One of the most important responsibilities of any business leader is performance management. In other words to manage and develop the performance of their people.
Performance management is the means by which the work individuals do every day contributes to the larger goals and core values of the organisation.
Managing performance is vital to the health and success of an organisation. So it has become a key priority for the HR function. Unfortunately, that means it is often seen as “just another HR process” rather than a day to day responsibility.
So with that in mind are you or your leaders making any of these mistakes when it comes to performance management?
1. They see discussions about performance as a one-time annual event, rather than an ongoing process based on regular dialogue and feedback between them and their employees.
If performance discussions are infrequent, the feedback is often not timely enough, specific enough or relevant enough to be helpful and effective. Managing performance should be a daily responsibility that is part of managers routine business practices.
2. They don’t see that managing performance is a way they can ensure that the work their employees do every day contributes to the larger goals and vision of the team, department and organisation.
By agreeing what needs to be done and how it should be done managers create a culture of daily activity behavior that is focused on what the organisation is trying to achieve.
3. They don’t have a clear understanding and agreement with their employees about what “good” or “excellent” performance looks like.
If manager’s employees aren’t performing as well as they’d like, the first thing to check is whether they have different perceptions on what good performance looks like.
4. They haven’t thought through the consequences of underperformance to the team, the organisation and the customers and therefore they are not managing performance and taking steps to address it.
Underperformance doesn’t just affect the individual employee and the manager. It has a wider impact on the rest of the team and the people they are trying to serve.
5. They are not aware of the ways in which their own behaviour may unconsciously reinforce poor performance and punish good performance.
While it sounds counter-intuitive leaders are often managing performance in a way that achieves the opposite of the result they want. In other words, they unwittingly reinforce poor performance. For example, it’s too hard to try and encourage an employee to take on a new responsibility so they give it to someone more receptive. Such behaviour reinforces that behaviour by saying it’s ok not to take on new responsibilities. Equally, the other team member gets “punished” for being open and receptive by getting even more work to do. They may think twice about being so open and receptive in future.
6. They are uncomfortable and lack confidence in holding conversations about performance with their employees, especially difficult conversations with underperformers, not wanting to be seen as “nasty”.
Difficult conversations don’t get any easier by not having them. In fact, they get more difficult. Leaders need courage and to get whatever training and support they need.
7. They adopt a problem-focussed, deficit-based approach to managing performance which leaves employees feeling demotivated and downhearted.
A more effective approach is to focus on what’s wanted i.e. what success looks like and on what’s going well. Such an approach leads to a positive and pragmatic way that engages employees and keeps performance discussions simple but productive.
8. They either beat about the bush in giving feedback about areas for performance improvement so the employee doesn’t realize there is an issue or give the feedback so directly that the employee feels bullied and harassed.
Managers need to prepare well, get training in how to give feedback and practice delivering the messages in a way that has the desired impact.
9. They provide no praise or positive reinforcement for desired results, behaviours or progress mistakenly believing that employees should not be rewarded for what is expected of them.
Employees don’t stop performing well because you praise them for doing a good job. Quite the opposite. So if managers want improvements in performance, they need to make sure employees get something positive out of it. A genuine, sincere, heartfelt compliment can achieve wonders.
How good are your leaders at managing performance and developing their employees? Do any of these ring true? What steps can you take to improve effectiveness?