Performance management is not a leadership tool. (It's an entire toolbox. You have to select the right tool.)

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Performance management is not a leadership tool

The fine artist discerns which brush or knife will apply paint to canvas to communicate each precise detail correctly.

The woodworker selects from among many instruments to shape, carve, and connect to maximize strength and beauty.

And leaders who perfect the craft of managing their team’s performance draw from an entire box of tools. Here are just a few you have available:

👉 Training: A formal curriculum from a trusted provider can help them grow their skills. And they’re most likely to learn when they get to choose their own training.

👉 Feedback: When you see a connection between their actions and results, sharing it with them — without judgment — can help them build their own discernment. Keep it brief and focused. Try to share observations about positive results at least twice as often as negative results. They’ll be more likely to accept the feedback if you get permission to share it first.

👉 Mentoring: If you have successfully walked the same path they’re walking now, sharing from your own experience can give them insight. Just remember that no two paths are ever completely the same, so let them reach their own conclusions about which steps they will take.

👉 Coaching: Help them identify goals they want to achieve. Asking genuinely curious questions and offering non-judgmental reflections on their statements and behaviors can help them see mental blocks that hinder progress or creative opportunities to achieve their goals.

👉 Advising: Letting them discover their own path forward is ideal for their development, but sometimes they’re truly stuck and starting to become discouraged. One of the last-resort tools is to make one or more concrete suggestions about what they might try. Strike a balance between helping them practice making their own choices and providing a safety net to protect them from fatal failures.

👉 Celebration: Major accomplishments may justify major rewards. Even small victories, such as a moment of self-awareness and a change of mind, are worth celebrating with a verbal acknowledgement. These minor celebrations reinforce the kind of personal internal growth that will lead to greater performance.

These tools differ in how much influence you choose to have, but one common trait is that the team members get to choose how they move forward.

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