Managing Performance / Setting Goals

Performance Management – Five Factors for Success

Russ Silva asked:

If you want better performance from your employees, the following four statements may surprise you:

– Forget about making your managers? lives easier.

– Dump your performance appraisal and ?coach? moniker.

– Shift accountability away from employees.

– Stop paying them off.

While these statements may seem to contradict what you have heard about successful performance management practices, we have found that the following five practices break away from conventional thinking to help solve the age old problem of the cumbersome, ineffective, and often ridiculed performance management process.

1. Train Managers to Manage and Employees to Participate?Don?t Skip Basic Management Practices

Research Performance Management best practices and you will find an abundance of practices described as:

– setting effective goals and aligning goals with corporate strategy

– holding periodic performance conversations

– giving objective feedback

Though these may be called ?Performance Management Practices,? they are just basic, good management, communication, and interpersonal skills. While these management practices are certainly a prerequisite for effective performance management and coaching, organizations can realize a significant increase in performance simply by applying sound management practices

independent of any performance management system.

See Managing Individuals and Teams for examples of key management practices.

In addition to basic, good management practices, specialized management frameworks and tools should be used to expand a manager?s options for addressing more complex individual and systemic performance issues. When management training, frameworks, and performance tools are institutionalized, employees can more clearly identify and communicate what they need to succeed.

2. Eliminate Performance Appraisals, Reviews, and the “Coach” Moniker-Focus on Performance Conversations

The irony of formal Performance Appraisals is that they consume significant resources, produce little value, and impede the kind of collaborative working relationship managers and employees need to improve performance. By design, the traditional process tends to place managers and employees in a confrontational setting. In that setting, trust “one of the most significant factors influencing employee engagement and performance” is undermined.

Even when companies try to create more effective performance management roles for managers as coaches, the legacy of the old, judgmental, and confrontational dynamics often pollutes the process.

A recent study found that despite significant investments in training managers to coach, less than 1 in 4 respondents said that coaching had significantly affected their job performance; and ten percent said coaching had made them less satisfied with their job. There was, however, a strong correlation between performance improvement, job satisfaction, and a positive employee / manager relationship.This points to the single most critical element of a coaching or facilitative relationship – trust.

Trust must be built for managers to have influence with their people.

1. The first step is to eliminate performance appraisals and reviews. This type of bold move is needed to send a message to employees that real change is happening within the organization, not just a “re-labeling” of what managers are currently doing.

2. The second step is to fundamentally shift how managers see their role. A disabling factor in coaching programs sited above was that, despite receiving training on coaching, managers did not fundamentally change how they behaved.

A powerful focus of our development programs for managers is that they learn to “help (their) people succeed within the organization.? This is the essence of talent management, succession planning, and building management bench strength. When managers help their people succeed, managers also succeed. They don?t need to be a “coach” to do this, but they do need to be capable of providing real value to their direct reports.

3. Create the Performance Management Systems for Performers, not Managers.

If you want employees to buy into Performance Management, provide them with systems, approaches, and tools that are of value to them in improving performance. If an employee has clear expectations and standards for their work and access to a real-time performance metrics and qualitative 360 feedback, Performance Appraisals would only be needed on an exception basis. That should be the goal of a Performance Management system. The goal of the Manager is to have their people value the time they have with their manager because it is truly useful. The Manager’s role should be to facilitate and support individual and group performance improvement, individual development, and pursue cross-organizational performance opportunities.

4. Expect Performance Congruency between Managers and Reports If a manager’s primary role is to help their people succeed in the organization, they should be held accountable if their reports are not being successful. The problem with holding employees themselves solely responsible for their performance is that there are many factors over which employees have little control. Managers? and their direct reports? goals should correlate. If managers are hitting their performance objectives but they have direct reports who are not, or if the manager’s direct reports are hitting their goals but the manager is not, the performance system is not functioning properly.

5. Emphasize Intrinsic Motivation and Deemphasize Compensation and Reword An extensive body of research on Motivation theory shows that people who are intrinsically motivated consistently perform at higher and more sustained levels than when they are externally motivated. Yet, most managers’ perspectives on motivation can be characterized by the carrot and stick. While

most performance management systems are fueled by reward and punishment, few managers understand what really motivates people or the long-term consequences of external incentives and rewards. Managers who are skilled in effective motivation practices will generate what more and more organizations and executives recognize as the Holy Grail of performance–employee engagement, discretionary effort and ?passion–because their employees perform at significantly higher levels.


Two final thoughts to keep in mind as you implement a performance management system

– If it’s a best practice, measure it.

Many best practices are adopted wholesale and put into practice. But, as we saw in the coaching results survey, the visible practice is not the only factor contributing to a successful result. In addition,

when people learn new skills they are often uncomfortable and their ability to perform a new skill is low. By measuring the application of the skill you?ll be able to know whether the practice is producing the desired result. If it is not, you need to understand why, make adjustments, and support employees through the difficult period of new skill application.

– Keep it simple.

A CEO’s greatest concern about Performance Management is that it will be too complex. The performance management system must be intuitive to understand, require little training to use, and provide useful results for employees and managers. With Performance Management there is often the urge to implement a software solution as a starting point. While an automated system can create leverage once sound practices are in place, it can be detrimental in the initial phases of implementing

Performance Management and will not produce the quick, early wins needed to engage business managers.


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