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Managing Performance



June 11, 2014 - In Featured, Managing Performance - No comments yet

It is difficult to think of anything more important to an employee than obtaining helpful feedback from their manager about their work and how they are doing their job.  There are things of equal importance: being paid a reasonable salary for the job, having a pleasant working environment and having appropriate resources/tools to fulfil the required tasks.  Interestingly, the highly motivated, achievement focused worker may prioritise getting constructive performance feedback over other expectations because they have a thirst for success and they want to improve.

So why is performance feedback so problematic?  Obviously this is not a new topic as anyone with an interest in management will know.  Some years ago, when delivering a new performance management process to a high-tech company, I asked two groups of managers attending separate training workshops what they thought about managing performance and providing feedback.  One group was asked what they thought of the various approaches they had been expected to use as managers and it is worth noting that their experiences had been mainly with companies that were household names.  Their responses were all to do with what chores setting objectives and conducting appraisal discussions were.  Added to this were the usual complaints about HR, forms and how time consuming it all was.

The other group was asked a similar question, but this time with an emphasis on what they thought about performance feedback they had experienced from managers to whom they had reported.  Their responses could not have been more different than their colleagues in the first group.  ‘The most important meeting that you have with your manager is when you have an appraisal and agree new objectives and many do not even prepare for it!’  ‘It’s when your manager represents your company to you and when it’s poorly executed it makes you feel negative about the place you work’, ‘I was hoping for a discussion in which I would learn something and perhaps even get recognised for some of the successes I had achieved’ and so on.  Knowing the organisation I have no doubt that if the groups had been reversed and they had received each others’ question the responses would have been similar.

The issue which these contrary responses illustrate is the very different perspective people have depending on whether it’s them that is receiving feedback.  As Peter Drucker said ’the role of the manager is to get results through the efforts of others’.  So why is providing performance feedback so difficult?

The research suggests that it’s all about managers not having the confidence to give direct feedback; looking people in the eyes and letting them know that they have done a good job or involving them in a conversation about alternative options for how they may do a task better.  Research also suggests that many managers do not have the appropriate training and practice to give performance feedback effectively.

These essentials about managers providing feedback can be overlooked and the real issue obscured by yet another new performance management ‘system’ (online or on paper) being introduced to an organisation.

An alternative strategy is to return to Drucker’s view of the manager’s role and reflect on the purpose of managers providing performance feedback.  Managers want to get good results from their people because that’s what they get paid to do.  If a manager can increase the results achieved by his/her people then an additional reward may be forthcoming and in the longer term, a promotion.  This suggests that incentives are available for managers who can improve results.

Importantly, successful interactions between managers and employees about work performance and how the individual can develop their abilities is one of the most powerful stimulants of employee engagement.  This means that managerial effectiveness in giving performance feedback not only assists achieve short-term results but also builds longer term employee commitment with additional benefits for the organisation.

Performance feedback needs to be in relation to a clear understanding, between manager and worker, of what is expected in terms of results.  Feedback can then be given in relation to such expectations.  The purpose of feedback is to reinforce effective behaviour or to give the person the opportunity to change behaviour which is having an adverse effect.  As giving feedback is about helping a person to learn, it must be given in a way that the person:

Key skills in giving feedback are:

There are many practical guidelines that can assist managers give feedback to help an employee improve performance and develop their abilities.

The main issue is that the skills and guidelines that provide managers with the confidence to give effective performance feedback need to be learnt by doing.  Practicing with real case examples is powerful and engaging for managers as they learn necessary skills, develop confidence and are better prepared to address performance matters.

EFFECTIVE MANAGERS COACH: Improving Organisational Performance

December 12, 2013 - In Featured, Managing Performance - No comments yet

The Business Case

The practice of coaching is readily associated with the world of sport where it is well established as a means of preparing sports people psychologically and physically  to perform successfully.  In organisations, the use of coaches to contribute to the learning and development of managers and professionals has grown substantially in the last two decades.  Some organisations have developed internal groups of managers to be coaches to less experienced colleagues.

Experience demonstrates that developing managers’ coaching capabilities enables them to manage and develop the performance of their people to achieve better results.  This managerial activity is a big contributor to developing organisational performance. Continue reading EFFECTIVE MANAGERS COACH: Improving Organisational Performance.

STRATEGIC PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT: Aligning Performance Management To The Business

November 10, 2012 - In Managing Performance - No comments yet

For a business to perform most effectively, the link between its strategic direction and the management of individual performance should be a direct and transparent one. This delivers results to both the organisation and its employees: people are more motivated to perform when they are usefully communicated with and feel part of the overall plan and organisational team; and businesses perform better when their people are motivated to make a full contribution. Continue reading STRATEGIC PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT: Aligning Performance Management To The Business.

Talent Management: How Organisations Can Help or Hinder by Richard Nelson

February 17, 2011 - In Managing Performance - No comments yet

Talent management has become a familiar phrase among managers and HR professionals, stimulated by McKinsey’s ‘war for talent’. The idea has often courted controversy, especially when it has meant concentrating development resources on an elite. But what is talent management? It seems that some businesses are not entirely sure: the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)’s 2006 survey of learning and development found that 80% of organisations reported no definition of ‘talent’. Also, perhaps not surprisingly, 60% of organisations had no talent management strategy. A recent survey has shown that this is improving. Continue reading Talent Management: How Organisations Can Help or Hinder by Richard Nelson.

Developing a Performance Culture, by Richard Nelson and Kate Harrad

February 1, 2010 - In Managing Performance - No comments yet

“Employees who believe in what their company is doing will want to perform well.” 

The two main components of organizational culture are: the espoused or ‘official’ culture and the underlying culture, which is the larger of the two. The espoused culture is articulated in the annual report, the documented strategies, the organisation charts and job descriptions. The underlying culture consists of such factors as individual personalities, alliances and rivalries, gossip, assumptions and interpretations of ‘official’ culture.  Continue reading Developing a Performance Culture, by Richard Nelson and Kate Harrad.

Focusing on Performance by Richard Nelson

June 3, 2009 - In Managing Performance - No comments yet

“The real organizational challenge is to get all managers to view managing performance as the most important part of their role.” 

Managing performance whether good, bad or indifferent is the job of a manager. For some companies, this would be an obvious statement. But, as many management professionals know, this is not always the case. Some businesses still reward professional success by promoting people into management regardless of managerial capability. Also, managers who communicate what is expected, agree staff objectives in relation to the business’s current plan, monitor performance and give meaningful feedback to improve results are not as common as executive leaders would like. Continue reading Focusing on Performance by Richard Nelson.

Growing Competence, by Richard Nelson

May 25, 2009 - In Managing Performance - No comments yet

A competency framework provides a common language for all managers and people concerned with effective performance.’ 

The search for the means to develop greater competence in people is an ongoing challenge for managers. Over time, emphasis has been placed on recruitment and selection, succession planning, training and development among other management processes as a means of raising competence. During the last two decades, management experts have undertaken extensive work to provide a common foundation for the application of several people management processes. Continue reading Growing Competence, by Richard Nelson.

Organisational Challenges in Managing Performance, by Richard Nelson

May 15, 2009 - In Managing Performance - No comments yet

“Without development, it can be awkward to speak to individuals directly about their performance.”

In the late nineties, a study commissioned by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development showed that good people management and development practices contributed more to productivity and profitability than strategy, quality, technology and even R & D*. Other studies in the UK and the USA show similar results. So why are organizations still finding the management of performance a substantial challenge? Continue reading Organisational Challenges in Managing Performance, by Richard Nelson.

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