Author: tmanning00

We threw away all the rules and started again: re-writing performance management

I was doing some work with a business that did all the “right” things – they had a bunch of people work for them – mostly young adults – and they did all the “right” things – they did performance reviews, set objectives, dolled out bonuses for performance, and paid for regular team building – sounds good huh

Only it wasn’t

It seems every few weeks they were getting calls asking for more money and the next pay rise

They went through a good number of staff trying to find the “right ones” – which did yield some success to be fair – but there was no end to this kind of thinking

They tried paying more – which certainly attracted better talent – it made recruiting easier and they were better out the starting blocks

But there wasn’t anything pushing them all on – the rather drab performance process with its SMART objectives and annual reviews didn’t turn out to be all that smart after all – it didn’t actually consistently drive up performance – but you knew that right……

And what about when it went wrong? They occasionally dolled out a good grilling to keep those rogue wanderers in line – even though it didn’t really work changing long term behaviour

As owners of a relatively small business they were doing well by general standards – but the same old problems that face corporates every day existed there too

What to do

So – I helped them tear up the rules and start again.

Annual performance reviews and objectives – gone

Angry phone calls – gone

Random “can I get a pay rise” phone calls – gone

So what did we do?

We moved the goal posts – I helped them create what is called Pathway – a pathway that clearly lays out the Skills, Soft Skills, Experience and Character traits for every single role – and we layered it up so within each role one can progress through the layers – and as a result attract more salary – and here is the thing – we then created a development plan focused on their learnings – a growth plan you might say – we made it clear that growth or learning requires mistakes – we started to help them to learn much more about self reflection – seeking feedback and observing themselves more often – then observing more closely things that really don’t go so well for them – or events that didn’t go so well – we got them to start documenting these events and their associated learnings, and we started to help them see how this helps them to grow into the next layer of the pathway

With each layer you are expected to be able to cover or deliver the layer below – we discovered that some we most definitely being paid above their layer – and they knew it – in most cases this was because there were some basics that some were not getting done – this caused a few squirmy faces

It’s ok

What we were asking for was one simply thing: The willingness to learn and grow

We will meet you where you are, all we are asking for is the willingness to keep growing, keep learning, and keep learning from your mistakes – and in some cases – flat start doing some of the basics that we know, and they know, they should be doing


We teach with simple consequences – so we tie this all into an Early Warning System – verbal “warnings” (so you know what I’m talking about) will be much more frequent – we no longer need to shy away from such things because they aren’t used to beat you – they are used to help you learn

We need more feedback – helpful, corrective feedback

And each time you go through this it’s more meat for your development plan – what happened – what did you learn – what can you do next time

The only way you reach the end of this “Early Warning System” is if you refuse to learn and grow – the end of that story is pretty certain.

Some of them found all of this disconcerting – some found it quite liberating

If you have someone who is delivering lots of value to the business then they are WORTH paying more for – these business owners understood this – everyone can reach the top of these pathways with work he said – great I said – and you are happy paying them all if they do I said? – definitely he said

Complacency will not work in this organisation any more, and it’s easy to manage that.

Staying stuck, not growing, not learning, getting away with the status quo is almost impossible to get away with

It’s a win-win – the business has a clear path of development, raising the bar bit by bit by bit, they removed anger and contention, they have a way of addressing performance issues day by day, as they arise, in a non-confrontational way – we can implement zero tolerance rules that actually SUPPORT the growth of the person involved – the more responsible we are the happier we are – as for their people – they get BAGS of support – they have an environment where they can openly learn, talk about their mistakes, seek guidance, receive feedback, share themselves, and have a clear pathway to a pay rise to boot.

The organisation will never be the same again – they have discovered they can manage their people better, while at the same time significantly reducing the time it takes to do so and increasing performance as they go


Being Human……

It seems to me that one of the hardest lessons for us to learn is humility, it is for me anyway, I watched the film “12 years a slave” last week, and there is one scene that is quite brutal where a young lady, who had been abused by her owner throughout was strapped to a post and whipped until her back had deep open wounds.

What I saw was my own flaws in the slave owner, I saw that under the right conditions, brought up in the home he grew up in, could I have ended up doing such things?  I saw me in him and him in me.

I think humility is a deep sense of understanding of our flawed human nature, and subsequently knowing that this is the same for all of us, it cannot be escaped, only understood.

Some lessons in humility then:

To think I am better than someone else to discover the stark reality that I am not

To take advantage of another human being to make me feel powerful, to then have the tables turned and see my grave error

To take advantage of someone else’s situation for my own ends, only to see my shear selfishness later on

To assume that something I have attained, earned, or purchased makes me better than someone else

The more I learn and grow the more I realise just how much I have to learn, paradoxically there is great peace to be had from accepting our innate ignorance

Take a look at these lessons – these are the kind of lessons the slave “owners” may well have gone through themselves, to take absolute full advantage of another human beings position, to abuse it in the highest regard, in order to learn he had no right to do so, in order to be left alone, to tender his entire farm by himself and to die with the memories of what he did.

But here is the catch – we cannot really learn humility with depth without being flawed ourselves, we cannot learn humility without seeing our own innate weaknesses.

Those with real humility also have deep compassion for all of human kind, they forgive others for their ignorance, because they recognise their own ignorance and flawed nature.

What consequence does this have for us today and in our workplace?

Allot actually – as we learn to look for and see our own mistakes, bad behaviour, bad choices, shear irresponsibility, and selfishness it humbles us, it teaches us not to be so self righteous, not to condemn and judge but to look at others with compassion and understanding.

So when one of your team does something profoundly stupid, when they behave in destructive ways, when they lie, and cheat, when they cover things up and manipulate for their own ends you would look at them through new eyes, as if you had been re-born, and you know what – they will FEEL that, when they come to you, mistaken and stupid, and you accept them simply for being human, you offer them a gift, a beautiful gift, you offer them a chance to be human, flawed, stupid, and accepted for who they really are, not who they pretend to be, and a chance to change, to learn and to grow

When you let your people be human and learn about then admit their mistakes openly something incredible happens, they begin to walk together with a sense of kinship you could never imagine

When we suppress the bad, through shame or ignorance we compromise the good, however when we can be ALL that we are we can be truly at our best, therefore you unlock all the things that make your people great, creativity, fun, joy, compassion, innovation, determination, and actually, their flaws by accepting all of them not just the good bits

We are making mistakes ALL the time, this stuff isn’t about waiting for your performance review, it’s about learning and growing each and every day, at the coffee machine, over lunch, and certainly when you get home

This is the beating heart that drives REAL engagement in your teams

If you want to develop and empower your team in profound ways, if you want to be the change, then take action and get in touch

NEVER diminishing a truth…….connecting deeply with your people

I promise you this, what your people want, more than anything else, whether they know it or not, more than money, or bonuses, or the next promotion is to FEEL connected to other human beings, to FEEL like there is someone who genuinely, deeply cares about them as a human being – THAT is what will drive up your performance, THAT is what will get you beyond 30% engagement levels, THAT will give you a competitive edge like no other, because you get this right, and you begin to unlock people in a way you could never imagine.

And this connection can be built up one conversation at a time – or NOT!  What we find is that each and every interaction, every single interaction you have with your people really does count…………


I was running a workshop for a company recently and as the day went on the people in the room began the process of waking up to some of their behaviours, fears, and insecurities.

There was a young guy in the room, not long started with the business, and we were going around the room summarising what they learnt after the early afternoon session, he said something like:

“You know, I never know if I have done a good job or not, I’m always afraid that I haven’t quite done it how I should, or if I have made a mistake, I feel uncertain, and then I can beat myself up, I don’t tell anyone, I always feel like……perhaps I should be doing better, am I good enough?”

Now bear in mind, the room had been opening up slowly, and this young guy, shy, slightly more withdrawn, made the bold step of sharing himself, he made the courageous step of showing what he considers to be his weakness

The room went quiet

I said “who feels closer to Ben?”

Everyone put there hands up

Then one chap piped up – “Its ok Ben, you do a great job, I think so anyway”

A few more followed suit

I stopped them

I said: “we must not diminish Ben’s truth, this is how he is experiencing his work every day, and we can tell him he is doing the physical aspects of his work ok right now, but can you see what is behind his truth?”

“He is expressing his fear and insecurity, in this case around his job”

I looked at Ben: “So what if you make a mistake Ben, what does that say about you?”

He shrugged

“NOTHING”, “It says nothing about your inherent worth as a human being, you WILL make mistakes, if you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t learning”

He relaxed

“We get to make mistakes guys, and it is important we express and acknowledge how we feel about our mistakes, not try and hide them, like so many people feel like they have to, all from a place of fear”, “So many people spend their whole lives hiding”

“So – next time you feel like this Ben, you walk up to your partner and tell them how you feel, and the role of the other person is not to diminish that, but to acknowledge how you are feeling, and then talk about how you can learn and grow from what you have done”

“This way, you no longer feel like you need to hide – never again do you need to hide what you perceive to be a “bad” job, you get to share the truth about how you feel, feel connected to, and cared for by another human being, learn, and grow”


How often have you said “It’s OK, don’t worry”, or “Your doing a great job, don’t worry” when someone shares their uncertainty or mistake – we actually diminish how they feel, and they then feel trapped, because in truth they just don’t believe us!!

Whereas when we look them right in the eyes and acknowledge their mistakes or uncertainty – “Yes you did make a mistake this time, but I care about you being able to learn from this, shall we talk about it?”

It can be such a subtle difference, but one creates and supports a connection between two human beings, and the other does the opposite.

If you simply applied this one technique each and every day, over time, you would begin to see very real changes in how your people interact with you.

For example – today, it’s almost a certainty that most people that work with you will hide their mistakes to a lesser or greater degree, no matter how large or small – they do this because they are afraid, and by following the above you begin the process of reducing their fears…………

Do you think high levels of engagement are created by an environment where people are scared to share their mistakes?  No chance!

Try it, what do you have to loose?  Right now, only 30% of people are engaged in the workplace, and have been for 5+ years – and if we want that to change we have to begin the process of doing things different.

Can you HEAR me??

My daughter Rubie (3) woke me up at around 3am the other night, she was calling from her bedroom

“What is it sweetie?”

“I can’t find my light daddy”

I sort her out and go back to bed, 20 minutes later……

“What is it sweetie?”

I made a mistake – I was irritated before I got in there

“I can’t find my do-do’s daddy, where are they?”

Note: do-do’s are any kind of comforter, we have just reduced the sizeable quantity that she seemed to have somehow collected – until she was going to bed with a small mound of material 🙂 !

“There are no more in your bed sweetie, you have everything that is here”

This could turn into a whole big debate about the quantity and availability of the world supply of do-do’s!

Then, having slightly woken up I realised what a dummy I was being – she may be talking about her do-do’s with her words but that is not what she is saying.

What she is saying is: “Daddy, I feel a bit afraid, I feel a bit alone”

I just held her tight for a few minutes

Then I reminded her that; I Love her, therefore, she has nothing to be afraid of, she has everything she needs, and she is never alone

She went straight off


We ALL suffer from patterns of behaviour that do not help us, keep us trapped, cause unhappiness and generally can be quite destructive – we just need to learn to SEE them and take responsibility for them

One of these behaviours for my business partner is asking clearly for what he wants

We might be talking about something in the business, maybe a new change or a new project and lets say I make a suggestion, he might then respond with a number of reasons why he feels there is a better solution, to which I respond…… can see where this goes

What we both discovered over time is that he sometimes finds it difficult to make a simple request for what he would prefer to happen – he disguises this by using logical and reasoned arguments – but often there just isn’t a “best way” there are different options with different consequences, benefits and drawbacks.

So I have learnt to listen to what he is saying

What I mean is when I notice this pattern I might simply stop the conversation and say: “Would you like to express what you would prefer to happen, out of personal preference”

“Yes” he says with a smile

He feels cared for by me in that moment – I took the time to learn about him, listen and hear what is is really saying


Rarely are people able to fully communicate how they really feel about something – in both of the above cases they were expressing fear – but were unable to either articulate or SEE that fear in the moment

Why is it that people find it so difficult to ask for what they want clearly? What is the problem?

Well, when they were Rubie’s age they probably made many hundreds of requests of their parents – and their parents, like my initial response when waking, was to do their best to shut them up so they will go to sleep – the onslaught of requests can be, well, impressive in volume – and it takes a lot for a parent to respond in a calm and balanced way EVERY time.

What normally happens is: “don’t be so stupid, get on with it”, “just go to sleep”, “what NOW!!” and many, many variations, but the child hears allot more than those words, they learn to associate emotional withdrawal with making requests, they begin to wonder, should I really ask? What response will I get? I don’t think I am worth it…..

And we end up, often, at fear

My business partner so smoothly deflects his desire to make a clear request that it took some time for me to SEE it – but over time it became more and more clear, and now, we can work on it together, just as we work on my stuff together.


What I am highlighting here is what REAL Listening looks like – we simply cannot do this without a much deeper understanding of behaviour – how can we really listen to people if we don’t even undertsand them?

Most people just want to be heard, they want someone to really understand them, to SEE them for who they really are.

I have done this many times – just sat, listening to someone, and suddenly they realise that I can SEE them, and I accept them, for their hiding and lying and manipulating, behind the cover up is a child that just wants to be accepted (loved) for who they really are, not who they are pretending to be

Many times have I also sat with people who just talk, and I am pretty confident that if I spoke Chinese half way through they would barely notice – and I’m not talking about the people that talk endlessly (clinging), I’m talking about the pretty average person, so wrapped up in their own emotional rubbish that there is simply no room for anything else – exactly like I was.

We don’t get to skip childhood, emotionally that is, until we have learnt to really undertsand and listen, having dealt with our own stuff we are practically emotional babies, gurgling and rolling around, pretty blind to what is really going on around us, only concerned about our immediate needs.

In todays world a good manager, one who listens, is someone who turns the phone off while you speak, but the reality is, that ain’t listening, not anywhere close.

How can people feel engaged if they don’t even know if someone even hears what they are saying? Impossible.

We have to teach people this stuff, and pretty urgently actually, if we want to make any kind of difference.

We ALL need it

The reality is, your people are practically screaming: Can you HEAR me??


Yes, eye really do know……

Our eyes are like windows to our soul

If you pay attention all of the following can often be discerned just by looking at someones eyes:

I’m confused
I’m afraid
I don’t know what to do next
I’m shocked
I’m in my head thinking
I’ve emotionally withdrawn
I’m in pain
I feel worthless
I don’t trust you

I feel free
You can’t hurt me
I’m not afraid
I care about you
I can see you
I still care about you
I’m happy
I’m joyful
I’m alive
And many, many more

Our faces give off yet more information to support all of the above

It is possible to simply look at someone to establish that in that moment they feel alone, afraid, confused, and in pain

It is also possible to communicate lots of information without words:

I have sat opposite someone and they have looked into my eyes and have said the following to me without uttering a word:

“I understand”

“I understand how you feel, and why you feel like that”

“I understand that it can be difficult, and I am here for you, right now, and you are never alone”

Equally I have had similar conversations with people without uttering a word

In fact I had a conversation once with a lady who felt so seen, like someone understood her so deeply that she had to leave – nobody had ever understood her like that before – and in a bizarre way it felt most uncomfortable for her, understandably.

Everyone wants to feel understood and heard – and the use of words are by no means mandatory for either person in order for them to feel totally and completely understood, heard, and cared for.

That is a rare and touching event


Just imagine for one moment that you go to the coffee machine, a colleague is already there making their tea, you look at them, you can see they are in pain, struggling with something, you look straight at them and with a very slight nod you communicate that you understand. Just as you walk past them to get the milk you briefly touch them on the shoulder, communicating that 1. they are not alone and 2. you are there for them – they walk off, and as they do they glance back at you, you look at them and again you nod your head ever so slightly, reminding them that you understand and that you really are there for them.

All this happens in a few minutes

A genuine, real connection between two human beings

You saw them, you heard them, they knew you listened

And yet, nothing was said

It’s all they wanted, ultimately, it’s what we all want

If you want to address performance management and engagement in your business download my “short guide to The Pathway Principles”


To understand or not understand…….that is the question

One of the greatest gifts we can ever give another human being is to help them to feel genuinely understood, and we need to develop this skill for real performance management

Unfortunately, not many people feel understood

In fact, having met hundreds of thousands of people and worked extensively with thousands of them my coach once said at best 2% of those he met felt truly understood.

So it’s a rare thing

There is a Steven Covey quote from 7 habits:

“Seek first to understand before being understood”

Although commendable when it comes to understanding people there is one problem: We can’t give what we don’t have

If someone does not feel deeply understood themselves how can they possibly understand others? How can they even know what that feels like having never experienced it?

If you pay attention while having a conversation with people you will notice that many of them are simply waiting to speak, you will comment about something then they will carry right on talking about themselves – why do people do this?

Simple – they don’t feel understood – they don’t feel heard – they have NEVER felt heard – what they are communicating is an innate need to feel heard and understood.

So, a great many people do not feel understood themselves and if we do not feel understood ourselves we can’t hope to help others to feel understood, further more, if we don’t truly understand someone how can we possibly really listen to them? Impossible.

So as an organisation we have to build our capability to understand others, this requires two primary actions:

Teach people about behaviour, about their fear, about their victimhood, about their anger, about their need for praise or power or safety – and we have to teach them about how they can be irresponsible for example – all these things we must help people to understand.

Then we create an environment where they can share what they see about themselves, a place or opportunity where they can share their behaviours, flaws, mistakes, an environment where they can be……..well……..human

Yep, thats right, you happen to employ human beings, human beings who are, well, flawed – innately flawed.

And the only way they can feel truly heard and understood is if you can create opportunities for them to express…..well, who they are – human, flawed, and sometimes afraid or ashamed or angry or jealous.

Only by doing this do you then begin to create the capability within the organisation to listen and understand others.

A capability that is transformative and profound in its effect

A capability to grow emotionally intelligent people who understands what a colleague is saying when they walk into their office angry, who understands when they get defensive, when they lie, or hide, or run or cling.

Real behavioural change can only come from first understanding behaviour – if you employ humans and expect them not to be human you are doomed – this very expectation is at the heart of why they don’t feel understood – and do you think feeling mis-understood helps them to feel happy, contented, engaged, and safe to talk about their mistakes and flaws? Not a chance.

Engagement isn’t just a corporate communication plan, it’s real, genuine conversations at the coffee machine, between real people who understand you, and moments in time when you FEEL completely understood

And there is something special and rare about that

If you liked this post or think others can benefit from it, please like and share, or comment on what you learnt

If you want to address fear in your own life or in your workplace, get in touch

Have fun!