The 4 Features of Great Performance Management

Performance Management is one of the key processes that exists in schools for managing adult behaviour. However, because the process is often seen as perfunctory and in some cases, is not seen as a real driver to assist school improvement, a key opportunity is missed for developing potential and bringing out the best in others.

For most schools, the majority of their budgets are spent on staffing. So, it’s a travesty that many do not recognise the benefits to be gained in developing performance management procedures that can enhance, develop and retain their staff.

When used effectively, performance management can be used to create a culture where there is…

“An organic sense of self-improvement fuelled by the genuine and self-motivated desire of all individuals to make things better” 

Andy Buck, What Makes a Great school

When the school culture is as described above, there is a common set of understanding and beliefs about performance management. Individuals see it as a process for accelerating the achievement of school targets through:

– Creating alignment between organisational and personal objectives
– Growing and developing others
– Enabling others to step outside of their comfort zones
– Supporting others to achieve their full potential
– Inspiring confidence in each other’s ability to succeed
– Ensuring ownership and accountability

When divergent beliefs and attitudes exist about the purpose and value of performance management individuals struggle to take responsibility for their own actions. As a result, they can lose some of their own internal motivation to succeed and can become dependent on others for solutions.

But what does great performance management look like and how can we ensure that it is both effective and empowering?

1) Encourages Staff to Connect Goals with their Purpose

In my experience, individuals who feel that they have played a key role in setting performance management objectives are more likely to achieve their goals. This is particularly true when they are able to connect their goals with their own sense of vocation and purpose.

That’s why I believe every great performance management system should seek to encourage and support staff to think about both their vision and values. Staff should be prepared to share this information with their line manager, as part of the Performance Management meeting.

Our purpose is the motivational engine that compels us to strive for excellence; it’s the fire in our bellies and it is the drive that keeps us moving forward. When our goals are fully aligned with our roles, our sense of purpose and drive to achieve is far greater.

2) Creates a Safe Space

Great performance management also requires that the line manager has a high degree of Emotional Intelligence and is able to create a ‘safe place’ for the individual to be heard.

For some, talking about vision, values and purpose can mean exposure of the ‘vulnerable’ self; yet it is the part of self, which if held respectfully by the line manager can result in individuals being motivated to set their own goals and achieve maximum levels of success for both themselves and their school.

A great way to help create a safe space as a manager (where possible) is by demonstrating that you are willing to listen without judgement. When we listen without judgement, create an environment of trust. As a result, individuals feel safe to talk openly about their performance and the goals that matter to them.

3) Manages the Emotions

Managing emotions when carrying out Performance Management meetings is really all about learning to develop your Emotional Intelligence and not allowing your emotional triggers to cloud the conversation. Emotions are contagious and in Performance Management meetings even more so, when it is 1:1 and the interplay is between two individuals in dialogue with one another.

It is important not to underestimate the impact that your own emotions can have upon Performance Management meetings and their outcomes. If you are the line manager, then it is important that prior to any Performance Management meeting that you spend some time allowing your emotions to settle. Particularly if you have had a hectic day (When wouldn’t that be the case?!) and you need to be fully present for the person you are with.

If we desire positive outcomes from our Performance Management meetings, then we need to be mindful of our emotional states when conducting PM meetings with staff.

4) Builds Confidence and Self-Esteem

The image that we have of who we are and how confident we feel as individuals is built upon messages that we have picked up from our environments and experiences, and the meaning that we have derived from these.

Performance management meetings, can very often be the time when individuals feel that their self-esteem is under threat. Individuals can become nervous and defensive and not fully engage with the process. However, if the right interpersonal skills are deployed, PM meetings can help to build a person’s sense of self and confidence in their own ability to succeed.

Therefore, a great performance management system looks to facilitate growth in this area, by helping individuals to identify their strengths and how they can use them to address their challenges. It looks to acknowledge what has been done well and to praise efforts rather than picking apart mistakes. Above all, a great performance management seeks to hold the individual accountable, without blaming or shaming.

In my years of working with School Leaders, I’ve learned that one of the most important skills any School Leader can have is the ability to effectively manage and nurture personalities and relationships within their school. This is because quite simply, when school relationships are positive – the outcomes tend to be more positive too.

Conversely, when relationships are strained or neglected, school teams can struggle to effectively work together and staff can find themselves increasingly becoming disconnected from what the school and their leaders are trying to achieve. In turn, leaders can find themselves spending a large amount of their time dealing with people management issues, rather than focussing on the more strategic aspects of the role.

Yet in spite of this, many leaders have not received significant training or opportunities to develop skills that could help them to deal with difficult conversations, identify how best to manage and maximise staff performance.

That’s why one of the key ways that we support School Leaders fulfil their vision is by offering a 4 Day Coaching Programme designed to provide Senior School Leaders with the knowledge, skills and confidence to apply a range of coaching skills that can help improve the performance of those they lead and manage.

Our four-day coaching programme that will equip you with the skills for:
– Managing difficult conversations
– Understanding how to get the best out of individuals with challenging behaviours
– Understanding yourself better and knowing how to draw upon your strengths to get the best out of others
– Developing your relationship management skills by helping you understand how to identify and respond to different personality types
– Nurturing a Coaching Culture in your School so that you can support members of your team

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