What airplane safety demonstrations tell us about conducting performance reviews

In airplane safety demonstrations they ask you to put on your own oxygen mask prior to considering others. It is the same with performance management. Help yourself first, get aware of your perception biases; only then should you attempt to help others with their performance issues. Read on for some tips on how to help yourself before helping others to improve.

Self-management for performance managers.

In a recent coaching conversation the light bulb suddenly went on for the manager I was coaching. He realised that he was (a significant) part of the underperformance problem he was experiencing with his staff. For a coach this is the moment where true behavioural and attitudinal change can begin. Without reaching this “ah-ha!” moment it is pointless (or as a minimum very inefficient) to achieve a performance improvement in either the manager or his reports.

So what? I hear you ask… well the take away message I would like you to get is that you have to invest in your own self-awareness prior to attempting performance management/improvement in others. If you are not sure of your self and how your perception can be overly coloured with your world view then you run the risk of having all your people-problems being “out there”, absolving yourself from being part of what is playing out.

Self-awareness tips for performance managers

You don’t need to be perfect before you give others feedback on their performance but to be most effective in improving a person’s performance it is best to have high levels of self-awareness regarding how YOU contribute to the person’s current underperformance. Here are some tips on how you can do get more self-aware as you execute a performance management process:

  1. psychological profile: introvert/extrovert, top-down versus bottom-up, visionary-creative versus completer-finisher, left brain-right brain, transactional/relational… etc. there are numerous psych tests out there that profile you and regardless of whether you “believe” in them or not they do have some explanatory power as to how we inter-relate with others. They articulate our preferences and often give us clues as to how we prefer to communicate and see the world. You should know your profile and preferably those you manage and work with, this will help you see how perceived underperformance may contain an element of  your biases. Knowing people are different does not change what success is, it just ensures the language used and the approach taken to getting there makes sense  (given their psych profiles) to all involved.
  2. your de-railers: do you know the triggers that bring you undone, upset you out of proportion to the cause and negatively impact your inter-personal relations? Anyone who has been coached should know these and be intimate with them. Having self-awareness means you are continually on the watch for early signs of derailment, additionally you should have a self-management plan to keep you on the rails under pressure situations. If you have no insights into your derailers I suggest some reflection on times where you would have done things differently, examine what triggered your regretful behaviour. Look for patterns or cycles that are having a negative impact on your work. Be mindful of your derailers as you manage others and their performance.
  3. it is my fault (all of it): to boost your empathy for the other person’s situation try as an initial position in your thinking to assume ALL responsibility for the other person’s underperformance. Of course this is not the case but in an effort to counter-act the bias of “it is all the other person’s fault” this exercise can be useful as an initial perspective. From this perspective you will gain insights into your own biases and beliefs that are part of the current situation. This additional data will then help you better manage your way through a performance management conversation.
  4. watch for rising emotions: emotions are a leading indicator, in that they signal to you ahead of time that something you hold as true (a belief)  has been breached by someone. A line has been crossed that is not acceptable to you. When you sense emotions rising, stop (even if momentarily) and ask what is going on here?, why am I angry/sad/hurt/despondent/etc and then attempt to get in touch with what it is that is driving the emotional response.  This pause allows you to make a choice instead of reacting emotionally with what may be inappropriate behaviour in a performance management situation.

Good luck with your performance management; and in summary “get to now your self and you will get better performance out of yourself and others”.

If you feel that I can help you with either your self-awareness, your team’s performance or your performance management process, please contact me to open up a conversation.

Please share this with others you think would benefit, thank you.

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Posted in Change behaviour, Improve attitude

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