Chris Welford: The Performance Problem – part 2

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In my last blog, I discussed some of the systemic problems with performance management but they are dwarfed by the most fundamental stumbling block – the people involved!

If performance really is about potential without the bothersome issue of interference (The Inner Game of Tennis/Work – Gallwey), then anybody who manages others needs to really understand what interference is and how to deal with it.

My view is that most of what gets in the way of achieving goals exists at a level below observable behaviour, so put your lists of behavioural indicators away for a moment and ponder the following:

  • Poor values fit – some cultures suit some people better than others. If you are managing a clash of values, then front up to it and talk about it as it’s not going to go away by itself.
  • Limited self-knowledge – many people have capability and reputational blind spots; leadership is often about raising awareness in others without making them feel defensive. This is a subtle art and not helped by a box-ticking approach to feedback.
  • Limiting beliefs – everyone entertains beliefs about themselves – what they can and cannot do; what they think other people think of them and what they think their potential is. For many people these beliefs are the result of scripts that were written a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean that they are accurate or helpful.
  • Limiting self-image – scrape the surface and you might find all sorts of labels that people have incorporated into their identity. Some of these labels are useful but many have just been inherited and live on relatively unquestioned

Dealing with these things requires coaching skills. They take time to learn and mastering them isn’t meant to be easy – so if you want great performance, develop great performance managers!

Next time – why some people don’t respond to feedback.

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About Chris Welford

Chris leads Serco Consulting’s Organisational Psychology and Change service line and is a Chartered member of the CIPD, a member of the British Psychological Society (BPS) and the European Coaching and Mentoring Council (EMCC) and an experienced management consultant and coach.

He holds a BSc. (Hons) in Psychology, an MA in Law and Employment Relations (Dist.), post graduate qualifications in Business and Executive Coaching and has over 20 years of HRM experience.

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2 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Interesting blog Chris. I think fear underlies all emotions and that anger and sorrow are symptoms of fear. If anger is a response to an unmet need, the underlying feeling is fear that our need will never be met/fear there isn’t ‘enough’, fear we are not seen/valued and so on. Sorrow is also a response if you like, to fear – the other side of teh psychological ‘explode/implode’ (ooh I just invented that!) response to fear. The response is the same of course – listen, empathise, engage, acknowledge, ‘meet’ the person’s feeling, before even attempting to move on to the issues at hand
    Cheers Katherine

  2. My thoughts are that we make too much of a ‘big thing’ of feedback, by which we say, ‘can I give you some feedback’, or make a formal set time for feedback. It would be a lot easier for people to accept if it was a normal part of the day much in the same way you might offer someone a coffee or ask how things are going.

    If you come out of a meeting and someone did something well I believe you should say so then and there, similarly, if there is something they could have have done to make their performance stronger then also say so, no big build up, just say it matter of factly.

    This is where managers have a real responsibility to role model the right behaviours by not only giving timely feedback but also in asking for feedback from their team regularly as part of normal conversation. The sooner we remove the build up, threat and fear of getting feedback, the sooner it will be a natural part of everyone’s working day. To finish I would also add that the most important aspect of giving feedback is to maintain and demonstrate a positive regard for others and a willingness to help them improve.

    And of course, I welcome feedback on my comments….


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