People Management in SME: Leadership, Performance and Feedback

Jun 1, 2018
Blog - People Management in SME: Leadership, Performance and Feedback

One of my favorite leadership frameworks that I use in my executive workshops as well as in my teaching at the MBA and PhD levels are the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership of James Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, described in their book ‘The Leadership Challenge’. It appeals to my physics engineering mindset because of its methodical approach.

The Five Practices are:

  • Model the Way: clarify values and set the example
  • Inspire a Shared Vision: envision the future and enlist others
  • Challenge the Process: search for opportunities and innovative ways and take risks
  • Enable Others to Act: foster collaboration and strengthen others
  • Encourage the Heart: recognize contributions and celebrate the values and victories

The Five Practices framework applies to leadership in general, and they apply to many areas of people management including very directly to performance evaluation and feedback. They apply to formal (e.g. scheduled performance review meeting) and informal (coaching in everyday business situations) processes, as well as to one-on-one performance reviews by leaders and collective group reviews within a team.

Here is an outline of how my team and I apply them in our work:

  • Model the Way: the performance evaluation and feedback process (and culture) should ensure that the selection of what is measured and how the results are weighted and communicated reflect clearly what types of behaviors, workstyles and results are desired
  • Inspire a Shared Vision: leaders should strive to describe an inspiring, desirable future as well as challenge their followers to do the same in their own words, both in one-on-one and in group settings
  • Challenge the Process: leaders can use the performance evaluation and feedback process as a way of reviewing many of the processes involved in followers’ work and considering new ideas, and encourage followers to do the same
  • Enable Others to Act: the conversations that are part of the performance evaluation and feedback process are a central part of a leader’s responsibility to coach followers, to support them in their development and to facilitate their teamwork
  • Encourage the Heart: last not least the performance evaluation and feedback process constitute an opportunity to recognize contributions and, on a group level also an opportunity to celebrate success and foster team bonding

In summary: strong leadership skills of leaders at all levels of the organization are essential to leveraging a good performance measurement and feedback process.

This is true for SME organizations just as well as for large corporations, however the resources available for training (e.g. of leadership skills) are often not the same, and this leads us to the topic of our next installment in this series: training and development in SMEs.