For too long now, there has been a school of thought which suggests that performance management is about eradicating weaknesses. In some companies, they are even called ‘areas for development’. By focusing on the negative, surely we encourage a workforce of mediocrity? Wouldn’t our efforts be more richly rewarded by further developing peoples’ strengths and unleashing their unique talents? Also, when you are working with the strengths people already have, it is like pushing on an open door as people welcome feedback in these areas.
That is not to say weaknesses should be ignored and allowed to fester. Quite the contrary, they should be highlighted and understood so that practical ‘workarounds’ can be found, such as re-assigning parts of a job to others who have greater skill in that area.
So next time you have a performance management meeting with one of your staff, don't spend time looking for the negatives and then working out how you can balance this out with some positives (the old kiss-kick-kiss approach), but instead look at where the individual is performing well and work out (together) what it is that they are doing to create this high performance and how it can be repeated.