I recently facilitated a workshop with a group of managers who had expressed some difficulties they were having in conducting conversations with staff who they had assessed as under-performing. I asked them what their expectations were from the workshop and they offered the following:
“To gain courage and confidence; understand rights and responsibilities with performance management; giving constructive feedback that maintained the relationship; reinforce and revise existing knowledge”
By way of background all the managers had previously attended workshops which covered
the technical ‘How to manage performance’ for example ‘how to undertake performance development reviews’, ‘probation’ and ‘managing substandard performance’. I assessed that their core concern was not the practical, process elements of managing substandard performance. Rather it was their own human emotional state when preparing and then having the actual conversation with the staff member about their under-performance.
I asked the managers the following question “what stops you managing substandard performance?” I would suggest that like all of you; it was ‘the emotional spaces you find yourself in that stops you’. So we spent time exploring ‘their way of being’ around managing substandard performance. I then drew the first three circles of the model below on the whiteboard and asked the managers about each of the three elements of their ‘way of being’ i.e. L - their language (their private, in their head conversations); E- how they feel (their emotions and moods) and B - what they notice about their physiology (their body). This is what they said:
Language: “She/he is not going to change”; “How do I start with the right words”; “I’ll rehearse, makes notes”; “What am I going to say?”; “Did I create this issue/problem?”: “Is this about me?”: “Am I making this a problem”.
Mood and Emotions: Anxious, angry, fear, frustration, disappointment, resentment.
Physiology (Our Body): tension, heart racing, change in voice, hands tends to go everywhere, locked tight jaw, shoulders tight.
I then asked them to consider how they could shift their ‘way of being’ to be more resourceful when managing staff who are under-performing. I invited them to name how they could shift/change these three elements of their ‘way of being’. The following illustrates the shifts they said they could make:
Language: “I can do this”; “this is worth doing”, “this will help with the change that is needed”; “I want continuous improvement”; ‘‘I want a quality service”: “I want to shift the culture from child to adult”; “this is about our standards”; “this is about working in line with our values”.
Mood and Emotions: Be ambitious, confidence, positive, courage, energy, empowered, team work, responsibility.
Physiology (Our Body): Relaxing myself, centering myself, being calm, looking at the staff member with soft eyes, sitting more solid.
Ontological learning is about us observing ourselves and making small shifts in our ‘way of being’ to be at our resourceful best. The opportunity to explore and name how the managers could change their ‘way of being’ are continuous small shifts that will support them to manage substandard performance. The next time you are faced with having to manage substandard performance; I invite you to take the time to observe your own language, moods/emotions and physiology. What small shift could you make? For a conversation on shifting your 'way of being' to manage substandard performance contact firstname.lastname@example.org