It's always a thorny issue, and the phrase "they manage performance really well" isn't one we hear often enough. So, what can help you be more effective as a boss?
- Don't be vague
Be clear upfront about how you're defining someone's performance. Are you assessing them based just on what they do, or how they do it as well? Be specific about the opportunities inherent in, and the consequences of, good and bad performance. This can seem like a subjective area, but it doesn't need to be. Yes, a bit of judgement is always required, but so much of it can be objective.
- What gets measured gets done
Ensure that high-priority areas are all measurable. These can include projects, practising certain behaviours, attaining agreed figures, operational statistics and so on. It is better to have a few, clearly defined goals that can be tracked than a plethora of vague aspirations that will only cause debate later on.
- Offer a drip-feed not a tsunami
Don't leave performance management to the formal conversations that have to take place once or twice a year. It is about providing ongoing feedback and no one being surprised when it comes to determining an official progress rating. Don't leave it until the last minute or the set time to update on performance; have regular conversations instead.
- Keep your distance
There can be a real difference between saying "they're a great person to work with" and "they're great at their job". If you are managing someone else's performance, remember you need to be able to step back and provide an objective assessment of how someone has performed. It's not easy, but it's about being fair, not nice.
- Follow through
Whatever the opportunities and consequences you set out at the start, make sure you follow through once someone's performance has been rated. If you don't, it all stands for nothing and you're just ticking boxes.