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Motivational performance management might sound like an oxymoron (i.e., jumbo shrimp).

How could that gut wrenching, dreaded annual or semi-annual assessment ever motivate someone?


By taking a physically intelligent approach to the process. Think of it as a performance management revolution.

Many organisations are moving away from traditional Performance Management models and towards something more innovative and meaningful. Accenture’s CEO spoke recently about overhauling performance reviews, saying that maybe it’s time to think about performance in the workplace in a whole different way.

In May 2015, in the UK, the Bank of England governor Mark Carney talked about ‘Doing more with Less’, and stated that he believes Britain’s productivity record will be the key to sustaining economic recovery.

Overhauling performance reviews and thinking about ‘performance’ in a new way is an important part of this step change.

At Companies in Motion, our own client work indicates that organisations are taking a fresh look at performance management.

What is driving organisations that have historically used traditional Performance Management models to look for more innovative approaches to performance management?

It’s all about control.

As human beings we like to have control over our own destiny. Too often ratings and appraisals can feel like they deliver the exact opposite. When assessed by others from the same social group, human beings are naturally anxious.

We are social animals and without the support of others we are unlikely to survive in ‘the wild.’ Traditional Performance Management systems can block productivity because employees spend time in a minor (or major) threat response.

Human beings don’t think clearly when threatened and are likely to move into an ‘away’response. In this ‘away’ state, the brain’s executive function is on low power, whilst the threat centres of the brain are on full alert.

David Rock, Director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, recently reported that in one large organisation 50% of people were ‘surprised’ by their PMS rating, and of these 87% were negatively surprised, leading to those employees displaying a 23% drop in engagement.

Here’s what happens to us physically during an ‘away’ response:

- a rise in Cortisol, (the threat hormone), to unhelpful levels as we prepare potentially to defend our position in an uncertain context.

- a drop in Dopamine, (the feel good, reward chemical that motivates us to move towards, engage with, and repeat certain experiences) as we feel less motivated to perform the demands of our role.

- erratic changes in Oxytocin levels, (the trust and social bonding chemical) as we wonder who has given us what feedback, and whether we will end up in the ‘in’ group or the ‘out’ group.

- a drop in Testosterone, (the confidence and risk tolerance chemical), as confidence levels waver, and control and status are threatened.

So how can we create a performance management environment that creates a ‘towards’ response that is motivational for the individual and delivers engagement, productivity and agility for the organisation?

The key is to think in terms of supporting performance rather than managing performance.

There are three key steps to making that shift:

- Eliminate or at least minimise surprises by providing ongoing feedback and coaching vs. one big conversation once or twice a year. (In our experience that is the number one reason the traditional approach is so threatening.)

- Train managers hard on the quality of these conversations.

- Help employees understand and manage their physiology, helping them develop the ability to minimise their own ‘away’ response and apply a learning mindset to performance feedback – which should create a ‘towards’ response.

- Achieving that ‘towards’ response will:

- Lower Cortisol, to normal levels of activation so that we are more resilient and can learn from every situation.

- Boost Dopamine levels, so that we feel motivated to move forward and perform at our highest level.

-Stabilise and boost Oxytocin levels, so that we can trust ourselves and others even whilst we are in the vulnerable position of receiving feedback, focusing on learning and accepting that we haven’t been abandoned.

- Boost Testosterone levels, as we take responsibility and feel confident about moving into new territory.

- Shifting employees from an ‘away’ response to a ‘towards’ response on a consistent basis over time will free up energy that can be channeled into collaboration, innovation, and increased focus.

That shift will enhance productivity and create a more positive workplace, which, in turn, can go a long way toward retaining top performers and attracting top talent, while supporting the existing team in achieving its goals – a compelling argument to join the performance management revolution!

About Companies In Motion

Transforming how organizations learn and engage, Companies In Motion (CIM) supports your and your organisation’s overall performance.

Many organizations are moving away from the traditional Performance Management models to something more innovative and meaningful. In response to this change, Learning and Development teams are implementing Physical Intelligence programs that support performance across the curriculum: leadership, innovation, change management, team building, sales, negotiating, and more.

At CIM we are working with organizations globally that want to create a new performance dynamic. Join us. Improve your decision making capacity, even when there is uncertainty.

Contact CIM for more information on how Physical Intelligence can support performance across your company.

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