Performance Manage People

by Paula Newton

The toolkit you need

Managing a person’s performance requires a wide range of skills, from the inter-personal through to process skills.

Here are the key ones, with links to other topics where they are presented in more detail.


Right from the start, keep records! Whatever approaches you take and whichever tools you use, keep records relating to performance, agreed targets, crucial discussions, coaching or mentoring sessions and so on.

These will help to keep you and the person whose performance you are managing on track. They will also be required if things go badly wrong and disciplinary action becomes an unfortunate necessity.

Goal setting

This is such a vital skill that it has its own Goal setting page in this topic. Arguably, without setting a goal, you cannot manage performance, as neither you nor the person who you are managing will have a yardstick with which to measure it. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

There is also a whole topic on Goal Setting.


In order to manage staff performance, it’s essential to give them coaching so that individuals can learn how things could have been achieved in a more effective manner. When working with staff to improve performance, it is helpful to coach them through using questions such as

  • How do you think you could have done that differently, for a better outcome?


  • Do you think ‘Z’ approach would have been more effective?

This allows staff to think through how they performed a particular task or project and evaluate their own performance. It also helps them to consider other possible approaches and adapt their methods the next time they carry out the task.

See the Coaching topic for more detailed tips on using coaching to solicit great performance from staff.


When you are helping someone to improve their performance, you will often be assisting them from the perspective of someone who has ‘done it before’. You will be using your own prior experience of meeting the same objectives. This is frequently called mentoring, as opposed to coaching.

See the Mentoring topic for more.


By delegating work to individuals, managers can help to improve staff performance. Granted, they may not do the job perfectly first time around, and they may make mistakes, but when used in conjunction with feedback, coaching and careful management, delegation is another very effective performance management tool, helping to raise staff performance to new levels.

See the Delegation topic for more detailed information on how to go about this.


Empowerment can be a highly effective tool for performance management, driving performance to new highs. Someone who feels empowered to perform a task that has been delegated to them often performs very well, provided this is combined with an appropriate level of coaching and feedback.

See the Empowerment topic for more detailed information.


Understanding how to provide feedback to individuals is critical to effective performance management. If a person is doing well at a particular task, or just in general, they need to be made aware of this, so that they can continue performing to a high standard. Positive feedback makes most people feel good, giving them a sense of achievement and motivating them to continue working hard.

On the flip side, constructive feedback is equally critical. If a person is performing ineffectively and they don’t know what they are doing wrong, they cannot hope to improve. Giving constructive feedback is a necessary part of performance management, so that individuals can address any problems or challenges and become more effective.

See the Feedback topic for more.

Listening and questioning

An essential skill in managing performance is the ability to really listen. If you listen effectively, you will learn the root causes of any problems, which enables you to address them effectively.

When you are listening to someone else, you need to focus on the other person, dropping any preconceived ideas and absorbing what the person is saying. You need to get underneath the other person’s skin and understand where they are coming from.

Great listening is complemented by asking relevant and probing questions. Ask open questions that allow for further discussion and that really get to the core of any problems. This approach is focused on addressing the causes of issues, rather than dealing with the unmet objectives.

People will not always tell you the real reasons for issues. It may be, for example, that the person feels they should have the skills to do their job, but they don’t really understand what they should be doing. They may not believe in what they are doing – it may conflict with their value system, or they may not be motivated to do it. They may not believe in themselves. There may be an issue with resources or procedures.

Dig deeper with your questioning to try and uncover what the real problems are.

See the Listening Skills and Questioning Skills topics.

Time management

In order to manage performance effectively, it is essential to ensure that both the team’s time and your own is being used efficiently.

Individuals need to manage their time properly if they are to be able to perform effectively, hence the importance of time management to performance management. A person who is not managing their time effectively and, as a result, is not meeting their daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly objectives, may need help to understand how they can manage their time better and so perform to the required standards.

You can help your employees by assisting them with time management issues and coaching them in prioritisation. Regarding your own time management, you may from time to time need to seek clarification from your manager to ensure that priorities have not changed and that you are performing effectively.

See the Time Management topic for more tips.


Motivation (or the lack of it) is the fall guy for much that does not go well at work. We throw in the glib phrase, ‘He is just not motivated’, as though that explains everything. It actually explains little, yet motivation is clearly a major factor in levels of performance.

As a manager, you need to be aware of what motivation really is and know how to encourage it in your people.

See the Motivation topic for more.


Despite their senior position, or perhaps even because of it, many managers are unable to be genuinely assertive. In other words, they are either unable to ask for what they want without trampling over the rights of their people or to firmly set boundaries and expectations.

See the Assertiveness topic for more.

360 degree appraisals

If an individual is unaware of the poor level of their performance, or their opinion of it varies greatly from what others think, a 360 degree assessment can be a very useful tool. It can also help in situations where the individual is either not receptive to constructive feedback or simply fails to acknowledge that a problem exists.

It’s effective because it combats this lack of awareness and thus raises the individual’s performance. It works because the feedback is usually supplied anonymously, from all levels within the organisation, making it more difficult for the individual to dispute than if it is simply their manager who is informing them that there is a problem.

See more on 360 Degree Assessment.