3 Ways to Improve the Performance Management Process by Getting to the Heart of Performance Issues.

Performance Management Process

As HR leaders and coaches, we all spend time supporting managers in the performance management process. We patiently listen to managers as they describe the problems that they are experiencing with an employee, the impact of these issues on performance, and coach them to discover ways for improving performance.  Nonetheless, when all efforts fail managers end up at their boiling point.

Sometimes we need to take a step back and help managers look more closely at why their efforts are falling short.  We cannot effectively improve performance without first determining the true cause of the issue or problem….or we may be fixing the wrong problem.

In order to effectively diagnose the cause of a performance issue, we must remember that:

  • Excellent performance is the result of a number of factors  - including working together to improve outcomes and to eliminate areas of development over time, and
  • Poor or substandard performance can result from a single factor.

What gets in the way of correctly diagnosing performance issues?

  • Identifying solutions before determining the cause. Managers may not be able to resist the tendency to solve….identifying solutions before they actually determine the cause.
  • Inaccurately evaluating actual performance. Managers may inaccurately evaluate actual performance….biases like the recency effect or the halo effect may cloud judgment regarding the level of actual performance.
  • Exhibiting bias. Managers may allow personal relationships with others (positive or negative), as well as assumptions or beliefs (generations, personality types) to cloud judgments when evaluating performance.
  • Relying on third party information.  Managers may rely on information obtained from a third party and not take the time to investigate and gather more information before making a judgment.

Help Reduce the Frustration

Ultimately, the first barrier to getting to the core of performance issues is about the human tendency to solve problems.  Managers are rewarded for solving problems and when they cannot solve an employee issue, it can really shake their confidence. As a coach, you can turn these stressful situations into learning experiences by encouraging managers to think versus do.

  1. Push managers to do their homework.  The ability to make sound judgments is dependent upon complete information.  While we do want to help managers make decisions in ambiguous situations, we also must ensure that they gather an appropriate amount of information related to the performance issue at hand. If they are receiving information from a third party, they must seek to validate that information.
  2. Help managers consider multiple perspectives. Given the pace at which managers must make decisions in today's environment, we can support them in taking a bit of extra time to consider alternative viewpoints.  This might involve asking probing questions to surface potential bias in looking at situations or viewing the information collected from another perspective. 
  3. Support critical thinking. Lastly, we can use our coaching skills to improve managers' ability to think critically about issues.  Asking questions that stimulate thought about the consequences of various courses of action can assist managers in determining the right course of action to take in addressing performance issues.

What have you done to help managers' ability to diagnose performance issues?  Share your thoughts and success stories with us.