Are we experiencing an epidemic of people with a fear of performance measurement..? Yes, if you see resistance to using measures that actually matter…
So let’s define a phobia – type of anxiety disorder, usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational. (www.phobialist.com/treat)
The key terms relating to PM’O’Phobia – persistent fear of a situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding. And let’s recognise that this is ‘typically disproportional to the actual danger‘.
When you are looking to understand performance, or have discussions about measuring performance – have you ever seen or experienced behaviours like these..?
- People measuring things that don’t matter – but there are measures, counts of things being done, even the number of meetings we had, or the number of actions that were recorded, completed
- People saying “yes but, you can’t measure that..!” – particularly when you have the discussion that those counts don’t really measure what we are trying to achieve
- “We can’t measure that because it is beyond our control, there are too many other parties involved in that outcome, we can only measure what we do…“
- “We can’t report that measure, because the Exec’s won’t like it, nobody wants bad news…”
- “You can’t measure that because we don’t know what the target should be, and we would be setting ourselves up for failure…”
- Or even, “what’s the point of measuring something that should be 100% but we know we will never get there…”
If you have ever said these things like this, or heard them in your organisation – then PM’O’Phobia is a probable diagnosis. People going to great lengths to avoid situations that are really disproportionate to the actual danger involved – such as actually understanding how we are performing… doesn’t that seem like a good thing..? In our personal worlds we measure all sorts of things, our weight, fitness, calories, the number of coffees per day, the number of alcohol free nights in a week… If we coach a primary school soccer team we will know how each kid performs, in each different position. But when it comes to our business, PM’O’Phobia kicks in. Why..?
I believe PM’O’Phobia is driven by (well meaning, mainly) managers and leaders with bad habits. Have you ever done these things, or seen leaders do these things:
- Sit as a judge on a person’s performance – based on a measure or two
- Consult with the team before you give them their KPIs – but don’t take any of their input
- Even if you do consult with good intent, the team seems passive, so you end up telling them what the ‘answer’ is
- Blame the team or person for the perceived poor performance – and then tell them how to fix it
- Demand a response when you see what looks like a ‘bad number’ in a report
In these ways and so many others – managers and leaders build an environment where PM’O’Phobia thrives. They are creating situations that people want to actively avoid, and so people commit to going to great lengths to avoid these situations. You may not do these things yourself, but probably people within your team have had managers that have…learned behaviours and reactions.
So what is the best approach to reduce the effects of PM’O’Phobia.
If the person with a phobia is exposed to non-dangerous stimulus time after time without any harm being experienced, the phobic response would gradually extinguish itself.
Good performance management is not creating PM’O’Phobia. Good performance management is about setting a clear vision and direction on the results to be achieved. Collaborating with the team to develop the best measures that provide feedback on the results. Agreeing on the targets with the team, and coaching the team to reach their targets. This is managing performance.