With the end in mind, I learnt management is not the answer.
As a human resources professional I have been involved in the design, implementation and review of numerous performance management systems. However I began to realise that I had it all wrong, and it started with a particularly uncomfortable poor performance challenge that I supported a manager with. When I looked at why the wheels had fallen off, one thing became apparent, we had created a battlefield.
The system, and many systems I have experienced, positioned the manager as the advancing general protecting their organisation, and the employee defending their territory at all costs. This adversarial approach was setting both leaders and staff up for failure and that was certainly not the point of the exercise.
So I started with the reason for the process and the outcome we were aiming for, which led me to behaviours and mindsets. Or more specifically the principles which would guide leaders in their approach to supporting the performance of their team. Yes supporting because the first thing I realised was that the process was not about management at all.
1. Establish a positive relationship - great performance support starts before the discussion. Without a positive professional relationship, people will be reluctant to be open, share and challenge themselves. Purposefully build positive relationships with each of your people for them.
2. Stay focused on the outcome - the objective of the discussion is to support continuously improved performance by recognising the positives, identifying the obstacles and supporting the person to identify actions to move forward. The end game is to help the person to be the best they can be.
3. Understand your role - you are the facilitator, this is their process not yours. Your role is to listen, if you do most of the talking then it becomes your process not theirs. Listen to facilitate reflection, recognition of success and strengths, and to realign behaviours and mindsets. Use your coaching skills to help people to see what they cannot see on their own.
4. Hold the line - from a place of care and respect help the person to be accountable and to follow through. Having clearly defined goals clarifies expectations, helps people to focus and enables people to understand how to be successful. Be strong and kind.
5. Have a future focus - there is benefit in looking back but only when it is used to create a better future. Don’t spend too much time analysing past performances.
6. Adopt a growth mindset - do you believe the performance outcomes are achievable, do you believe that this person can continuously improve? Finding fault rarely inspires improved performance, focus on what is working and grow more of that.
7. Be curious - your aim is to continuously improve performance. Being genuinely curious, parking your judgement and asking questions is one of the best ways to create the space for a person to find their own answers. Giving people answers does not help them grow, finding their own answers will motivate commitment, ownership and responsibility.
8. Keep the connections clear - it’s important for people to understand how their individual work contributes to the purpose, goals and overall objective of the organisation. Help them see how they fit.