Performance Management in a Remote World - More Tips

Posted in : Coaching in the Moment on 1 October 2020
Karl O'Connor
OCN Coaching Champions Ltd
Issues covered: Coaching; Performance Management; Remote Workers

Coaching for line Managers was once again rated as one of the most important performance management issues, second only to employee engagement, in the CIPD 2020 survey of HR Practices in Ireland. But months into the pandemic, many employers are finding performance management extremely challenging. Find out how to use coaching to manage remote teams in our current blog. See also our previous blog on managing performance.

Coaching in the Moment

The Challenge

How best to manage individualperformance remotely?

The Solution

Conduct regular 1:1s separate from team meetings.

Adopt a coaching approach.

Co-develop a plan of action and built in review.

Takeaway Actions

Now – more than ever – you need to support your remote teams to manage their performance.  Use coaching tools to structure 1:1 meetings.

Key coaching tools and techniques include the Skill/Will Matrix as a diagnostic tool and Appreciative Inquiry to conduct constructive conversations.

But before we start looking for solutions to performance management issues, let’s consider first the likely impact of working from home. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, typically we are going through three phases of response to home working.

“In the beginning, when the emergency becomes clear, team energy rises, and performance goes up… then the second phase hits: a regression phase, where people get tired, lose their sense of purpose, start fighting about the small stuff, and forget to do basic things like eat or drink — or they eat and drink too much… regression is one of the mind’s ways to defend itself from confusion and insecurity by retreating to an emotional comfort zone..” According to the authors, reorientation is the trigger that directs your team’s attention towards the recovery phase. You change the question from, “How can we handle the crisis?” to, “How can we move out of the crisis?”

So what can a manager do to help a team member get back on track and deliver? There isn’t a silver bullet but here are a few proven tips to help you:

Regular 1:1’s

Set up or re-visit having 1:1s with each team member. How are they finding the current situation they face, what is working for them and what could be better? Managers need to act as CEO’s where they become the Chief Empathy Officer and listen empathically to what is being said by individuals especially during this current phase of regression.


Review and contract afresh how you will work remotely over the coming months until, for example, the end of the year. Outline your expectations and agree how and when you plan to keep one another updated. Niall Eyre, of TransformHR advises that “as face to face interactions are limited, remote working requires clear communication though other means e.g phone, email, video conference”.

Trust your team

Once individuals are clear regarding their role, and have the necessary resources, trust your team to get on with it. Ensure your calendar is visible and have a virtual open door when they need support. We know from the CIPD HR Practices 2020 research however that a major barrier to remote working is “the lack of buy-in from managers”.  For remote or smart working to succeed Niall Eyre advises that you need “the highest levels of trust with managers and employees having to work extra hard on understanding roles, goals and objectives.” Niall’s insights come from personal and professional experience where he worked 100% remotely managing teams for over six years. “Managers need to be crystal clear with their direct reports in relation to the goals and objectives.  Once agreed, and to succeed, there has to be trust. “

Manage for results

Re-visit agreed goals to ensure that they are still fit for purpose. Then manage and motivate for results around projects and objectives. Avoid micro-managing unless you are dealing with a serious underperformer.  Use the Skill/Will matrix to help you identify the staff member’s current skill and motivation levels. Praise whenever possible and also challenge when necessary. What is important for managers to remember, particularly those who traditionally haven’t been exposed to remote working, is that just because you can’t see team members, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t working!

Coach for performance

One of the more recent approaches to performance management cited by the CIPD in their factsheet  on Performance Management is to use a ‘strengths-based approach’. This requires managers identifying and focusing on employees strengths to help them to learn and improve their performance rather than simply focusing on weaknesses to address what they aren’t good at in the first instance. The idea comes from Appreciative Inquiry, a coaching tool. Understand what it is your staff member has been doing that's worked well. Having established what is working well, the manager can then focus on what the individual can do better. This developmental approach also helps to build employee engagement over time.

Using a structured, coaching based approach can help surface tough questions and challenges but can also lead to new performance answers and refresh both manager and staff expectations, moving from regression to recovery!


This article is correct at 01/10/2020

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Karl O'Connor
OCN Coaching Champions Ltd

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