Should We Be Coaching or Managing Performance?

Between employees who cannot cite any value in the performance evaluation process to practitioners who treat it as one more administrative task; performance management has taken a beating over the years. I always say the employee-employer dynamic is very much like a relationship- you should never go to bed mad and communication is key. In over ten years of working I have been reviewed five times. Each time, I found the process to be long, difficult and chock full of obligatory awkward conversations. This is coming from someone in HR, go figure! Which raises the question, if both the employer and employee are dissatisfied with this process, why not change it?

To start, the name “performance management” insinuates that leaders actually have control over performance. I would wager that this notion of managing performance is outdated and far from reality. Performance is owned and managed by none other than the employee. It is the employee who is responsible for knowing what is expected of them and decides how they will execute. Yes, management along with other external factors can have either a positive or negative effect on performance. However, the heavy-lifting is left to the devices of the employee. Try as any manager may, the best you can do is provide an ecosystem of success where resources and support are adequate; while coaching your employees along the way. By no stretch of the imagination can you coerce your employees to perform any better than their abilities and efforts will allow.

Isn’t performance coaching a better approach?

I think so. It takes the drudgery out of managing a process that neither party is gleaning value from. Performance coaching takes the process from “let’s just get this over with” to ” how can I help you be successful”. Career progression and upward mobility in organizations are seldom possible without someone at the leadership level advocating for you. Performance coaching is a perfect way to shift the trajectory of the common performance conversation to a mutual dialogue where each person feels comfortable discussing their expectations, needs and solutions to moving beyond any performance barriers.

Here’s some reasons why you may want a performance coach vs. someone who manages performance:

1) Good coaches will cheer you on and will be your biggest critic when you fail to execute.

2) You are empowered to take control of your development; they are merely there to facilitate your goals.

3) You become more than an evaluation or calibration form. Your coach can now connect with the human and hopefully better understand your motivations and career goals.

4) As your accountability partner, your coach will be responsible for holding you accountable for meeting goals and company expectations.

5) Lastly, it could be a safe haven where failure, mistakes and performance deficits become action plans for continuous improvement- rather than fodder for a static metric.

I say ditch the performance evaluation forms, calibration meetings and all the other nonsense that goes along with performance management. Instead, incorporate regular, open and honest discussion and collaboration to improve people at whatever level they are at. It may sound crazy, but maybe we need to get back to assuming that our employees are doing the best they can everyday. On that premise alone, this concept of performance coaching is worth a shot.