Roots and fruit: Why performance management doesn’t work

Photo by Zen Chung from Pexels

Performance management focusses on rules, standards, goals…. Important stuff, but performance agreements aren’t much help when customers are clamouring.

Because of the way we are wired, our performance depends on a whole host of things that completely ignore performance contracts. We know that hungry or anxious children cannot learn. Nothing naughty about it – it’s just not possible; the wiring is messed up. The same is true of adults. If their anxiety is up, their performance will be down.

Humans are like fruit trees. To grow fruit, there is much to do. But it is about roots and soil – the food and ecosystem – not the fruit.

Once the fruit arrives, it is too late. When orders come in and deadlines approach, shouting and cracking the whip just increases the anxiety that restricts activity.

Fruit forms from the trust you build when things are calm: an ecosystem of laughing, encouraging and sharing stories; the nourishment of nurturing, mentoring and building relationships. Then, when customers clamour and deadlines demand, there is no need for shouting; everyone knows their place and are up for the challenge.

Ironically, performance improves when we focus less on performance and more on people.


Contact Simply Communicate ( to help with your ecosystem and team performance.


Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people and HR & people-management consulting.

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