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Why Performance Management Programs Fail

Every Performance Management system I have ever seen over the years has typically focused on one thing: employee productivity (aka performance).  In one case, I saw a program developed by a large international consulting firm for a global pharmaceutical company, and the stated objective was. “To align employees’ behavior with corporate goals”.  Does that sound a bit one-sided to you? And a little exploitive?

I have yet to see a leadership development program or a performance management program whose purpose is, “To enhance the wellbeing, happiness and inspiration of each person”. (See my earlier blog about Performance Reviews).

In other words, we are often dealing with people as objects to whom we feel we can apply various tweaks so that their performance improves—kind of like STP for your car.

If we thought this through, we would realize that we have two choices, and we have them backwards. Typically, we motivate employees to focus on specific corporate goals and behaviors.  This tends to be a one-sided conversation that is all about maximizing corporate results. But a potentially more inclusive and rewarding approach (for everyone concerned) would be to focus on doing everything we possibly can to inspire employees so much that they are moved to do whatever it takes to achieve high performance (across all dimensions of their lives). It’s counter-intuitive,  but it makes sense when you consider it—which would you rather be, an employee coerced into achieving goals, or an employee who loves their leader, their work, the company they work for, and their lives? (Read more about this here). We achieve much more when we ask, “What can I do to serve you?” instead of, “This is what I need from you in order to serve the company’s objectives”.

Why is this simple concept not universally applied?

Isn’t our purpose as leaders, coaches, parents, spouses, and friends, to inspire others so that they, to paraphrase Thomas Aquinas, “…will the good of the other”?

Are you prepared to focus your development efforts on enriching the lives of your employees so that, because of you, they function at their very best across all dimensions of their lives?

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