pulitzer prize bod
The winners of the Pulitzer Prize have just been announced, and they got me thinking about transparency in the media and in organisations.

The prize was set up by Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian born American journalist whose aim was to use honest and open journalism to make a stand against dishonest governments and ensure transparency.

He encouraged unbiased communication, and although I am obviously not about to propose that 360 degree feedback is comparable to Pulitzer Prize winning journalism, it did get me thinking about the way organisations could benefit from a little prize winning thinking when it comes to encouraging representative feedback and a healthy competitive attitude to ensure high standards.

While the Pulitzer focusses on rewarding work that benefits society, the same honest approach to communicating feedback on performance can benefit your organisation. An anonymous 360 degree review eliminates bias in your feedback and means you avoid bureaucracy, encouraging an even playing field where hard work in the interests of the organisation as a whole is encouraged and rewarded.

Pulitzer established an ‘overseer advisory board’ consisting of editors, executives and academics to ensure a breadth of experience and feedback was applied to the judging process and that merit was rated and awarded fairly, ensuring a better all-round picture. The same logic applies to the reason 360 reviews work so well - incorporating many perspectives will ensure a fair and informed overall  view, rewarding those who deserve it.

Entry to the Pulitzer Prize is available to all journalists who wish to compete, not just the big boys at the top – the reason being that if work is good enough, it should be rewarded. This should be the same for 360 reviews.

Joseph Pulitzer realised that it takes more than one person to build up a representative view of a person’s work. In this way, performance can be monitored and rewarded fairly.

Performance reviews are often thought of as solely involving managers, not employees. However, including everyone can be hugely beneficial. All employees, no matter what their role can benefit from honest, constructive feedback about their performance. Employees also appreciate feedback from colleagues who work with them day to day rather than just their manager.

Though for some categories the Pulitzer does award a cash prize, money is not the main motivator to perform well. The recognition of winning an award with such famously high standards and integrity is a much better motivator. The same is true in organisations. 360 reviews don’t have to be about money, simply recognition of a job well done is often enough to keep staff happy and motivated.

The Pulitzer now also includes an online only category, reflecting and respecting the difference in the skills required to address both a digital and analogue age. By clearly communicating what the Pulitzer is trying to achieve, and by setting well thought through criteria against which to assess work, both standards and the reputation of the prize itself have remained consistently excellent.  This approach works the same way in organisations when it comes to performance management.

Ensure you clearly communicate your reasons for running 360 degree reviews, the standards you expect, how feedback will be used and what employees can gain from the process. If everyone is clear on what a 360 review is and why they are beneficial to the individual as well as the organisation, participants will be invested in making the process a success.

By keeping 360 appraisals honest and by including a diverse range of feedback, employees in your organisation will trust that the system is representative and unbiased. Train staff and make clear what skills are required in order to succeed. That way you ensure motivation, healthy competition and consistently high quality work.

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