Looking Forward to Performance Conversations: An OpaConnect® Success Story

One of OpaConnect®’s clients, Kids’ Country, effused they finally look forward to performance conversations. OpaConnect® is a progressive performance management platform that brings company conversations to life while everyone in the organization feels connected to the overall mission.

Kids’ Country has been engaging their employees on OpaConnect® for a year now. Executive Director, Stacy Litteral, shared their success and dramatic results with us.  They have learned how much an organization can be transformed by implementing OpaConnect®.

Kids’ Country is a nonprofit organization that provides enriching programs for kids and families that are both educational and fun. The organization’s spirit, leadership style and culture at Kids’ Country calls for an open,  transparent and empowered work environment. Stacy and her team turned to OpaConnect® for a strategic performance management solution, and the results have been “a dream come true.”

Your Product is Your People

“In a service-based business, your product is your people,” Stacy says. Quality of service translates to the quality of your people. Kids’ Country has boosted engagement since using OpaConnect®, offering what Stacy describes as “a way to give regular and consistent feedback in a supported way.”

“Staff are more engaged, happier and fulfilled. They now clearly understand their impact and their worth. Those are happier employees that in turn have happier programs for happier kids. With 200 staff at 15 locations, it’s a challenge to get everyone on the same train going in the same direction, and OpaConnect® has made a huge impact on that.”

TRUST – a Golden Ticket for Strong Company Culture

For Stacy, transparency = trust. The culture of trust at Kids’ Country is built on mutual respect and open communication. “It’s important to me that all levels of the organization understand where and why decisions are made, and that’s how we build trust,” she says.

In an operational culture of collaboration and accountability, everybody’s voice and feedback matters. “It’s not uncommon for a teacher assistant in a first job to come up with an idea that ends up on my desk and gets adopted. We’re proud that we value every voice and every good idea.”

Building that trust is really important, and the best way to do that is through transparency where everyone has a voice and voices are shared,  A key point made by Stacy for those organizations with millennial staff:  “Young workers appreciate the collaborative two-way dialogue. Our younger staff are loving OpaConnect®.

Performance Conversations to Look Forward To

At Kids’ Country they look forward to performance conversations. Their culture of transparency has demystified the performance evaluation process. Compared to the old paper process, Stacy explains, “It’s efficient, it’s fun, it’s a time for people to boast about what they’re doing. Feedback is given with an eye on helping that person improve and identifying opportunities for growth on an ongoing basis. As a supervisor, I find myself asking ‘how can I support you in achieving this goal?’”

OpaConnect® eliminates number rating and uses simple references, of “Behind, On Track or Ahead”.   It’s a perfect solution for the Kids’ Country culture, where Stacy says “for us, behind doesn’t necessarily mean you’re failing, it just means you’re not there yet. We use this tool to drive professional growth and development, not to drive discipline.”


The Kids’ Country strategic plan focuses on retention, employee morale and engagement. “Recruiting and retaining quality staff is a challenge in any company.” says Stacy. To help with retention, they’re implementing a pay-for-performance model this fiscal year – something that was a 5-year goal just a year ago. The paperless efficiency of OpaConnect® provided the systematic performance tracking that made that possible.

“I think that this tool is going to drastically reduce our turnover. Moving to a pay-for-performance structure, with regular conversations and informal feedback – those are going to affect our employee morale. It already has, and I only see it getting better. And that’s money: not having to recruit, rehire and retrain is money savings.”

Options4Growth & OpaConnect®





Calling all CEO’s: Building Trust and Courage Inside Your Organization

Trust and courage intertwine, Gabriela Buich tells me. In her business coaching she builds on personal truth and human interaction, getting to the root causes of defensive behavior and making small changes that improve performance. People are what accelerate business, after all – and just as you’d optimize machinery or a workflow process, you can optimize how people think, behave and interact.

Gabriela is a colleague and a friend, a business coach. Most of all, she is an inspiration. I see the work that she’s doing and I find hope for the future of business.

Trust and Courage

“Trust is what causes the shift,” Gabriela says. She & I were talking about Leaders Who Coach, and Gabriela explained that when there’s open dialogue from the top, and people have transparency about their concerns, it creates a trusting culture where people can make direct requests and give direct feedback without fear.

Good open communication means people feel safe expressing needs and concerns. This engenders courage for people to not only speak their truths, but to take chances and push past limitations. Innovation requires courage – you can only challenge conventions if you’re willing to take risk and break the mold.

Gabriela also encourages clients to practice “first truth first,” confronting fear and worry head-on. “First truth first” means emotion is primary, so lead with that: “hey I’m anxious about this deadline” or “I’m worried about saying this but …” This simple technique acknowledges humanity and opens up free communication.

Workplace interactions are really no different from the rest of life’s social contact. The better you understand human nature, the better you can build great work relationships.

There are three layers of perception, flowing from the inside out, says Gabriela:

  • Self-concept: how I see myself
  • How I feel and believe that OTHERS see me
  • How I behave in the world

In her work, Gabriela coaches leaders and work teams in how to approach these three distinctions vis-à-vis workplace interactions. To function effectively, leaders benefit from learning to be aware of their own emotions, and to recognize them in others. In business, feelings can be perceived as weak. Gabriela challenges that, inviting people to open up, to give themselves permission to talk openly about how they feel. “I’m worried about this deadline” starts a conversation, and that leads to open dialogue and problem solving.

Accountability and Leading by Example

For business leaders who wish to build an open culture like this, based on trust and courage, Gabriela says it starts with how those leaders behave. She puts it this way: “If I show up differently, you’ll show up differently; if I deliver differently, you will too; if I’m transparent, so will you be. If I trust you – if I demonstrate that I trust what you have to deliver, you’ll trust me.”

For management, being accountable means more than simply owning your own integrity – it means being accountable for the results of your work teams and your company. Gabriela says this about supporting work teams: “If I as a leader don’t know what to deliver to you, then I don’t know you well enough to get the results I’m looking for.”

Business is more than just gears and numbers – it’s about people. As Gabriela puts it, “we’ve got to get two people’s legs in one gunny sack and win this race together.”

Kirsti Tcherkoyan

CEO, Options4Growth & OpaConnect


Are you Perpetuating Gender Bias with your Performance Review Process?

Working toward gender equality is a slow grind. Gender Bias is systemic; for change to truly happen, discussions need to be front and center in business every day. Businesses need to look deep into existing processes to see where gender bias is institutionalized. Performance reviews and processes are one of those areas where the status quo of inequity becomes perpetuated.

Performance Reviews and Gender Bias

We can start to address gender bias by looking at normal business practices. Harvard Business Review published an illuminating article that identifies clear patterns of gender bias in annual performance reviews. Its author, Paola Cecchi-Dimeglio, reached a number of important conclusions about the current state of annual reviews:

  • Traditional review methods are out-of-date
  • Objective feedback tends to be equally fair to men and women
  • Subjective feedback can lead to gender bias, favoring men over women
  • Feedback for women tends to be more vague than feedback for men
  • Double-standards in performance review language consistently favor male employees
  • Women often do not receive full credit for their work compared to the credit that men get for similar work
  • Eliminating bias hinges upon using objective data
  • Performance tracking tools that capture real-time feedback help minimize bias

Gender bias in performance reviews causes a chain reaction, leading to fewer promotions at every level. The numbers validate this pattern. Here’s a breakout of workforce demographics by gender, clearly demonstrating that women are passed over for promotions at every level:

Percentage of Women in the Corporate Hierarchy:

  • 21% – “C-Suite” (CEO, COO, CFO etc.)
  • 22% – Senior Vice President
  • 29% – Vice President
  • 34% – Director / Sr. Manager
  • 37% – Manager / Supervisor
  • 48% – Entry Level

Addressing this inequity starts with how companies evaluate talent as an integral part of doing business.

Understanding Your Workforce

Unfortunately, businesses don’t pay attention to their own people the same way they pay attention to their customers. Marketers, for example, use complex tools and metrics to better understand their customers; company leadership needs to do the same thing with its own people. The better a business understands its customers, the better it can serve them. The better a business understands its employees, the better it can eliminate gender bias.

Where do companies fall short, then, in understanding their employees to the same degree that they understand their customers? In order to neutralize gender bias in performance reviews, evaluation methods and tools need to be gender-neutral.

Fixing Gender Bias in Performance Reviews

To level the playing field in performance reviews, Cecchi-Dimeglio identified changes that are easy to implement and produce concrete results:

Use objective criteria, minimizing personality-based feedback

  • Broaden the group of people providing feedback, including supervisors, colleagues and clients
  • Increase the frequency of feedback
  • Use automated, real-time communication tools to snapshot performance over time
  • Use gender-neutral language in feedback forms and fields
  • Design forms and fields to encourage constructive feedback

These ideas also contribute to a company culture that’s built around employee satisfaction. Businesses can reinforce teamwork with opportunities for colleagues to celebrate each other. They can encourage employee engagement by providing clarity to workers on how they contribute to company goals.

Using the right tools helps identify leadership skills, even at the entry level – and creates gender-neutral pathways to promotion. Our breakthrough software platform OpaConnect does more than meet the need for regular objective feedback – it keeps the entire company focused and on track, and helps recognize leadership skills at every level. We designed OpaConnect to be a best-in-class solution for performance management. If you’re dedicated to success and workplace satisfaction, you can learn more about OpaConnect here.

We’re proud of our women-led company. We’ve seen the powerful leadership that comes naturally to women: as entrepreneurs, as executives, as board members, and business leaders. We’re encouraged by the progress we’ve seen, and we’re committed to empowering working women at every level. We believe in women, and we believe in doing the hard work to achieve equity in the workplace.

Jill Pappenheimer, President

ReBoot the 360

Managing people is a complex endeavor. Given the right combination of people, interpersonal skills, cultural dynamics and motivation, a company can create a happy, productive, engaged workforce. That kind of success doesn’t happen by accident. It takes the right executed approach. The “360” performance review concept, when first introduced, opened up a new, fresh approach to managing. By polling an employee’s direct reports, peers and even customers, gathering diverse opinions from different perspectives, a company could gain new insight into its people.

After years in practice, though, the 360 review has revealed its flaws. People providing feedback often don’t know enough about an employee’s day-to-day work, challenges and responsibilities. As a result, comments can tend to be personality-based, as opposed to a valuable additional perspective. This feedback can even be damaging and misguided.

Disrupting the 360 Model

The first step in steering the 360 back on course is to get clear on what matters. What’s germane in a 360 review? Here are some fundamentals:

Continue reading “ReBoot the 360”

Part 2: Ignite your Culture – How to Create a People Centered Business

A happy workforce is good for business. That translates to an environment where employees are inspired – where people WANT to make a difference. In this people-centered paradigm, strategists are looking beyond questions like “how can we be profitable?” Instead, they’re asking questions like “how can we be a great place to work?”

Companies that embrace the great-place-to-work model are at a competitive advantage in the war for talent. The best candidates are seeking those companies out. That’s making it more imperative for other aggressive companies to adopt that model as a key business goal.

What steps can a company take to be a great place to work? It starts with understanding key components of workplace satisfaction.

Employee engagement – companies with top-to-bottom engagement are more productive and perform better financially.  Engagement means staff are passionate and positive about what they do, and feel aligned with the company mission and goals.

Transparency – this came up as the #1 factor in a 2013 survey by Tinypulse. Open communication is key. The more employees feel connected with management, coworkers and work teams, the happier and more engaged they are.

Appreciation – being recognized for their work came out #1 in a huge Boston Consulting Group survey of over 200,000 people from around the world.

Other factors like compensation and company stability ranked high also, but focusing on the 3 above guides us to a key understanding: that a culture with open, positive communication can lead directly to a better workplace.

Continue reading “Part 2: Ignite your Culture – How to Create a People Centered Business”

Part 1: Can you afford “not” to have a people centered approach to Business?

Are we looking at business backward? Success is driven and measured in financial terms, but people are the heart of business. People matter most, and paradigms are changing to reflect that. New business traditions are emerging that value human factors side-by-side with financial ones. Employee satisfaction is as important as profitability.

How can success be viewed in terms of human capital rather than financial capital? Harvard Business Review poses some intriguing questions, and offers illuminating insight, in a new article on talent management.

Continue reading “Part 1: Can you afford “not” to have a people centered approach to Business?”