Managing Employee Performance – Assessing Performance Part 3

two young business people discussing

This blog is part of a series focusing on the topic of “Managing Employee Performance”.  Managing employee performance in the workplace is comprised of all of the interactions and activities that take place between an employer and an employee that result in the achievement of goals and expectations.

Previous blogs in this series answered questions about how we assess performance and how we can share those assessments by “landing” the message.  This blog will offer further insights into how to be effective at landing the message.

Set the Theme of the Message of the Performance Conversation

When a manager has determined that they want to enter into a performance conversation with an employee, they must first decide the theme of the message that they want to leave with the employee. It could be argued that performance feedback can be divided into two categories.

  1. The feedback is either designed to reinforce the employee’s behaviour – communicating to the employee that they are on target with respect to meeting expectations,
  2. or it is designed to communicate to the employee that they are not on target and corrections need to be made to the employee’s behaviour.

Reinforcing behaviour or correcting behaviour are the two key purposes to performance feedback.   So, when a manager is about to engage in a performance conversation with an employee, they need to be clear on the purpose of the conversation.  Is the purpose to reinforce a positive behaviour that is meeting expectations?  Or, is the purpose to correct an inappropriate behaviour that is not meeting expectations. In order to be effective at “landing” a message, the first step is to determine what message you want to land.

Maximize the Effectiveness of the Performance Conversation

Once the manager has determined the purpose of the message, there are two other guidelines that they should follow in order to maximize the effectiveness of the performance conversation.

The first guideline is:  Be Specific.

Given that we have established that the two purposes of performance feedback are to either reinforce behaviour or to correct behaviour, it follows that effective messaging must include specific information regarding what was done correctly or incorrectly. Start with the specific facts that are related to the message you are trying to land and connect those facts to the expectations that have been communicated. The facts that you share will either reinforce expectations you communicated or will demonstrate that a correction is needed in order to achieve the expectations.

The second guideline is: Focus on the Performance, not the Person.

An example of focusing on the person versus focusing on the performance is demonstrated by the following statement: “you have an attitude problem”. Using the term “attitude problem” focuses on the person as an individual as opposed to the behaviour they demonstrated that would lead to that judgment.

There are two reasons why the guideline of focusing on the performance not the person is important. The first reason is that using personal statements that are typically judgmental in nature, usually results in the person receiving the message tuning out because they are offended by a judgmental statement. When a person has tuned out, there is no way to land the message. The second reason for focusing on performance is that it provides employees with specific information with respect to what needs to change or what needs to continue.

So, rather than making a statement “you have an attitude problem”, a better choice would be to describe the behaviours that the person is demonstrating that lead you to believe that they have an attitude problem. This might include the words and language they choose, or their tone of voice and observable reactions to their tone of voice. Although, at times this may seem like a subtle difference, it is critically important to landing the message.

In summary, in addition to using the FEED approach when sharing feedback, it is important to: establish the message that you want to land; be specific; and focus on the performance of the person.

The next blogs in this series will offer further insights into the importance of creating a motivating environment in order to help an employee succeed as part of an effective program for managing employee performance.

As always, I welcome your feedback. You can connect with me via email or telephone or leave a comment right here on the site.

Until next time,


David Town, CHRL, is a facilitator and coach of leadership and management principles that enable individuals and organizations to build greater leadership competency, resulting in higher performance and higher employee engagement. David has a particular focus on effectively managing conversations involving confrontation or conflict. As well, he provides insights and assessment strategies for integrating character competencies into leadership skills resulting in increased trust and reduced risk for leaders. David is a member of the International Coaching Federation and is President of Your Leadership Matters Inc.

Managing Employee Performance – Assessing Performance

41108649 - landing

Managing employee performance in the workplace is comprised of all of the interactions and activities that take place between an employer and an employee, that result in the achievement of goals and expectations.

This blog is part of a series focusing on the topic of “Managing Employee Performance”.  The last blog offered insights into how to assess performance and provide employees with meaningful information on how they are doing.  This blog will continue to explore the process of giving meaningful performance feedback. Continue reading

Managing Employee Performance – It’s Not About the Forms

This blog is the first in a series focusing on the topic of “Managing Employee Performance”.  This is a hot topic with many organizations because the performance management process they are using often creates more problems than it solves.

Research indicates that many organizations have chosen to abandon what they describe as the “annual performance appraisal” process because of the problems it seems to create.  This blog will address some of the key challenges faced by organizations in managing employee performance. Continue reading

Leadership & Character – Courage

Courage sign with road background

This blog is part of a series focusing on the attributes that lead to a positive assessment of a leader’s character.  Each of the positive character attributes contribute in their own way to the ability of the leader to make good, character-based decisions with respect to the actions they take as a leader.  The focus for this blog is on courage. Continue reading

Leadership & Character – Humility

Top View of Business Shoes on the floor with the text: Stay Humble

Leaders who act with character have a variety of virtues and values that contribute to their ability to make positive character-based decisions.  One of the key attributes of character-based leadership, which seems to get less attention, is humility.  Humility is generally defined as “a modest view of one’s own importance”. Individuals who demonstrate humility focus more on others than they do on themselves which is why humility can be such a great character-based leadership attribute. Continue reading

Leadership & Character – Vision & Meaning

Vision concept with hand pressing a button

The ability to make good decisions is an important skill for leaders. In order to be able to make good decisions, leaders must have a clear focus. This focus can come from the vision that the leader is trying to achieve and the underlying purpose or meaning that is served by the vision. So, let’s take a look at the importance of vision and meaning in character-based leadership. Continue reading

Leadership & Character – Integrity

integrity word cloud on digital tablet

The past two blogs have focused on the assessment of character using the methodology Fred Kiel introduced in his book entitled “Return on Character”.  In the book, character in leadership is based on an assessment of the presence of four universally-accepted moral principles: integrity, responsibility, forgiveness and compassion.  We’ve reviewed the impact of responsibility and forgiveness on character.  In this blog, we will look at the importance of integrity as it relates to character-based leadership. Continue reading

Leadership & Character – Responsibility

Businessman pressing an Responsibility concept button.

There are many ways to measure the degree to which a leader demonstrates positive character.  In his book entitled “Return on Character”, Fred Kiel measures the character of leaders based on four universally accepted moral principles:

  1. Integrity
  2. Responsibility
  3. Forgiveness
  4. Compassion

Let’s explore the importance of responsibility to character-based leadership.  In his book, Kiel connects the principle of responsibility to two important behaviours: Continue reading

Leadership & Character – The Importance of Caring

leadership training expertThe focus of today’s blog is the importance of caring to character-based leadership. There is an old quote by Theodore Roosevelt “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” It is widely accepted that business knowledge is a very important attribute of successful leaders. However, a leader’s business knowledge is only valuable if the leader is able to effectively communicate it so that it will influence the actions of others.

To shine a light on the impact that a caring approach can have on the power of a leader, I’d like to share the story of the leadership and ownership struggles at Market Basket, a grocery retail chain with more than 70 stores located in the eastern United States. As CEO of Market Basket, Arthur T. Demoulas had developed a strong reputation for caring; earned by always making time for employees. Continue reading

Leadership & Character – Trust

character attributes in business - trustI have recently been doing some reading on the process people undergo in making decisions. I am fascinated by the number of factors that influence decisions and the impact of these factors. As one would expect, logic and reasoning (assessing the pros and cons), is an important element in the decision making process. What I found intriguing is that people can make decisions that – when objectively analyzed based on the data – are decisions that are difficult to rationalize. Factors such as emotion, pre-existing perceptions and trust play a large role in the decisions we make. Leaders must be aware of these factors and their impact on decisions. In this blog post, I am going to focus on the role of trust in decision making. Continue reading