How to Manage Performance

How to Manage Performance

31 December 2021

The key to effective Performance Management is understanding the components of performance and identifying which one needs attention.

There’s an acronym you can use to help you remember to think about it (it’s the only business acronym I actually like, by the way). If someone is performing badly, ask yourself: Why do they SUCK?

  • Skills
  • Understanding
  • Competence
  • Knowledge

Performance isn’t one thing, it’s four things. If you address the wrong one, you won’t get anywhere.

Let’s say you’re a tennis coach, and you want to help your players get better.

You have a player who has been playing for a few months. He knows all the rules of tennis, and can hit most of the strokes. His serve is terrible though, and he loses most matches because of it. He does everything wrong, his action is all off, and it’s horrible to look at.

He doesn’t have a knowledge problem. Explaining to him that he should try to get the ball over the net and into the box on the other side would not be helpful. He knows that’s what he’s supposed to do.

He doesn’t have an understanding problem either. He is well aware that the reason he is losing games is that he can’t win his serve. Explaining to him that it’s important he gets better at serving will not be helpful in the slightest.

He also doesn’t have a competence problem. This isn’t a skill he has that he just isn’t able to apply consistently, or use at the right times. He actually can’t do this thing. Asking him to practise the movement on his own probably wouldn’t help him, because he’d be practising doing it wrong.

What he does have is a skills problem: He could be helped with training of that specific skill. Time spent showing him how to serve properly, breaking down the mechanics of the movement, and adjusting the way he serves would help him win more games.

When we identify a performance issue, we need to break down why it’s happening, and take the appropriate action:

Do they know what they’re supposed to do?

  • No - You need to provide knowledge. Books, guides, videos, courses, or just an explanation.
  • Yes - This isn’t a knowledge issue, move on

Do they understand why what they’re doing is a problem?

  • Yes - If they know what they’re doing wrong, and know that it is causing a problem, then this isn’t an understanding issue
  • No - If they don’t know, then this is an understanding issue and you can address it with Feedback and information. You break down the logic of the situation and help them with coaching.

Do they have the skills to do the thing you’re asking them to do?

  • Yes - If you’ve seen them work to the required standard before, but they’re just not doing it consistently enough, then this isn’t a skills issue. They can do it, they just aren’t doing it.
  • No - If they can’t actually do the thing you need them to do - if you’re asking them to play the guitar for example and they just don’t know how to do that - then you can address this with training.

Are they being inconsistent?

  • No - If they know what to do, and they understand it’s important to do it, and they know how to do it, and they’re doing it consistently - there’s no performance problem.
  • Yes - They have a competence problem. This is the hardest thing to solve. It can’t be done with explaining, training, or giving feedback. This could potentially be addressed with coaching, shadowing, or new incentives.

Being clear on why someone isn’t performing is the key to improving their performance. So, ask yourself: why do they SUCK?

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