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I was speaking with a client recently. He has a staff member he is contemplating performance managing. Not a process anyone enjoys or encourages.

My corporate coach ears pricked up when my client said, “I should have listened to my guts when they said blah, blah, blah.

Insert your own version of blah, blah, blah. What I’m interested in is the part where he declared that he should have “listened to his guts”.


It’s Tempting To Ignore The Signs That Suggest Performance Management

How many times do we ignore red flags like this in our lives?

How many times do we look back and say something like “I should have trusted myself?”

Going back a hundred millennia or so, our gut feelings were the early warning system that kept us alive. One of the reasons our species has survived is because our instincts are so well developed. And more importantly, back then, we knew how to trust them.


At What Cost?

Fast forward to 2020, and there are many people who cannot answer the deceptively simple question, “How do you feel?”

Can you?

How do you feel?

We’ve lost our capacity to know what our feelings, our guts and our instincts are saying. Which means we’ve stopped going with their supreme advice.

Particularly in the West, the pressure to live in our heads is constant.

Western scientists doubted the existence of intuition. That is, they did until they could measure it.

It’s because we live in a culture that trades on our fears.

Advertising, religion, news, politics – these systems create fear to benefit their cause. When you’re surrounded by fear, ignoring it is as challenging as swimming against the tide.

Repeated over and over, we start to buy the story that our world is dangerous. We forget the motives of those selling fear as this year’s hot new product or catastrophic news story.

Our capacity to judge danger for ourselves moves from our gut to our head. We toss the fear back and forth, waiting for a risk-free answer to materialise.

But alas.

You may have heard me say this before, but it’s worth mentioning again: “A life free of risk is the goal of a dead man.”

Fear is inevitable.


Effective Performance Management Is Reliant On Your Instincts

Getting back to my client and his team member, the one potentially facing the life-changing experience of termination…

My client, the middle manager in this scenario, ignored his gut instinct when his direct report said whatever it is that they said.

If a staff member triggers an awareness of a negative reaction in your gut – stop and take note.

Almost without fail, your instinct will be right.

Addressing these red flags can be the difference between an experience that may cause grief, and turning the challenge around.

Performance management doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Done well, it can benefit everyone: the staff member, your team, the organisation and you, their manager.

There are a million reasons why you might ignore your instincts in this situation. Especially when it comes to performance management.

But consider this: you have a choice to lose one kilogram now or 10 kilos later.

Have confidence in your instincts when something isn’t right with a staff member.


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