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Performance Management–Are You Looking The Other Way?

by David Brock on February 28th, 2011

At times, sales managers have to put under performers on the proverbial “measured mile.”  That’s when the sales person has a period of time to meet specific goals, improve performance, or face the potential of losing their job.

Typically, the manager and sales person sit down, they establish specific goals, a plan of action, and a schedule under which the sales person can redeem himself, getting back on target.  The manager and sales person establish what each will do to ensure a successful outcome.  At least that’s the theory of the performance improvement plan.

Most often, however, it never comes close to this, it ends up being dramatically different.

Sadly, too often, performance issues simply aren’t addressed.  Managers don’t step up to addressing performance issues with their people, choosing instead to turn a blind eye to it.  They may criticize the offending sales person, perhaps threatening them, telling them to shape up.  They seldom sit down and identify specific issues and what needs to change.  They seldom establish a plan and coach the improvements that are needed.  But this is in the best of cases.

More often, managers just tend to push offending performers to the side.  Not really addressing the issues, perhaps isolating them, but leaving them on board—serving as a distraction to everyone on the team.  Often, these poor performers may not really know they are poor performers or may never know how to improve performance.  When the opportunity comes to do a lay off (or the opportunity is created to lay off people), these non performers are quickly given an exit package.  They go off, find another job, probably perform marginally, and the cycle repeats itself.

It’s unfortunate for all involved.  Too often performance issues aren’t really addressed, they’re just ignored, pushed to the side, and linger until someone moves on.  It’s crippling to the organization—how can you develop a performance based mentality when performance issues aren’t addressed.  It’s unfortunate for the poor performer, they may never get the feedback, coaching and opportunity to recognize their performance problem and improve.  It’s unfortunate for the manager, he isn’t stepping up to his responsibilities, he loses credibility when he doesn’t address performance issues.

Performance management is one of the primary responsibilities of leaders.  Leaders can choose whose performance they want to manage, they have to address everyone in the organization-top performers, those in the middle, and those at the bottom.

Putting someone on a “measured mile” is difficult.  It’s an emotionally charged time, both for the sales person and the manager.  It requires time and focus.  Ideally, the coaching managers do pre-empt the need to do this, but there are times when a performance improvement plan is necessary.

In my next post, I’ll talk more about the “measured mile.”  When the manager and sales person enter into this process, both must be committed to a successful outcome—otherwise  both are wasting time.

What are you doing to step up to performance management problems?  Are you ignoring them or are you proactively addressing them?


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  1. David,Very good information about performance management. I would agree the best way to improve performance of the sales manager as well as the whole organizations is to identify weknesss, work on them, implement a good plan to overcome those weaknesses, and finally see good results.
    I think organizations can use their strengths to overcome weaknesses, for example, if you an organizations is financially strong it can use this resource to train their sales employees may through professional consultants.

    You are absolutely right if under performer will not get feedback he will never improve and work on his weaknesses. This will not only harm the organizations he is working fir, but his future career as well. Excellent post David. Your material is always very professional and practical. Thank you.

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