Monday 10 September 2012

A lesson on performance management from the London Paralympic games.

“Lifting the Cloud of Limitation”

(Quote from a London 2012 Games Maker)

- A lesson on performance management from the London Paralympic games.

The Paralympics closing ceremony has just started as I write this; full of emotion, of happiness, of inspiration, of humanity…. asd it’s only 9pm!
Looking back less than two weeks to when the first competitions raised the curtain on these remarkable few days and countless moments of history,  I’m recognising a fundamental change in the types of conversation we’ve been having.

Just twelve days ago we were having conversations about disability: “What’s wrong with him?” or, “She looks normal.” and even  “He’s almost as good as a normal athlete.”  The focus was on “can’t do”, it was on limitation and it was on deficit. It was on making the most of a bad job and at very best, it was patronising.

Athlete first, disability second

Fast forward to today. How much of today’s conversation is about deficit? Not much! It seems like the world has been blown away by the  power, the determination and the achievements of these amazing, dedicated and finely tuned athletes. The disability has become secondary; the ability  has become the focus.

What’s this got to do with performance management?

So many performance management meetings seem to focus on deficit. What have I not done well enough? Which targets have not been achieved? etc. Would we even be having the conversation if there wasn’t  something wrong?  In this environment, performance management quickly becomes seen as a negative process, focusing on the disability rather than the ability… and you get what you focus on!

If performance management discussions were about ability, aspiration dreams and excitement couldn’t individuals and organisations start to find the true greatness that rests in all of us?

Of course not one of our paralympic athletes has been naive enough to pretend that they have no disability; part of the success process is to be clear and honest about the challenges we experience. A performance management discussion that avoids these sometimes painful issues is not going to help at all. Our paralympians have learned to work with their disabilities to achieve the truly exceptional.

So, a heartfelt plea: Let’s stop thinking of performance management as a deficit process or as the assertion of restrictive control and instead be determined to deliver performance management as a key process for supporting people to unleash their amazing talents!

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