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There are a myriad of articles, blog posts and research reports suggesting that performance management is broken. It is hard to generalise, but I tend to agree with the statement. Something that is of vital importance to people and organisations is often done quite badly. That said, I totally disagree with the knee-jerk reaction that says we should abandon performance management because it is broken. There is a need to do something and to do it well.


There are a few things around performance management that I think are really obvious and change the way we should do it:

  • Performance management isn’t just about dealing with poor performance and should not be under-performance management. If we design something that is primarily focused on dealing with underperformance, we miss so many opportunities to help people thrive.
  • At the heart of effective performance management is a conversation, a really high-quality, radically honest conversation about performance. If you don’t have radical honesty, then what needs to be said may not be said. I’ve witnessed this far too often and the implications are wide-reaching and costly.
  • None of us are perfect, we all have different strengths and weaknesses. Getting the best out of somebody who is just like us is simple. Getting the best out of somebody who is different to us can be hard. If we have the diverse teams that we need, then most managers will spend most of their time trying to get the best out of people who are different to them. I believe that the only way to equip them to do that is to provide them with some level of coaching skills.
  • Performance management may not be the easiest thing in the world but it isn’t rocket science. However, no amount of process will make it work well. The only way to make it work well is by equipping managers to have high-quality conversations and these are easier when they are done more regularly than once a year.

Performance management has lots of opportunities for improvement but let’s not abandon it or kid ourselves that we can invent a magic process that will fix it. Let’s equip managers to help people thrive.

Boardroom Despair

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