Getting the best out of your staff


Many managers procrastinate meetings with staff about appraisal or performance reviews. Managers feel under equipped to deal with difficult conversations and staff often dread the formal meeting. Some performance management systems are, as Demming said, “perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting” – which sadly often is mediocrity!

An HR director once said to me the best performance management system is a blank piece of paper. The key is the conversation and dialogue. Recent research shows that organisations are moving away from Annual Performance Reviews because they create over complicated systems which are both unhelpful and very costly. 

I’ve learned over my years of experience working in many different organisations that having an honest conversation about performance and development is at the heart of creating a positive work culture. One where both challenge and support are present. Where staff feel valued as well as challenged to make their best contribution.

While a detailed exploration of this is beyond this short article, but here are some tips on one key area – giving feedback – that will pay dividends if you are able to implement.


  • make giving regular, timely feedback a key part of interactions with staff and colleagues
  • be open to receive feedback as well as giving it: specifically ask for feedback from staff and colleagues
  • sometimes give only positive feedback, and when you give positive feedback it’s OK to do it in public
  • when you give constructive or critical feedback make sure you follow the following ‘rules’: 
    • only give the feedback in private -make sure you also highlight what is good (an example is: “Joe what I liked about that presentation was you covered the key issues. What I didn’t like was it had too much detail and you ran over time. What I’d like you to change is to present with more clarity and brevity, and make sure you build in time at the end for questions and dialogue.”
    • make sure you are clear about what you want the staff member to change
    • check the staff member understands
    • and, finally, get ownership for needed actions and improvement

Joe Lafferty, Leadership Consultant and Team Coach, is founder of Lifetree, an international consultancy who’s aim is “Supporting responsible leaders to achieve their highest potential.”



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