Getting Real About Performance Management

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This blog was originally posted by Janine Truitt on the Peformance I Create blog. Twice a month Blogging4Jobs will feature a guest post from the up-and-coming multi-contributor blog, Performance I Create. 

As a proud New Yorker, I still miss hearing Wendy Williams on the airwaves in the afternoon on 107.5 WBLS. You see, before Wendy became the daytime talk show muse that she is today-she was a radio personality on one of the hottest R&B stations in New York City. She used to dish all kinds of celebrity gossip, but she also use to delve out some pretty practical and real advice.

One of the things she would always say that stuck with me was: “straight talk makes for straight understanding.” This would be her usual advice to people seeking out the best way to approach a difficult discussion with a significant other or family member.

The message behind the saying is simple. When you communicate clearly and truthfully it will make for thorough understanding of the message you are trying to convey to that person.

50% of successful performance management is driven by communication. It starts when a person joins your company and is unclear about what is expected of them. At this point, you, the manager must lay the foundation-by communicating your expectations for job performance, office behavior and any other ideals the company holds dear.  Sixty to ninety days from that start date should be another conversation about how the employee is feeling in their new role with reciprocal sharing on the part of the manager regarding how the employee is doing so far. If the employee is not clear on your expectations at this point, the employee-employer partnership is headed for failure.

Failure to communicate performance expectations may go like this (Here is a manager speaking to another manager about Jane’s performance):

Manager 1: “Jane is constantly sending reports to me with major mistakes-it is like she doesn’t reconcile what she sends me. I also notice that she is on the phone discussing family issues for long periods of time. “

Manager 2: “Have you spoken to her about it?”

Manager 1: “Not yet. I kind of told her to watch her time on the phone in passing. I will address it during her performance review next month.  Maybe a “needs improvement” rating will wake her up.”

As a manager, you can merely skate through every performance review period breathing a sigh of relief that you moved some meaningless paper along or you can get real about managing performance and make sure your employees are abundantly clear on your expectations for their performance. Don’t do the cowardly thing and remain mum all year as you see an employee failing to meet expectations and then hit them with a poor review they weren’t expecting. It’s not only unfair to the employee, but a sign that you lack the ability to manage simple performance situations. Instead, muster up the courage to address performance deficits head-on with the attitude you will be helping the employee, yourself and the company by being honest.

Good managers communicate clearly, immediately and consistently to properly manage performance. Managing isn’t for chumps and performance management isn’t about delving out unnecessary amounts of recognition and punishment; it is about taking the appropriate actions to best respond to both favorable and unfavorable performance outcomes. Remember you are managing adults that for all intents and purposes are capable of receiving criticism, if warranted. You would be surprised to find your employees will respect you for having a straight talk with them about their performance. It draws respect because it puts the responsibility back on the employee and makes them choose to: 1) consciously change the way they perform or 2) decide whether they are in the right job with the right company.

The next time there is a misunderstanding with regard to performance expectations, don’t automatically blame the employee. Reflect on your actions as a manager and decide whether that employee was given a fair advantage of having a clear understanding of what was expected of them.

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