The toughest of all leadership skills

Performance management....not for the sqeamish

The toughest of all leadership skills

In my 20 plus years of management consulting experience there is still one skill that I see performed poorly or not at all.... PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT. I am not talking about remuneration or financially based incentive schemes for performance, that's easy. I am referring to the ability for a manager to give direct performance management feedback or coaching to their subordinates for the purpose of improving performance or reinforcing existing performance. There are two major reasons for this:

1 - Managers are not trained in performance management ie they don't know how to communicate feedback in a timely and specific manner;

2 - they, managers, don't know how to define and hence measure performance.

What happens when you have a poor performer then? Someone who does not live up to the "expectations of the job" or your expectations? Well if the "expectations" are ambiguous you have a problem, if the performer is not fully aware of what they are they rightly have an excuse. The obvious step is to clarify them so they are unambiguous, that is both the manager and the performer are in agreement as to what is desirable performance and also what is not.

The next step is to know how and when to provide performance related feedback so the performer has the best chance of improving or maintaining high performance. This is where some training in the so called "soft skills" of communicating that is listening, acknowledging, questioning and then expressing yourself in terms the other understands and also appreciates. This seems to be ever so hard, partly because so few managers are trained in it yet it is an underlying assumption that everyone can do it. Which is rubbish!

The tips to everyday perfomance feedback are simple but like any other skill they need to be practiced. When delivering performance feedback be honest, specific (not ambiguous), personal (terms that the individual understands) and if possible do it as soon as possible so the performer is still aware of it.

Posted in Business Management