Management and leadership

Performance as a concept

Performance is a broad and hugely complex topic, because it is so fundamental to your business.

In organisations, "performance" is often used in connection with:

  • share performance or other financial indicators
  • continuous improvement ("Kaizen")
  • meeting targets - for example in customer relations
  • productivity
  • the balanced scorecard - a number of organisational success indicators, usually a mix of financial, quality and other measures
  • concepts of excellence
  • benchmarking with competitors
  • competence and capability
  • human asset accounting

In the context of HR, it is often used alongside issues such as:

  • performance related pay
  • appraisals
  • absence management
  • improved performance and cost-savings through flexible or atypical contracts
  • individual and team performance
  • negotiating productivity increases in union discussions
  • performance problems, leading to discipline

Managing performance is about coaching, guiding, appraising, motivating and rewarding your staff to help unleash potential and improve organisational performance. Where it works well, it is built on excellent leadership and high-quality coaching relationships between managers and teams.

Different styles of management

In order to perform well, every leader has a unique way of handling their team and your style of management should take into account the nature and mindset of your people.


Short description


The directive style has the primary objective of immediate compliance from employees:

  • The “do it the way I tell you” manager
  • Closely controls employees
  • Motivates by threats and discipline

Effective when:

  • There is a crisis
  • When deviations are risky

Not effective when:

  • Employees are highly skilled – they become frustrated and resentful with being micromanaged.


The authoritative style has the primary objective of providing long-term direction and vision for employees:

  • The “firm but fair” manager
  • Gives employees clear direction
  • Motivates by persuasion and feedback on task performance

Effective when:

  • Clear directions and standards are needed
  • The leader is credible

Ineffective when:

  • Employees are underdeveloped – they need guidance on what to do
  • The leader is not credible – people won’t follow your vision if they don’t believe in it


The affiliative style has the primary objective of creating harmony among employees and between manager and employees:

  • The “people first, task second” manager
  • Avoids conflict and emphasises good personal relationships among employees
  • Motivates by trying to keep people happy

Effective when:

  • Used with other styles
  • Tasks routine, performance adequate
  • Counselling, helping
  • Managing conflict

Least effective when:

  • Performance is inadequate – affiliation does not emphasise performance
  • There are crisis situations needing direction


The participative style has the primary objective of building commitment and consensus among employees:

  • The “everyone has input” manager
  • Encourages employee input in decision making
  • Motivates by rewarding team effort

Effective when:

  • Employees working together
  • Staff have experience and credibility
  • Steady working environment

Least effective when:

  • Employees must be coordinated
  • There is a crisis – no time for meetings
  • There is a lack of competency – close supervision required


The pacesetting style has the primary objective of accomplishing tasks to a high standard of excellence:

  • The “do it myself” manager
  • Performs many tasks personally and expects employees to follow his/her example
  • Motivates by setting high standards and expects self-direction from employees

Effective when:

  • People are highly motivated, competent
  • Little direction/coordination required
  • When managing experts

Least effective when:

  • Workload requires assistance from others
  • Development, coaching and coordination required


The coaching style has the primary objective of long-term professional development of employees:

  • The “developmental” manager
  • Helps and encourages employees to develop their strengths and improve their performance
  • Motivates by providing opportunities for professional development

Effective when:

  • Skill needs to be developed
  • Employees are motivated and wanting development

Ineffective when:

  • The leader lacks expertise
  • When performance discrepancy is too great – coaching managers may persist rather than exit a poor performer
  • In a crisis

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