The hard truth about performance management is that its success – like most good things – requires challenging and sometimes unpleasant work. When done well, the process asks managers to stretch their team’s performance by setting big goals and giving regular, direct feedback.
Managers naturally resist those activities since they conflict with our strong psychological desire to avoid conflict and get along well with others. It’s one key reason that managers don’t engage in apparently simple activities like coaching their direct reports. In other cases, the process itself is the barrier. PM is an eye-rollingly bureaucratic and complex activity in far too many companies. All psychological barriers aside, simply engaging in the process at these companies is a decidedly unpleasant task.
Here’s the good news: First, when done correctly, PM is the most powerful performance-driving process in your company. Setting big goals and delivering regular feedback incrementally increases individual performance – full stop. The scientific evidence is conclusive and compelling. Second, It’s possible to eliminate both the psychological and structural barriers to make the process far easier for managers to execute. The answers for how to do this are already well known and readily available. Those answers don’t eliminate the hard work from PM, but they allow you to focus that hard work on the most powerful levers of success.