5 Things senior managers do to mess up performance management

In this blog we’re thrilled to be joined by Martin Palethorpe, one of the UK’s leading executive coaches of Pragma Group, here to discuss what senior management could be doing differently to ensure there are effective performance management processes in place that are as successful as possible.


Senior leaders play a key role in effective performance management, however they often screw it up…


1. They miss the ‘people development’ mindset

Business results depend on the quality of people in your organisation and how well they work together. Unless you want huge staff turnover, business growth can only occur year-after-year if you develop the capability of your people.

Sometimes leaders miss this ‘people development’ mindset. They think only about business strategy and results. This puts very little regard on developing people and performance management, which fundamentally contradicts the whole point of performance management in the first place.


2. Not leading by example

Senior leaders may support the concept of performance management, but struggle to do it for their own direct reports. Why? It could be one of the following:

  • They don’t prioritise it as important as a core business task
  • They have issues with giving difficult messages
  • They generally have difficulty with personal one-to-one conversations
  • They aren’t good at giving praise or positive acknowledgement

But if they don’t do it, they’re sending a terribly contradictory message to others about the importance of performance management: “do as you’re told, not as I do.”


3. Poor at giving feedback

Giving feedback is a critical part of performance management, but sometimes senior leaders have issues with giving it, so they do one of two things: they give feedback bluntly, focus on the negative, and end up demotivating the individual. Or they dance around the subject and dress it up in positives. The important messages are lost, and the individual loses the opportunity to gain vital insights.


4. KPIs – business only

Leaders can be guilty of making KPIs solely about business objectives. In this situation, they don’t allocate any objectives onto any of the important lead performance indicators such as development of succession, employee engagement, or personal leadership behaviours. If this happens, they’re missing a valuable part of performance management, which is to manage and develop performance. Performance is about how people perform in all areas, not just the business results that you achieve.


5. When the pressure’s on

When leaders are under pressure and the stress is on, some forget the importance of aligning their behaviour to people initiatives and focus solely on business performance. Whilst this behaviour can be easily justified, it’s not the way to build a development-centric culture. In these situations, appraisals and performance management can be at best forgotten, at worst completely contradicted.


In summary, performance management processes and systems offer you a wonderful opportunity to improve performance. Make sure you don’t screw up.


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