Performance planning is one of the most powerful tools for managers and their people. Yet, too often, I don’t see organizations fully exploit the power of performance plans and the performance planning/management process.
Too often, we view this process as “something HR makes us do.” As a result, we take whatever template HR provides, fill in a few blanks, like quota, comp, etc, then send it to the person. Each person has basically the same performance plan, each person files it away, ignoring it until the performance review.
Sometimes, we also view performance plans in a “punitive” manner. “If you don’t meet your performance goals, we will put you on a PIP and you may be fired…..” Again, this is what HR needs to make sure when we terminate someone, they can’t come back and sue us.
Finally, too often, we view our primary lever on performance as being the comp plan. As a result, comp plans become overly complex as we try to induce a “pay for performance” approach to driving performance.
We miss huge opportunities in these classic ways in which we implement the performance planning/management process. However, done well, the performance plan and management process drives tremendous accountability, growth, and development. And, designed well, comp plans reinforce key elements of the performance plan.
Great performance planning is a collaborative process. Something developed and agreed upon between managers and the individual for whom the plan is being developed. The plan, ultimately, is a set of shared expectations and commitments focused on achieving the goals agreed upon.
Great performance planning provides tremendous clarity on those things for which an individual is accountable, and the accountability of the manager in supporting the person in meeting their goals. In discussing and aligning on them, there is no confusion on expectations or what the person is accountable for.
These goals are not limited to quota attainment, specific performance objectives like retention, new customer acquisition, product line sales, etc. While those are important, the sales person’s job goes far beyond these things.
They may include customer satisfaction/experience goals, or other expectations we have about doing their jobs. Critical goals might also professional development and growth goals. Skills/capabilities we expect the person to develop, things that enable them to grow current performance and future contribution. Or they might be expectations around team work and collaboration. And there are, inevitably, some responsibilities sellers have that are outside doing deals and building pipeline.
The performance planning and management process focuses defining the complete expectations, goals, and accountabilities we expect for the role.
The tremendous power of the performance planning process is that it provides a roadmap, both to the individual and the manager, of what we hope to achieve in the year. As a result, we can develop specific action plans to achieve the goals. For example, in professional development, what developmental programs does the person need to participate in, what is the role of the manager in supporting the person
Developing the performance plan is a collaborative process, it is something managers co-develop with the sales person. And in this process, we make sure we are aligned with our intent, we also make very clear the responsibilities of not only the seller, but those of the manager in supporting the seller in achieving the goals that have been agreed upon.
Stated differently, the performance plan is as much about the manager’s performance as it is about that of the individual.
The plan provides a framework for the overall coaching and development of the person and helps the manager understand what they must do day to day to coach the person. For example, our deal coaching not only is about the deal, but reinforces elements of the performance plan. One on one’s deal with tactical issues as well as reinforcing the performance plan.
The process by which we manage performance becomes a “living” process. It provides a context through which we can tie day to day, week to week activities to the attainment of the overall performance goals. It provides us a framework for knowing when we are going off course, so we can take corrective action on a more timely basis–rather than dealing with performance issues in a crisis mode.
Our weekly conversations, our coaching, the support we provide our people need to tie to the overall performance expectations we have agreed upon with our people. There should be no disconnect between what we discuss, daily, with our people and the things we have agreed upon in the setting performance expectations.
This plan is, probably, one of the most powerful tools to drive performance in the organization. Combined with the day to day coaching and support, we have the ability to help each individual, and the organization, achieve consistently high levels of performance.