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What You Need to Know to Successfully Handle Performance Issues


Looking back, I realize I knew little about dealing with day-to-day performance issues when I first started in the human relations field.


I’d focus on an employee’s failure. If he didn’t achieve desired results, I’d entreat him to try harder. You see, back then I worked under the illusion that focusing on poor results would magically improve results.


Had you looked over my shoulder, you’d see that I used the annual performance review to determine where employees needed to improve. Most of us approached performance this way back then. We’d set objectives with our employees and then work with them to determine how best to achieve those objectives.


We knew about performance management.


But we understood little about coaching even though the coaching concept was spreading in the business world.
What we did know, was that we couldn’t model coaching after sports coaches who bellowed at sweaty athletes. That would get us fired. Further, we understood that coaching in business isn’t like life coaching with its acronyms and cheery maxims.


As a result, we didn’t use coaching, and we fell flat when dealing with day-to-day performance issues.


Today — thanks to years of experience and witnessing coaching’s popularity and success in the business world — I understand how the best results when solving daily performance issues require working at two distinct levels: 

  1. Day-to-day performance management
  2. Continuous coaching for development


What’s the difference between the two? Let me explain.


Performance management is about setting objectives with people who need to improve and then working with them to determine how to best achieve those objectives.


Coaching is asking people questions until they find answers themselves.


Coaching facilitates someone’s thinking and gets him to use his own creativity and initiative. It helps him gain insight into a problem, resolve the problem, and take ownership of the situation.


With performance management, on the other hand, you tell someone what to do. As a result, you take away a learning opportunity and likely condition him to rely on you for guidance. You might also take away the opportunity for creativity, initiative and ownership.


That’s not to say there’s no room for performance management when developing your employees.

What I am saying is that managing performance without coaching limits results.

 
Here’s an example to help you understand the difference between performance management and coaching and how you might use both.


Let me set the stage: Recently I read about a manager frustrated by a subordinate who consistently failed to produce a critical monthly report on time. The subordinate claimed she could not get figures she needed for the report from her peer and suggested the manager approach this peer about the problem. Unfortunately, the manager followed her suggestion and now this peer is upset that his colleague went over his head. The relationship between the two peers plummeted.


Do you see the real issue here? It isn’t the late reports. It’s the performance of the employee, the subordinate who is unable to build a productive relationship with her peer.


“Now wait one minute,” you say. “She has to have the reports.”


Sure, I agree, the reports are important. But in the long term, it’s more critical that this employee learn relationship building. Not only will this skill solve the immediate problem with her peer, it can affect countless more relationships down the road.


So how would I suggest approaching this problem?


In this situation, and in order to help the subordinate figure out what to do, I wouldn’t tell her what to do. Instead, I suggest you ask a lot of questions. Go beyond the monthly reports and ask her to identify what she wants to achieve.


To begin, you might talk about the objectives of the reports. Then you could ask about the information needed to meet those objectives, and why it is important to have the information. In other words, focus on performance management. You want her to fully recognize the importance of those reports to the organization’s objectives.


After you’ve helped her fully understand the situation, you could tilt to the coaching side. You could ask the subordinate about her peer. What does she know about him? What kind of relationship does she have with him? Does she notice his reaction when she asks for the figures? How does she approach him?

 
It’s like peeling an onion. Layer by layer you get her to understand their relationship and identify where they are of like minds and where their issues lie.

 
You could end by asking her whether she can use the information she’s identified about her peer to improve communication. Because many can’t fully answer this particular question, you should come prepared with a list of suggestions. In other words, at this point, you may have to tip the balance from coaching back to telling her what to do, performance management.


You might also ask her to come up with her own strategies for improving communication (coaching), but then return to the performance management style by advising her how to use those.

 
Do you see how you are working at two distinct levels, day-to-day performance management and continuous coaching?

 
There’s room for both performance management and coaching in developing your human capital. But you can’t go directly to a coaching experience until you deal with a performance issue. No one can initiate change, if she hasn’t adopted the reasons to make the change.

 
On the other hand, you’ll fail to maximize your performance results with performance management alone.


That’s why the two, day-to-day performance management and coaching, must work hand-in-hand.

Your Solution Toolbox: Learning What Makes Us Tick


Sometimes — many times, in fact -— it helps to know what makes people tick, their basic thoughts, feelings and behavior; why did they do what they do.


And not only what makes other people tick, but what makes we ourselves tick as well.


By gaining insight into why we do what we do, we can change. By gaining insight into why our co-workers do what they do, we can adjust the way we approach them.


Enter Profiles Performance Indicator™ (PPI), an assessment tool that can help identify key innate behaviors, those lodged at our cores.

 
You can use the Performance Indicator™ to understand your employee’s behavioral characteristics. Why they behave the way they do when under pressure, for example. You can also use it to evaluate differences in employee styles.

 
A personality style employee performance assessment, the PPI measures behavioral tendencies in five critical, job-related competences: productivity, work quality, initiative, teamwork and problem solving.


It also outlines how to use the knowledge you gain.


If you are interested in learning more about Profile International's Performance Indicator™, call me today at 952-322-3330 or send an email to mgorski@mgassessments.com.

HR Consulting
Call me, too, if you are looking for professional assistance with your personnel questions. We’ll help you learn how to:

  • Understand your workers’ strengths, weaknesses and interests
  • Match people to job demands
  • Increase employee performance throughout your organization

Let's Talk! We offer a no-obligation consultation to informally assess your current policies, procedures and practices. This may help determine what's missing in your current programs. Again, call 952-322-3330 or send an email to mgorski@mgassessments.com.