Chapter 7. A Performance Question

At some point in your leadership career, you’ll encounter performance management. My first bit of advice is the hardest: don’t ever let yourself think or say the words “performance management.” This is impossible, but aspirational. I will explain.

My hard-earned definition of performance management is: a well-defined and well-understood workflow that leads either to an employee’s improved performance or their departure.

The challenge begins the moment you say or think “performance management.” From that point on, the rules of manager-employee engagement change. The natural way you interact and communicate with this individual becomes structured and unnatural because performance…it’s being managed. Easygoing conversations become stilted, oddly…timed, and strangely punctuated. Smart, charismatic humans will tell you, “This is part of being a manager.” These humans are right, and while there are leadership merit badges to be acquired during performance management, the ultimate badge is awarded when you act early and (now for my second bit of advice) don’t end up in performance management.

The situations that yield performance management are as varied as the individuals involved in them, but I am steadfast in my advice: do all you can to avoid the consequential risk-averse, fear-based mindset of performance management, because once you’re there, reality changes.

The Checklist Sentence

In our 1:1, you start the conversation, “Nelson has been here ...

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