Managing poor performance – setting expectations

Last week, we opened a discussion with 3 of our coaches on managing poor performance, with a post from Marg Lennon. This week we hear from Paula Liverani-Brooks, a Human Resources leader in multinational organisations ranging from Bio-Tech to Consumer Goods and Financial institutions. Paula says:

Executive Coach Exchange Paula Liverani Brooks
Paula Liverani-Brooks, Executive Coach

We have all been evaluated on our performance objectives and more and more companies include behaviours when talking about performance. Poor performance is when someone is unable to meet their KPIs either in terms of objectives or behaviours or both.

As managers we all know that it is much easier to help someone who is lacking technical skills. We can teach them how to improve, find a solution and even send them to a training course. When it comes to behaviours it is always harder.

Jack Welch, Chairman and CEO of General Electric from 1981 to 2001, divided people’s performance into 4 categories.

“Type 1: shares our values; makes the numbers—sky’s the limit!

Type 2: shares the values; misses the numbers—typically, another chance, or two.

Type 3: doesn’t share the values; doesn’t make the numbers—gone.

Type 4 is the toughest call of all: the manager who doesn’t share the values, but delivers the numbers. This type is the toughest to part with because organizations always want to deliver and to let someone go who gets the job done is yet another unnatural act. But we have to remove these Type 4s because they have the power, by themselves, to destroy the open, informal, trust-based culture we need to win today and tomorrow.

 We made our leap forward when we began removing our Type 4 managers and making it clear to the entire company why they were asked to leave—not for the usual “personal reasons” or “to pursue other opportunities,” but for not sharing our values. Until an organization develops the courage to do this, people will never have full confidence that these soft values are truly real.”

If only performance management were always as easy as it was for Jack Welch!

I do share the notion that behaviours are incredibly important but things are not always as straightforward in today’s world. It is our job as managers to make sure that we identify the issues before we can legally or morally terminate people.

So, even though I share Jack’s principles, I think that when it comes to performance as a manager the first thing you need to do is set expectations. The clearer the expectations are, the easier it is to become good at performance management. At the same time the expectations need to be MUTUAL – so you need to have a dialogue!

It is important that when you set expectations you do not do this as a one-way exercise. As a manager, you need to be able to get the dialogue going. Setting expectations is the opposite of micro-managing, so make sure you have those frank and honest conversations about what needs to be done, what behaviours you would like to observe and what the timelines are.

Once that is done it is important to have updates and check-ups, to see what type of help is needed and where corrections need to be made. Managing people is a full-time job and how well you do it will also directly affect your results. You want your team to succeed because that will also reflect positively on you.

Contributor: Paula Liverani-Brooks is an executive coach based in Sydney and is available Australia-wide by arrangement. Paula is a Human Resources leader who has extensive experience in multinational organisations ranging from Bio-Tech to Consumer Goods and Financial institutions.

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