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Performance Management - 15 April 2014

When performance management comes up in organisations, the focus is invariably on the employee.  The employee is the one not meeting targets.  The employee is the one unresponsive to coaching.  The employee is the one who won’t improve.  The focus, though, is very rarely on the leader, and new research suggests that’s where it should be.

Published in the International Journal of Human Resource Management, the study discovered that performance management is more effective when leadership perceptions are positive.  In other words, the more highly an employee thinks of his or her boss, the more likely they are to do whatever it takes to change.

In particular, the researchers identified five leadership traits that demonstrably lead to higher leadership perceptions and subsequently better performance.  The five traits are: 

Decisiveness:  The most desirable leaders are those who are firm in their resolve.  They have the power to make decisions and, when they do so, are not in doubt about the decision they’ve made.  They’re determined and they do not waste time reaching a conclusion.

Intelligent:  They are also clever.  Employees admire them as experts who are brilliant at their job.  To expand on the previous paragraph, they aren’t just good at making decisions; they’re good at making good decisions – and people trust them for it.

Informed:  They also know what they’re talking about.  They are clearly knowledgeable, and this is evident during performance discussions.  Instead of just telling an employee what’s going wrong, they first explore potential causes before prescribing the right solutions.

Communicative:  In addition, they provide employees with clarity.  They articulate their expectations, provide guidance on how to achieve those expectations, and detail the impact that arises when those expectations aren’t met. 

Confidence-builder:  Talented performance leaders are those who make employees feel good about themselves by using language (both and verbal and non-verbal) to convince them they’re absolutely capable of attaining the target that currently eludes them.

It’s true that sometimes – perhaps often – the cause of sustained poor performance can be directly attributed to your employees’ incapacity or unwillingness.  But, as you’re going through the performance management process, it’s wise to also reflect on your own leadership traits because they really could be making the problem worse.

As the old saying suggests: whenever you point one finger, there are always three pointing right back at you.



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