Performance management, with attempts to enhance, measure and control and with various “change” projects, is currently much en vogue. The risk of disappointment and unintended damage is not low. There is a much better science-based approach, the successful concept of a Caring Culture that I found and want to promote…
The hypertrophic word “performance” definitely needs a contemporary definition. In fact, there is a great replacement, and it’s connected with much-needed empathy.
Many organisations keep dreaming of “better performance”, and they time and time again try to implant in their workforce.
One problem is that “performance” is a broad, vague, hollow and overused term (like many buzzwords in business jargon). On a close look, performance is a mean, not an end. It refers to outPUT, activity. In reality, outCOME, results, steady adaptation in the sense of improvement, are what counts.
There is the next problem. In human organisations, from partnerships and teams to clans and big corporations, Complexity rules. They are complex systems of complex individuals with complex interconnections. And, as a law, Complexity forbids direct command, steering and control. Including control or command of “performance“.
Context is the mans of choice under Complexity
The solution is Context. The only way to “manage” humans and human organisations is by Context. This means providing meaning and perspective, a vision and a mission, purpose, goals and rules.
The best managers manage to “lead” the people entrusted to them by inspiring them to care.
Caring means being aware and prudent, being proud, sensible and sensitive of what one is doing, to assume responsibility for one‘s part and the whole. It also means being of help to others, the end user as well as co-workers.
The Caring Culture as permanent aim
If this is approximately achieved in an organisation as an element of „Culture“ (i.e. the way things and people are treated in an organisation), then the managers have achieved an enormous task and can let go. The wonderful dynamic of a complex system will set in and, as effect of collective activities, positive, highly intelligent adaptive behaviour and solutions will emerge.
It appears like a miracle when good outcomes and solutions just happen. In fact, there is a strong theory behind it.
Performing means caring
In any case, a meaningful and fruitful definition is: PERFORMANCE MEANS CARING.
Actually, one can cancel the old term and work well with the better one: It‘s not “How are you performing?“ — it‘s “How much are you caring?”
Purposely, there is a social, emotional aspect to the term “care”. It also refers to being (able to be) empathetic. This is hugely important since, both in business and society, there is a growing lack of empathy.
Much more empathy needed, everywhere
The circumstances of our time destroy empathy and trust in many ways. If we would have more of them, we would have many problems less.
Consistently, “at work” (including home office), where we spend a big part of our life time, it is good to have a lot of empathy and trust-building.
So let’s measure and improve the levels of caring instead of performance in our organisation and environment.
I end with a fitting greeting: Take care!