Staff Performance: Make Employee Self Management Work For You


Managers keep asking: “How do I develop outstanding staff performance?” If that’s your question, you answer is “employee self management”. But only you, the manager, can create it.

The Core Contradiction

Quite reasonably, we demand top staff performance from employees. Quite unreasonably, we put various impediments in place that inhibit employees from achieving the very performance we claim that we’re seeking. And many managers don’t realize that they’re doing so.

The Biggest Impediment

I’ve written thousands of words about the two essentials that lead to superior staff performance.

  • Telling employees exactly what performance you expect in measurable terms: setting performance standards
  • Telling employees exactly how their performance will be measured.

Frankly, if you don’t do these two things, everything else is merely window dressing. But let’s assume that you do.

Seven “Lesser” But “Lethal” Impediments

1. Imprecise And Untimely Feedback

Employees need to know “how they’re going”. We all know that. But they need to know as frequently and as accurately as possible. Hourly is ideal, daily is good, weekly is OK. Anything less than weekly is insufficient. And, if employees can receive accurate and up to date feedback “on demand”, that’s perfect. Remember, a six-monthly or annual formal “performance appraisal” is a completely inadequate method for providing feedback. Completing elaborate forms and discussing behaviour and productivity rarely improve on job performance.

2.  Remote Feedback

In its most useless form, remote feedback is seen in typical quality control systems. Specialist inspectors and experts check employee’s work and provide feedback. Quality control must be the responsibility of the employee. They should not have to wait for an outsider to check their work to receive feedback. This practice seriously discourages employees from accepting responsibility for their performance.

3. Lack Of Remedial Information

This usually occurs when something  “goes wrong”. The employee has to contact a supervisor or manager for assistance. Your performance systems should be designed to enable employees to correct errors and proceed when a mistake occurs.

4. Loose Or Absent Deadlines

Each performance standard should include a specific deadline. These can be expressed as a time, “by 10,15 am each day”, a date, “by July 26″, a special period, “within 2 days”, or a regular period, “by the last day of each month”. Performance standards without deadlines are like marshmallows before a flame: shapeless, formless and mostly unpalatable.

5. No Connection To Rewards And Incentives

Employees who consistently perform at or above expectations should be rewarded for meeting and exceeding standards. Use incentives too to encourage required performance. Paying everyone the same, regardless of performance, is a huge disincentive to perform well. And it tells “poor” performers that they won’t benefit from superior performance.

6. Poor Systems

“If your systems are poor, your people will fail” is true. “A poor system will beat a good performer almost every time” is also true. You can try as hard as you can to have employees perform well. If your systems don’t support the performance you claim you want, your efforts at performance improvement will be seriously hampered.

7. Restricting Employee Autonomy

Do you want more time to “manage”? Do you want to trust your  employees to run the day to day, routine matters that constitute most of your business? Do you want employees to stop bringing their problems to you? Do you want to be able to stop saying “Leave it with me” to employees? If so, provide them with autonomy to manage their own performance. The more supervision you have to provide, the harder your job becomes and the less employees feel responsible for their performance.


Let me quote Ricardo Semler, CEO of Semco. It’s a very successful group with some 3000 employees. “No management works like self management. What’s better in the long run? A charismatic control figure or a sustainable organization?” Semco is renowned for the autonomy it allows employees.

What To Do Now

You need to make a decision. Do you develop your people to where they’re a successful self managing and self managed group? Or do you retain day to day control and expect employees to “do what they’re told”? Please let me know in the comments which appeals most to you.

Please remember to click on the “Resources” tab in the navigation bar to find other resources to help you improve on job staff performance.

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