Managing Performance by Understanding Behaviour


Managing Performance by Understanding Behaviour

What benefit is it to the organization if short-term goals are met but a leader’s behaviour contributes to employee unrest, sabotage, or high turnover with loss of skills and knowledge? Leaders must be aware of how their behaviour impacts on the motivation and performance of their employees.

How leaders expect others to behave determines how they themselves act toward them. If they have negative expectations (beliefs) about someone, their behaviour will reflect how they feel, and they are likely to get the behaviour they expect. This, of course, can severely impact performance outcomes.

Successful management of our own behaviour and that of others can greatly facilitate our working relationships. When we have established effective working relationships, we can anticipate successful outcomes in the planning, managing and reviewing of performance. In order to do this, we need to understand the dynamics of behaviour.

Behaviour is something somebody does, something that is observable, and something that is measurable. A major premise of performance management is that as a leader, it is important for you to concentrate on observable, measurable behaviour.


We have two options to how we react to the behaviours of others. The first and natural response is to perceive this person as a threat and respond in a self-protective fashion. But this type of response serves only one purpose – to preserve and protect the us from our perceived threat. Self-protective responses isolate us from the threat. They are survival responses designed to preserve oneself or one’s self-image. They take us nowhere except back to where we were. Or they may serve to keep us from losing our ground. As such, they are static “back-to-ground-zero” type responses.

Self-protective responses serve only the needs of the person protecting themselves. As such they are non-negotiable. They do not contribute anything to the relationship because they do not encourage dialogue. After all, we cannot have a meaningful dialogue or negotiation with someone who is trying to control us, attack us, give in to us, or avoid us.

Our second option in the face of change is to perceive change, not as a threat but as a challenge and then to respond in an self-actualizing manner. Self-actualizing responses start with recognition of the legitimacy of the other person’s position. We may not agree with them but we accept it as deserving consideration.

An Self-actualizing response copes with reality – the way things are – not the way we wish them to be. It takes the other person into consideration. An Self-actualizing response is a problem-solving response that tries to meet the needs of the other person as well as our own. This approach makes involvement unavoidable. And with involvement comes risk. The risk is that the other person may actually influence us. The Self-protective person will not take that risk. The Self-actualizing person does.

But where there is risk, there may also be reward. The reward is to grow, to develop, and to enrich oneself, to discover a new and better alternative – in short to change, to meet the challenge of the initial change itself.

In summary, the extent that we are able to avoid Self-protective responses makes us more prepared to cope with change and the unexpected. Thus whoever can remain open, accepting, and willing to negotiate seems more prepared to deal with the challenges that leadership offers.

This developmental process begins with these three steps:
* Knowing where we are – in an self-actualizing or a self-protective response mode
* Recognizing a Self-protective response as a normal, human response
* Working to avoid being Self-protective habitually – a life style of Self-protectiveness



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