Back to Basics: Driving performance by focusing on the things that matter most

lazy_employeesIt’s common to observe leaders at every level of an organization’s hierarchy struggling to achieve the standard of performance needed from their team.  Often I encounter lost opportunity to leverage the full potential of people thanks to an ineffective approach to performance management.  At the heart of the issues is often a lack of ownership.  Few things expose this lack more clearly than when I observe CEOs regarding leaders as performing highly despite their inability to drive the performance of their team.

Experience has shown me that done well, performance management can has a powerful influence on the success of a business; managed poorly, it can damage morale and waste valuable time and resources.  All too often I hear managers complain that performance management systems add little value while creating additional stress and challenges for everyone involved. It can certainly be argued that processes are flawed, but the real issue typically rests with managers who fail to exploit the opportunity these tools provide.


It doesn’t matter how well designed a performance management system is, unless it is effectively applied it will add little to no value. What matters most is the approach people managers take every day to getting the best from each person on their team.  Effective performance management requires three essential elements in order to have any real impact on the standard of contribution people make and the business results ultimately achieved:

  1. Clarity: ensuring your team understand …
  • What is expected and accepted, important and a priority
  • How they are performing relative to expectations
  1. Coaching
  • Providing feedback, advice and guidance to influence approaches and enable results
  • Commitment to the ongoing development of the capabilities needed to achieve immediate and longer term objectives
  1. Accountability
  • Delegating responsibilities and empowering people to do their jobs
  • Appraising contributions against agreed standards
  • Applying consequences – rewarding and recognizing successes as well as taking remedial action to address under achievement or poor behaviour

People Manager's ToolkitAs I share in my second book The People Managers Toolkit “for performance management to have any real impact on achieving your vision and objectives, every member of the team has a role to play. Shared accountability is crucial, with success resting with managers and staff alike. Unless driven from the top, however, performance management is unlikely to be effective.” The non-negotiable roles and responsibilities of leaders that I share are included below.

Business owners, CEOs and senior managers must:

  • make performance management matter; follow through and hold people accountable
  • demonstrate commitment and lead by example
  • communicate vision, goals, priorities and strategies that can be cascaded down through the organisation
  • invest in the development of leaders and their ability to manage performance well

Every people manager must:

  • 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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s