Career is not a sprint. It is a marathon | Story #3

Career is not a sprint. It is a marathon | Story #3

Career is not a sprint. It is a marathon | Story #3

by styleabille , September 16, 2019


I hope you read my story # 1 and story # 2. Many ask why I write about themes related to career. Those who know me, know how I take my professional life seriously since very early in my life. I do not remember a time love was an objective. I surely do not shy away but the way I am, and I portray myself is rather correlated to my professional identity. There is also no secret that we spend a third of our life working.

What we focus on, we give power to.

Many people are unhappy at work. There is no way this toxicity does not come home and is not part of our dreams and nightmares.

I am not a big fan of happiness theories and this whole new happiness industry. Some time ago, I simply asked myself one question: If I am unhappy at work, why stay?

People come up with all kinds of excuses and justifications; most of them are related to liabilities. The truth is that there is only one reason: fear.

My upbringing was quite military, and I spent a decade in rigid institutions be it for education or for work. That said, I am not the kind of people who fear challenges and chose to fly. Additionally, I have always struggled working and being around non-performing individuals and teams.

What performance is

This is my personal definition; derived from my education, experience, and continuous learning. Performance is positive results in a consistent and sustainable manner. A performing individual (or team) is one who reinvents the way things are done in order to maintain or increase results. It is also an individual (or team) who embodies collaboration believing that together we reach further.

(consistent and sustainable results)*(innovation and collaboration)

In my view, a high-performing individual who is not collaborative is a toxic individual. In sports, he/she is exited from the team.

Why it is important

The importance of performance is at two levels.

  • Individual

Performance is important as it increases a person’s self-esteem, it channels energy, and it pushes away depression. When an individual is performing, he/she is self-realized, he/she is a role model (for someone, somewhere), and his/her organizational value increases.

  • Organizational

For organizations, high performing individuals and teams are contagious. As such, it is a key driver for productivity and enhanced bottom line. Additionally, a high performing organization (through its human capital) is one with good market positioning.

What we have been doing wrong

There are several wrongdoings or rather obsolete practices when it comes to performance management.

  • Historically, performance management is confused with judgement
  • It focuses on guilt and blame rather than feedback
  • Management is by fear
  • Failure was equivalent to the end of someone’s career
  • Performance management is unfair as instilled with biases
  • Performance management is related to milestones (mid year, year end) rather than continuous

Things started to change. We are moving towards

  • Recognizing shared responsibility through feedback, coaching, and improved recruitment
  • A certain level of automation

And many other improvements that are being tested now.

Some people argue that things have been done wrongly. I disagree. I believe that the world of work is changing. As such a new approach to performance is required.

  • Jobs are either new (some did not exist five years ago!) or evolved (think of the Interactive Teller Machine vs. the traditional counter employee in a bank)
  • Awareness has increased
  • Studies are more reliable, valid, and abundant
  • Successful organizations (trend setters) are everywhere

What I do when I am not performing

I typically do three things when I am aware that I am not performing

  • I take a step back to reflect and ask myself WHY
  • I have some rest. Sometimes, this is all we need
  • I also seek feedback

This approach has helped me understand that different ways of working lead to better or different results.

What I do when others are not performing

I have been managing teams for a while now. As such I have identified an effective way to managing under performers.

  • Coaching
  • Feedback
  • Reassignment of roles within the team
  • Give responsibility (see blog about Drive by Daniel Pink)
  • Ask WHY

There are two things I still do. However, I only do when I exhaust my resources

  • Do on behalf (namely when I know that the individual’s under performance is temporary and/or justified)
  • Exit under performers from the team

Performance management: does it exist?

In my opinion, performance management is a myth. It is more of a value and an intrinsic part to ways of working. It is practiced daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.

The key is in the quality of the discussion (yes, it is a discussion)

  • The questions to ask
  • The upward feedback
  • The feedback
  • The documentation
  • The attendees (e.g. representation of HR)
  • The duration (time-bound and concise)
  • The actions (the related follow up and documentation) with the right timelines and owner

Performance discussions should never tackle financial rewards.

Performance discussions should never contain promises (even if those will be fulfilled).

In the wake of digitizing the employee experience, performance management is one of the sensitive areas when it comes to what to automate.

This is not a masterclass around performance management. This has been a painful area in my career. It has always been an area of interest as well. As much as it is related to organizational performance, it has a considerable element of psychology.

We never know enough about performance management. If you pause and think for a second, the speed of change and the complexity of today’s world of work keep challenges related to performance coming

  • Performance and millennials
  • Performance and retirement
  • Performance and illness
  • Performance and maternity
  • And more

There is also increased awareness about a flowing employee experience impacting performance and engagement. There is a need to look at the quality of recruitment and how it impacts performance. Some studies and organizations are questioning the need for large training investments in the presence of solid recruitment and continuous feedback.

And the debate continues about the relation between performance and pay…

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