Five reasons why neutrality is vital in performance evaluations

Neutral team performance evaluations are more trusted and effective.

Relationship management by a neutral counsellor engenders trust.

According to a recent Forbes article, roughly half of all marriages in the USA end in divorce.

How is this relevant to business?

Maintaining a harmonious and productive relationship with suppliers and partners is comparable to the delicate choreography of a long-lasting marriage.

When things go awry, as they surely will occasionally along the journey, there are two fundamental choices – repair or replace. Reconciliation or divorce.

The Forbes article says the average length of a marriage before divorce is eight years and that 66% of men and 74% of women think their partners should have worked harder to save the marriage.

Just as couples often seek guidance from a marriage counsellor during challenging times, businesses also benefit from a professional third party when reviewing the relationship with their partners and suppliers, particularly between marketers and their agencies.

How do you choose a guidance counsellor?

A quick search reveals a number of key criteria for selecting a marriage guidance counsellor. The most common and fundamental is arguably ‘Your marriage counsellor should be unbiased and neutral.’

One partner might suggest a marriage counsellor known to them because they believe that the counsellor will be on their side. Clearly, this is flawed thinking.

Common sense suggests that a professional counsellor should never take sides, but rather should always remain an objective party in the counselling process.

Surely, the same principles apply to business relationships? Neutral performance evaluations are a key component of business team optimisation strategies.

Building trust through neutrality

Trust is the cornerstone of any successful partnership. Businesses embark on collaborations with the expectation that both parties will work towards mutual success.

However, trust can quickly erode if there is a perceived lack of neutrality in performance evaluations. Just as with a marriage guidance counsellor who turns out to have a history of favouring one spouse over the other, it’s a recipe for disaster.

A neutral adviser, on the other hand, helps build and strengthen trust by assuring both teams that the evaluation process is fair, unbiased and focused on the shared goal of success.

The right skills for the job and the perils of commercial bias
The right tools for the task of relationship maintenance.

A couple facing challenges in their relationship wouldn’t seek advice from a divorce lawyer representing one of the parties.

Apart from the obvious conflict of commercial interests, a divorce lawyer’s expertise lies in navigating separations and conflicts, not in nurturing and strengthening relationships.

The same applies in business. Using a consultant who may have a vested interest in steering the evaluation towards a particular outcome jeopardises the integrity of the process.

It’s as counterintuitive as asking a matchmaker to solve your relationship problems, knowing they can make more money by finding you a new partner.

A truly trusted adviser needs to be without conflicts of interest, ensuring that their recommendations are based solely on the merits of the partnership and its potential for growth.

Fostering open communication

In a marriage, open communication is vital for understanding each other’s needs, concerns and aspirations. Again, the same principle applies to business partnerships. Neutrality in relationship evaluations promotes an environment where both parties feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and concerns without fear of favouritism or repercussions.

It’s about creating a safe space for dialogue, enabling a deeper understanding of each other’s perspectives and paving the way for constructive feedback that drives positive change.

Aprais evaluations consist both of scores against carefully curated questions asked of both parties, and verbatim comments left by the participants. As one might imagine, these comments can sometimes be controversial. To maintain trust and encourage honesty, we have a strict policy of confidentiality. We never reveal which individual made which statement.

The dance continues – nurturing long-term partnerships

One of the key drivers for a client to launch an agency review is cost reduction.

Objective relationship management can help avoid a costly and disruptive pitch.

However, according to a joint report from the ANA and 4A’s in the USA entitled The Cost of the Pitch, companies should think twice before choosing to ‘divorce’ their agency partners. The report reveals that the cost of a pitch is enormous for both parties. For marketers, it’s about $400,000. For agencies, the cost is over $200,000 – and almost double that if the agency is the incumbent.

“Clients hire people, not agencies. Having a commitment to developing long-term relationships and aligning the right people who complement their client/agency counterparts are key to reducing the need for agency reviews.”

The Cost of the Pitch, ANA/4A’s

Research from Australia indicates that enduring client-agency partnerships create greater efficiency and effectiveness. And in business as in life, we often feel that longevity defines success. The ability of a partnership to weather storms, adapt to changes and grow together is a testament to its strength.

Neutral performance evaluations serve as a catalyst for nurturing long-term partnerships. Unbiased assessments that foster trust and promote open communication can lay the foundation for enduring collaborations that stand the test of time.

Will AI replace the relationship counsellor?

In our view, the human touch in personal relationships and business team relationship management will remain indispensable. We humans do emotional intelligence, empathy and adaptability quite well. We can also handle nuanced communication that fosters creativity and builds trust. We can also interpret vital non-verbal cues such as body language.

Unlike AI and SaaS systems, humans navigate dynamic environments with flexibility, adjusting to unforeseen challenges. What’s more, our ethical decision-making considers moral dimensions – particularly crucial in leadership nowadays.

5 reasons why relationship management must be neutral and objective
  1. Unbiased assessment: Neutrality ensures an unbiased assessment of the partnership’s performance. Without impartiality, the evaluation may be clouded by personal interests or external pressures, leading to inaccurate conclusions that may harm the relationship in the long run.
  2. Trust building: Neutrality is the bedrock for building trust between business partners. When both parties are assured that the evaluation process is objective and fair, trust flourishes. This trust, in turn, strengthens the foundation of the partnership, fostering a collaborative and open environment.
  3. Effective communication: In a neutral setting, communication flows freely. Both teams feel secure expressing their thoughts, concerns and aspirations, knowing that there is no bias in play. This effective communication is vital for understanding each other and addressing issues constructively.
  4. Facilitating growth: A neutral adviser focuses on identifying areas for improvement without favouring one party over the other. This fosters a collaborative journey towards growth, where both partners work together to enhance their strengths and overcome challenges, ultimately leading to a more robust and resilient partnership.
  5. Objective decision-making: Neutrality is paramount in decision-making. A neutral adviser ensures that decisions arising from performance evaluations are grounded in a fair and objective assessment of facts. This is crucial, especially when tough choices need to be made to steer the partnership towards long-term success.
Enjoy the dance

The dance of business relationships thrives on the harmony created by open, honest and neutral performance evaluations.

Just as a couple needs a trusted marriage guidance counsellor to navigate challenges, businesses require an unbiased adviser to foster trust, open communication and guide them towards enduring success.

It’s better, cheaper, less stressful and less disruptive to repair, than to replace.