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Performance Management–A Question Of Leadership

by David Brock on August 19th, 2012

I’m tough on sales, marketing, and business professionals.  I have high expectations on how each of us performs.  I’m proud of the professions of selling and marketing and constantly want to see improvement.  In many posts in this blog, I’m critical of what we do, how we act, how we perform.  We should constantly be seeking to perform at the highest levels possible.

However, we are not alone in our responsibility and accountability to perform at the highest levels possible.  Our direct managers are responsible and accountable for our performance, and leadership all the way up the food chain is accountable for assuring the performance of each individual, team, and the organization as a whole is maximized.

Ultimately, performance and performance management is a question of leadership.  It’s the leader’s responsibility to define what performance is in each role in the organization.  It’s the leader’s responsibility to put people in those roles who have the skills, abilities, commitment, behaviors, and drive to perform as expected.  It’s the leader’s responsibility to identify gaps in performance, helping the individual or organization close those gaps.  Whether through coaching, training, providing new processes, programs or tools, the job of the leader is to identify and close all performance gaps.

Sometimes, an individual, despite all the coaching, development and support, can not or will not improve their performance, meeting expectations.  Clearly, they are in the wrong role and need to be moved into a role where they can perform–even if it’s not in the organization.  It’s a leader’s responsibility to do this, not doing this is not the person’s fault but the leader’s fault.  Having situations like this persist within an organization becomes the fault of senior leadership.

It’s usually pretty easy to identify those people who can not or will not perform to expectations.  Too often, however, management fails to take timely action.   Overtime, performance will erode in the organization.

More often, however, I find great people with huge potential who have been badly managed.  Their performance may not be at the desired level, but it is less their “fault” and more that of management (notice I am refraining from use of the word Leader).  Too often, I find managers who simply don’t care.  They worry more about what’s happening above them or pushing paper, than they do about their people.  Or I find managers that have not defined performance expectations clearly, or they haven’t coached or developed the people (or do a terrible job at it).  Or I find managers who are being badly managed themselves.  In turn,  the performance–or absence of performance of these managers may not be addressed, and so on up the food chain.

Too often we make mistakes with people.  They may have performed badly and never improved because they were never coached, developed, or challenged and supported to perform better.  These people, when “liberated” from a bad manager can thrive.  Put in the right job, understanding performance expectations, given the opportunity to perform, coached, and developed, they often become the best performers in the organization.

Bad performance can be a problem with an individual her manager.

Consistent, sustained performance issues are never problems of the individual’s, they are the problems of management and can go far up the food chain.  We never “fix” consistent and sustained performance issues by addressing only the individual, but by looking at managers and what they are doing.

In fairness to managers, they may not understand it’s their responsibility to manage performance.  Too often they tend view their jobs as administrators.  Or they may not have been trained, coached, or developed to serve as managers.

How do you define your job as a manager and leader?  Are you working with your people or are you managing reports?

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