Managing Your Potentials

A friend of mine recently surprised her manager by offering her resignation and two-week notice.  Although disappointed and puzzled, the manager immediately shared with my friend that she would be sorely missed, that she was a valued and respected contributor, and that she was welcome back at any time – a gracious and positive response no doubt, yet bittersweet as well.

My friend really did not want to leave, having eagerly entered her employer’s management training program two years prior.  Yet in her two-year tenure, she had yet to receive any significant constructive feedback or positive recognition, even though she excelled at every turn.   She repeatedly requested additional work and/or more challenging assignments – and yet received neither.  Could her resignation have been avoided?  Maybe – maybe not, but from my perspective, the time spent together could have been far more productive and meaningful for both.

With all that managers have to do, it is easy to overlook that performance management is not just about correcting and realigning performance in the annual review – it is, or should be, so much more!  It is also about enhancing performance and developing potential; it is about…

  • Recognizing and appreciating great performance on an ongoing basis. Even the best job performers need feedback to align and enhance performance.  Even the best need to know that their contributions are noticed, and valued.  Even the best need encouragement and recognition to remain engaged and motivated.
  • Capitalizing on talent. Hiring top quality talent is key to success.  It is, however, just a first step.  Top performers, by their very nature, are unlikely to be satisfied for long doing tasks with no challenge, spending hours looking for work to do, or repeating the same activities over and over again.  In those circumstances, it is fairly certain that top talent will, at some point, move on…or perhaps even worse, settle to meet the less than challenging requirements of the role.  It is important to provide talented employees with challenge to allow them to grow…into their potential and along with the company.
  • Supporting growth and development. There is nothing quite as effective as on-the-job development.  Yet effective on-the-job development requires structure, intention, and attention.  It requires more than exposure to different roles and situations.  It requires defining the lessons to be learned and supporting the process with methods and metrics to track development and measure progress.

Performance management, if done right, is key to long term business success.  It is far more than the annual performance evaluation; it is a process of continuous feedback, coaching, and performance-oriented conversations, not only about the past, but also about future skills, projects, expectations, and achievements.

World-class performance management programs provide structure, leverage opportunities, and emphasize feedback – they develop skills, capitalize on talent, create ready now candidates, and build engagement.  What does yours do?


 Susan Stang, Ph.D., is Vice President of Leadership Services at PSI.

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