Performance Management

Isn't it just about low performers?

It is always a worry for people when they are talking about the word Performance Management, as it has quite a negative connotation. It seems to be code for managing underperformance. Remember there are 3 areas of performance:

HIGH Performance

MID Performance 

LOW Performance


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The key to performance management is to be clear on the goals and aims of the programme: To Maximise peoples potential through reviewing current performance and developing them to achieve even greater in their future performance. 


Managing High Performance

1: High Performers

High performers are focused, driven and achieving the numbers, so on the face of it, not much needed. This is a fatal flaw in Sales Management thinking. These people need nourishment and development as much as the next person, the benefit with these high performers is that when you give them some new ideas or coaching they will take it and implement. 

Keep it Interesting

According to research from the universities of Iowa and Notre Dame, high achievers place a greater importance on interesting and challenging work than people who are less achievement-driven.

Keep your high achievers engaged with stimulating work activities – especially if there are limited opportunities for advancement. Start by getting them to perform a personal SWOT Analysis to get a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. If you have a strong competency framework then you can have them assessed against this. Assign tasks and projects that play to and develop their strengths, and work on minimizing their weaknesses with training that helps them manage these.

High achievers typically want to expand their skill sets, so cross-train them to work in other positions. This will add diversity to their roles, and satisfy their desire for professional development. 

Offer special assignments

In the past, companies rewarded their high achievers with fast-track development programs that led to rapid career advancement. Unfortunately, opportunities like these have often disappeared through cost-cutting and layoffs but also there may not be positions available to grow them into.

However, you can make sure that your high achievers don't stagnate by coming up with hand-picked "special assignments" that show how much you value their skills, while creating opportunities for them to take on extra responsibility and build new expertise.

Look out for opportunities to assign high achievers to departmental committees and task forces. Ask them to research new opportunities, make them responsible for new ventures, or ask them to help train new recruits. In other words, give them plenty of opportunities to shine.

Provide Feedback

High achievers need feedback, but not in the way you might initially think. Some high achievers care little for positive feedback and praise. They'd rather receive constructive criticism to help them improve, although this certainly isn't true in all cases!

Use Stop – Start - Continue to give your high achievers regular feedback, and use a more in-depth approach for more thorough performance reviews.

Take care to balance your constructive criticism with praise and thanks, even if your high achievers appear to be indifferent to recognition.

Managing Mid Performers

2: Mid Performers

Mid performers make up the majority of your sales force. Keeping these people on track and growing should be the bulk of the sales managers actions, unfortuntately this group of people often get the least amount of coaching and support. 

Driving the middle is the key to driving successful growth in the sales team, and remember, being a good performer is a good place to be.

Motivate the Middle

Yahoo renamed their mid tier as 'performs well' and treats everyone in this group as people who do just that. Staying away from the word 'average' or 'meets expectations' removes stigma and also removes any negative connotations.  

Many companies operate rewards for the top 10% of performers such as the President Club. These seem out of reach for most performers and therefore resign themselves to just continuing with performing well. Winning organisations add items such as 'Par Club' that rewards people for overachieving their target. This motivates more as they are competing with themselves rather that the top 10% of the company. One insurance company that worked with on such a program saw sales growth among the B-players increase 16 percent more than that of the top performers, generating overall sales growth that was three times more than the industry average.

Growth and Development

As the bulk of our performers sit in this middle group they tend to get the sheep dip approach to personal development. This is not the correct method of development. Yes we need this group to stay the course and bring in the quota, but moving the middle means tailoring development to each and every one of them. Not so easily done, but start with a gap analysis and then build workshops targeted at the gap. These workshops will therefore be ideal for all performers who have this skills gap, and mixing top, mid and low performers will help bolster the mid performer as they will learn from others. 

Values and Motivations

The long and short of driving performance for mid performers is to ensure you understand the motivations and values. Part of getting to know your employees, beyond categorizing them, is understanding who they are as professionals and as people — their future hopes, how they feel valued and how they perceive their contributions. An employee raising a young family might value being able to forget about work the second they step out the door. Another employee might enjoy the creative aspects of the job, while being less motivated by the repetition of contact center work. Regardless of what you learn, use it to deepen your understanding of the employee and help him to realize his shortand long-term potential. Check out our assessment section to learn more about how to read their motivations and values. 


Managing Low Performers

3: Low Performers

Low performance is obvious to see, but not obvious to know the reason why. We often look at Skill and Will as a means to determine why they are not performing, the problem is if you diagnose wrongly you will have a bigger problem later on. E.g. if you feel they are not putting in enough effort then you will add pressure on them to perform, where if the problem is actually ability all you will do is exacerbate the problem. 

Skill - do they have the ability to do the role?

Will - are they willing (motivated) to do it?


Low ability could be associated with the following: 

  • Over-difficult tasks.
  • Low individual aptitude, skill, and knowledge.
  • Evidence of strong effort, despite poor performance.
  • Lack of improvement over time.

People with low ability may have been poorly matched with jobs in the first place. They may have been promoted to a position that's too demanding for them. Or maybe they no longer have the support that previously helped them to perform well. 

Will / Motivation

Sometimes poor performance has its roots in low motivation. When this is the case, you need to work closely with the employee to create a motivating environment in which to work. There are three key interventions that may improve people's motivation:

  • Setting of performance goals.
  • Provision of performance assistance.
  • Provision of performance feedback.

 People need feedback on their efforts. They have to know where they stand in terms of current performance and long-term expectations. Many of the above provisions will need to be included in to a performance improvement plan. 


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