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Managing Performance
Managing Performance

Are Difficult Conversations Really
That Difficult?

Are Difficult Conversations Really That Difficult?

When I ask people managers what part of their role they enjoy the least, it is really common to hear them refer to performance management and more specifically dealing with any under-performance that needs to be addressed.

There is just something about needing to ‘point something out’ or ‘tell someone that they are not doing great’ that makes us uncomfortable. We all naturally want to be liked and have a well-functioning team where everyone is happy and so just the prospect of something getting in the way of this makes us want to avoid it at all cost.

Staying comfortable will not support development

Having a conversation with someone where they are informed that they are not doing that well, is definitely something that the other person is not going to receive with a smile full of joy on their face but ultimately it is the conversation that will add the most value to their work experience.

Managers often convince themselves that giving feedback about an area of performance where improvement is needed is a “difficult conversation” but that simply isn’t the case. Performance feedback that is delivered in a factual and constructive way should just be part of what happens in your organisation. Everyone has areas in which they need to improve, and individuals simply can’t progress through their career if they are never told what they need to get better at.

Whilst it’s understandable that managers would prefer to avoid having conversations that may not be entirely positive, avoiding them will mean that people will never reach their full potential. Managers are in a unique position of being able to legitimately give feedback to their employees and this wonderful opportunity is so often missed. Their role of line managing someone gives them permission in the eyes of the person they line manage, to give them feedback and comment on their performance.

I recently learned about eagles and how the mothers intentionally make their children uncomfortable in order to develop them. The nest of the eagle is filled with sharp sticks with rough edges at the bottom and then this layer is covered up with softer items to provide a cushion. So, baby eagles are very comfortable sitting on the soft part of the nest and enjoying their peaceful lives where mother eagle provides food and safety for them. However, once the babies are older, the mother starts removing the softer parts from the nest little by little so that the bottom layer comes up. Baby eagles are no longer comfortable at this point, but mother eagle knows that they need to learn to fly and therefore need to leave the comfort of the nest. So, she very intentionally creates discomfort in them so that they could realise their potential and learn to fly!

Dual Managers Responsibility

This same principle should be appreciated and adopted by people managers. Their responsibility is to ensure that their employees have all they need to fulfil their roles and that they are also constantly pushed outside of their comfort zone in order to develop new skills and gain further experience.

Sometimes all it takes is a shift in the mindset of the manager to appreciate that they are failing their employees if they are not developing them and, when they take the plunge, managers can achieve amazing results!

At Lighter HR Solutions we work with many clients to support their managers in addressing performance with their teams either by running team training workshops, having individual coaching sessions or just providing advice on live people issues as and when it’s needed.

If you would like any support with managing performance in your business, please give us a call on 0203 139 1649 and one of our consultants will be happy to see how we can help your managers tackle performance issues confidently and effectively.