My team and I often undertake reviews that provide organisations with an objective view of the maturity of their people management capabilities and practices. We help leaders understand what they need to do to enable their team and business to thrive. While each business we work with is different we commonly observe three primary obstacles standing in the way of success:
- Absence of a clear vision and strategy
- Need to further develop leadership capability
- Ineffective performance management practices
In today’s blog I will focus on why performance management is failing to add value in so many of the organisations we work with. In fact I’ll go as far as to say that for many businesses we work with, performance management is undermining the spirit of their team and adversely impacting morale and engagement.
As I share in my most recent book The People Manager’s Toolkit “Performance management is so much more than an annual review or document-driven process. Regardless of the systems or forms in place, what really matters is the approach you take every day to getting the best from your team.” And yet all too often we observe performance management being limited to discussions that take place during annual appraisal meetings. Effective performance management however requires three essential elements:
- Clarity – about what needs to be achieved and how people are expected to behave
- Coaching – providing feedback, advice and guidance to enable results and ongoing development
- Accountability – delegating responsibilities, appraising contributions and applying consequences
Real benefit is realised when performance management is leveraged to inspire and guide people to reach their full potential. Done well, there is no question it can have a powerful influence on the success of a person, team or business. On the other hand however, when managed poorly performance management can damage relationships and waste both valuable time and resources.
A lack of ownership is the primary reason we observe for performance management being leveraged so poorly. Nothing exposes this lack more than the number of CEOs we meet who regard leaders as performing highly despite their inability to effectively manage the performance of their team. Too few Boards and CEOs place adequate weight on effective performance management practices. Until they do it is unlikely to be the powerful enabling of business results it has the potential to be.
It can certainly be argued that some performance management frameworks or systems are flawed, but the real issue typically rests with managers who fail to exploit the opportunity these tools provide. The reality is, it doesn’t matter how well designed your performance management systems, processes, forms and policies are, unless they are effectively applied they add little to no value.
In the People Manager’s Toolkit I provide step-by-step instructions on how to get the most from your performance management efforts. Here is the must do checklist I share:
- Encourage and inspire people to strive for success
- Communicate clear performance standards and expectations, linking them to the big picture
- Manage performance fairly, consistently and accurately
- Be courageous — take action, initiate the difficult conversations and apply consequences
- Be well informed of the individual’s progress through observation and obtaining feedback
- Provide and openly discuss feedback about how people are going and how they can improve
- Listen to the staff member’s views and openly discuss them
- Be open to both positive and negative feedback from the staff member
- Be sensitive and empathetic to the challenges people face
- Recognise and reward a job well done, both informally and formally
- Proactively develop the capabilities of individuals and the team
- Appropriately maintain confidentiality