I first wrote this blog back in 2012. It seems to fit with a lot thats going on in my head right now, and I thought a useful share.
Over the past few weeks I have been blogging about performance management.
My personal view is that good performance management is about having regular conversations and dialogue rather than going through the motions and the focus being about completing the paperwork of the annual appraisal. It’s also about having performance conversations that focus on “inputs”, the stuff that drives the results rather than the results themselves.
So this blog is going to turn to the Managers themselves.
Over the past nine years, in my career as a coach and leadership development professional I have worked with a vast number of senior and middle managers across a range of sectors, and two sets of skills and behaviors repeatedly stand out for me as being an area that the majority of managers and leaders need to develop further.
One is the capacity to think around issues, and to generate more than one answer, not just the first answer to an issue and problem.
The other, the most common and possibly most important area for development is to really understand others.
Why do I feel the ability to understand others is so important?
Because it’s a key driver of motivation and the engagement of staff. It builds trust between leaders and followers. Without that trust, then I believe effective performance management can’t be realised. It’s also increasingly seen as a building block of other required leadership and management competencies.
Despite having a plethora of tools and systems, its people that make them work, and its Managers and Leaders that create the environment and culture that makes people want to use them.
For most organisations performance management is a process, but we all know that its down to the Managers and Leaders that decide whether it works. Not HR who designed it and who are charged with managing it!
We know that there are a lot of things to do in business and often it just feels like there are more urgent things to do. I have been there too!
So despite all the stuff to do, what I believe actually stops good performance management is that Managers and Leaders can’t let go of their need and urge to be “directive” and seen to “be in charge”.
Often they don’t know how to behave differently, and feel uncomfortable in situations and with people where they are not in control, where the answers might come from someone else or even there may be no immediate answer!
These factors add further to reasons why performance conversations are avoided.
So what might good like?
Give feedback and listen, really listen; suspend judgement and ask really open questions to really understand the thoughts, feelings and perspective of the other person, and take the time to “put yourself in their shoes”. Check understanding, summarise and question more.
It’s not about being nice or doing “soft stuff” but knowing that to really engage and motivate others, they need to feel that they have been listened to and understood. Call it empathy, or even emotional intelligence, but if Managers really want to improve performance then seeing and understanding the issue from the other persons perspective rather than their own might be a good starting point.
Don’t shy away from poor performance, question and challenge it, but by seeking to understand the other person more might be unlocked than originally expected.
So if you really want to improve the performance of others, then start having conversations.
The good news is that its all learnable, and you will probably have the skills already, its often just the pressure and expectations of being a Manager and Leader that get in the way.
So be curious, be challenging both of others and yourself.