How to Manage performance

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. To explain this, I’m going to use Tennis.

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

He 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.

How do you help him?

Do you tell him what he should be trying to do?

No. 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.

Do you tell him why it’s important he does it?

No. He doesn’t have an understanding problem. He is well aware that the reason he is losing games is that he can’t win his serve. Giving Feedback would not help him. He knows it’s important he gets better at serving.

Do you ask him to practice on his own?

No. He doesn’t have a competence problem. This isn’t a skill he has that he just needs to work on. He actually can’t do this thing. Asking him to practise the movement wouldn’t help him, because he’d be practising doing it wrong.

Should you train him specifically how to serve?

Yes. He does have a skills problem. Time spent with him 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. After this, he could practise and work on his competence.

Now let’s say you have another player. He has been playing for a little while longer, and his serve is excellent, when he’s on form. However, sometimes he seems to lose all focus in the middle of a match, and when he does, his serve gets terrible. He too is losing matches because of his serve.

Ask the same questions, and you’ll see that even though the problem itself is the same - they are both losing because of their serve - the action you need to remedy it is totally different.

When we identify which specific element of performance is the issue, it allows us to make better decisions when we address it.

Performance Management

Being clear on why someone isn’t performing is the key to improving their performance. If you try to address one element of performance with the wrong tool, it will be ineffective at best, counterproductive at worst.

Make sure you know which area of performance you need to focus on before you take any actions to address it.

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