22nd November 2022 | Written by

Put an end to performance review fears with the principles of Addictive Leadership

Are you avoiding a necessary performance improvement plan (PIP) for a problem employee?

Are you tired of Saying Yes to poor performance?

Do your PIPs actually help your employees grow & stay with the company?

It’s natural to fear these conversations since they are perceived as confrontational and the first step toward firing someone. If you avoid the issue, however, poor performance will persist and it will have a negative correlation to revenue. 

Stop misusing PIPs as pre-firing tools and start investing in your employees. 

We teach leaders to confront the emotional fear delaying these conversations. Practicing Rigorous Authenticity begins with vulnerability, and the ability to own your part of the problem. With a strategic approach and a little practice, you can Say No to poor performance while managing those struggling employees in a way that can turn them into your top earners.

In the end, the business benefits – but the leaders and employees also take a giant step forward in terms of professional development and satisfaction at work.

Put an end to the fear of being “the bad guy”

Saying Yes to poor performance often happens because you fear the difficult conversations inherent in performance reviews. That fear generally stems from an irrational place, and we teach leaders to confront that fear. With two simple steps, you can take the power away from your fear. 

1. Identify the outcome you fear most in a performance review 

For example, “I’m worried about being viewed as a bad boss when I deliver negative performance reviews. The employee might quit, and my own boss will view me as a poor manager. I could even lose my own job if things really go poorly. If I lose my job, I’ll lose my house.”

2. Consider the likelihood of this actually happening

Your fear is not rational in most cases and it’s hindering productive outcomes for everyone. What are the odds that an employee actually quits and you lose your home as a direct result? 

It’s honestly not likely. 

In fact, the outcomes are regularly positive when you approach the issue with real authenticity. In our workshops, we implement a formula so you can quickly score and evaluate potential outcomes in a way that puts your fear to rest – but the long and short of it is that you’re giving this fear way more power than it deserves, and it’s time to Surrender the Outcome of this performance review conversation. You can’t control how the employee will react – you can only control your words and actions in this meeting. 

“99% of the worst things that happen to us, only ever happen in our heads.”

– Michael Brody-Waite

As a leader, you must confront and overcome the fears that are holding you back. As a result, the problem employee will receive the help they need and your leadership skills are elevated!

Developing a sustainable performance improvement plan that works

The focus of your performance improvement plan shouldn’t be entirely on the employee. Approach PIPs and performance reviews by first owning your own mistakes. Then, move through a series of practical steps to review the costs of poor performance while making a plan to excel.

Here’s what this looks like in practice:

1. Determine the cost of Saying Yes to poor performance

You (the leader) have been Saying Yes to poor performance, and it’s time to face the cost. This is a real example from one of our workshops. Mary is a sales manager and one of her sales team members, John, was a top performer at one time. John’s numbers had faltered and Mary felt he was coasting.

Mary assessed the value of his performance loss and discovered the company is losing $35,000/month because she was Saying Yes to poor performance. Essentially, she was letting it happen by avoiding the difficult conversation with John.

2. Surrender the Outcome of things beyond your control

Mary can’t control the opinions or actions of her employees and she needed to accept that reality. Rather than focusing on how John might react, Mary doubled down on the things she could control.

She reviewed her own activities as a manager and realized she wasn’t giving John the coaching opportunities he needed. She also wasn’t engaged in providing him feedback, reporting, or regular reviews of his sales activities.

Mary communicated with John in their performance review and acknowledged where she was missing the mark. She made it about HER and not about John. After being vulnerable and communicating her weaknesses, Mary created a performance plan with:

  • New communication structure
  • Training opportunities for John
  • Sales activity review sessions

Now, John felt encouraged and also understood that improving performance meant he could earn more in commissions. Through vulnerability and Practicing Rigorous Authenticity, Mary had a successful performance review and John was able to pivot and start hitting his sales goals.

Start the performance review conversation with these powerful steps

In the latter example, Mary made the conversation about herself and the things she could control. Performance reviews and performance improvement plans shouldn’t feel like an attack on the employee. PIPs get a bad rap as stop #1 on the express train to be fired, but they don’t have to be.

Structure these conversations in a way that makes the employee feel supported and engaged in the process with these three steps:

1. Admit the fear and discomfort you are experiencing in the moment. The employee is likely to have their own fears and your expression of vulnerability can put them at ease. 

Say, “Having this conversation is uncomfortable for me. I’m afraid you’ll think I’m a bad boss but we are here because I want you to enjoy and succeed in your career.” 

2. Be Rigorously Authentic and admit where you fell short as a manager. Say, “I have not been a good manager and am failing to provide you with clear goals and the tools you need for success. Your performance is suffering as a result and I am going to change that right now.”

3. Provide clarity and a plan to move forward. Without clear actions and responsibilities, how can the employee improve? Now is the time to Say No to uncertainty in their role. Outline what you will own as a manager, then give clear instructions and milestones for your employee. With this information documented, you have a productive and realistic performance improvement plan.

After implementing the plan, answer any questions and move forward with a plan in place. Performance improvement plans should offer an opportunity for leaders and employees to unite around common goals, not scare the employee into dusting off their resume.

Get the framework to improve your greatest asset – your people – to become exceptional leaders who do more in less time. Change starts with you. Take the assessment today to see what’s holding you back.