There are TWO people in every performance conversation

Modern performance management has (mostly) moved away from old-style ‘appraisal’ where managers stood in judgement over their subordinates.    There’s a recognition that managing performance is a shared activity between manager and employee, or as we like to put it:

I own my performance and my manager manages it.  

In practice this means that employees must know what’s expected of them and have the tools and resources as well as the skills needed to deliver the job.

So, though organisations rightly invest in helping managers manage performance, they have often ignored the other person, the employee who ‘owns’ their performance.   For example, a CEO might say to me that they want to increase employee ownership of their performance, they want to see employees take more responsibility for results.   And yet the performance management philosophy is to ‘train the managers to have the performance conversations and give employees a pdf or some online learning telling them about the process’.

When staff are given time and tools to think about what it means for them to actually own their performance, some major improvements can arise.  A global insurance firm experimented with one contact centre making all performance data easily accessible to every employee.  Initially they were worried a blame culture might arise, but quite the opposite happened – a culture developed of people asking for help, picking up on others problems and offering support and a shared purpose in making the centre successful.

You cannot wave a magic wand to simply tell employees they now ‘own their performance’.  In truth, they always did.  A manager could never make people change, they could only offer guidance, supports, carrots, sticks.  It was up to individuals to respond.  So developing a workforce to take more responsibility for delivering results, means building a richer understanding in the workforce of how to respond, what scope they have to improve performance and create change, what they can do alone or with others to move forward.

It’s a combination of confidence, skills, awareness of boundaries and a culture that encourages people to think for themselves.

For clients with limited budgets, I often recommend spending the budget on a meaningful live intervention for everyone, not just intensive small group training for managers. It may not always be the right choice, if for example there has been a complete lack of management development for several years, then the investment in managers can pay off in multiple ways.  But if you have a good basic management development programme in place, then ensuring all staff understand their role in having effective performance conversations could deliver outstanding impact for you.

Take a look at our full range or classroom and virtual training workshops for managers AND employees.


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