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The best thing a manager can do to reward their good performers is to address the performance of their poor and mediocre performers.

This is a common challenge for many of those who depend on the work and input of others for their success.   And it’s is not confined to the manager/employee relationship: it applies equally to working with colleagues, bosses, volunteer workers, and suppliers.

There is a fast growing need for all employees to raise their game

Even those who are star performers and those who are traditionally the ‘old reliables’ need to ‘do more with less’.   Having effective, open performance management conversations will create stretching, ‘fit for purpose, performance in every corner of the organisation.   The desire to do one’s job to the best standard does not happen by accident, nor does it simply appear over a sustained period of time.   Rather, it comes from the deliberate and collaborative actions of leaders, managers, and employees to create the conditions for growth, and sustainability for their organisation.

But people who underperform consume an unfair share of a manager’s mental space.  We too often keep our disappointment, frustration, and anger to ourselves, until we can bear it no longer.   So when we finally say something, we lead with anger and uan the risk of being dismissed as “over-emotional”, or “over-reacting”.

Recipients are often shocked and attack back with defensiveness and counter accusations.

This is not a constructive way to get the performance we need from people. But this a controlled way of responding to unsatisfactory performance, that draws on a wide range of analytical, problem solving, conflict resolution, and communication skills –  supported by a good dose of self awareness.   Even though these are skills that seem self-evident, we don’t always draw on them when we most need them.

Four tips to stay on the front foot in performance management discussions, to avoid being confronted with “yes, but”

1)  Invest the time and energy in raising issues when they are small.

2)  Use your feedback and problem solving skills to manage discussions.

3)  Approach the conversation with curiosity rather than judgment, and a genuine desire to understand why they performed as they did.

4)  Prepare for the conversation by considering all the possible obstacles that you, the team, and the organisation have created that could be preventing any reasonable, able and willing person from performing to the required standard.

Don’t use the performance management process for getting rid of someone.

I was teaching this process to a group of mid managers and when we neared the end of the workshop, one delegate ask this question, “ What if I do this and they start to perform; what do I do then?”  The rest of the group exploded into laughter – as he then realised the absurdity of his perspective. Done well, performance management should be a postive experience that stimulates, motivates and strengthens engagement – not something that you do with the purpose of humiliating someone or exiting them from your organisation.


A guest blog by Ron Butcher


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