Managing performance as an emerging leader

Performance Management For Leaders

Being promoted to management is one of the most exciting and memorable times in one’s career. While graduating to a leadership role is an accomplishment to be proud of, the transition from individual contributor to leader can be a formidable challenge.

As a leader, you significantly impact the experience that each of your direct reports has at your organization. This responsibility shouldn’t be taken lightly and should motivate you to be the best you can be. Managing people is one of the most important skills you'll need as you progress in your career. One of the largest – and most important – roles of a manager is to ensure your people are performing at the height of their potential. However, the skills that made you successful in your previous role are not the same ones you need to manage performance effectively.

Performance management

Are your people engaged and motivated? Do they work well together? Performance management is the process of improving performance by setting individual and team goals which are aligned to the strategic goals of the organization. As a leader of people, you must continuously develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities of your direct reports.

Performance management is a complex responsibility. The process of managing performance brings to the surface a Pandora's box of issues that you wouldn’t have encountered in your previous role as an individual contributor – and likely wouldn’t have learned how to deal with in business school. These are a few of the delicate performance management challenges an emerging leader must face:

Hiring and selection

For an organization to create and sustain a competitive advantage, it needs to hire the best people and keep them. Not only do leaders need to match the right skill set to the right role, but they must determine if a candidate's values align with the organization's. In other words, are they the right fit? If a new leader isn’t trained properly in talent management best practices, the end result is poor performance, high turnover, and employee disengagement. Additionally, a new leader who is not well-versed in employment standards legislation leaves their organization vulnerable to costly and reputation-damaging litigation.

Misconduct allegations

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, more and more individuals are coming forward with allegations of workplace sexual harassment, discrimination, and other forms of harassment. What is the best way for employers to respond to misconduct allegations? Does every allegation call for a thorough and external investigation? Leaders must be prepared to respond to misconduct complaints and, in particular, those complaints which the employer views as performance management — not harassment.

The actions taken by a new leader following a misconduct allegation are critical in limiting their employer’s liability and resulting negative publicity. Leaders must be trained on the difference between sexual harassment, other harassment, and performance management.

Assessing performance under uncertain circumstances

For most organizations, performance appraisals are a key factor in managing employee performance. When assessing performance, it's important to know that employees may fail to meet their performance objectives due to personal circumstances that can not be predicted, such as illness, the death of a loved one, personal or family issues. In addition, unclear/unfair expectations, inadequate knowledge or skills, and workplace conflict can be the root cause of an employee's sub-par performance. As a new leader, how do you accurately assess performance under uncertain circumstances?

Chronic absenteeism

It goes without saying that when an employee is habitually absent from work, not only does their performance suffer but the performance of their team – and the workplace culture overall – suffers as well. There are a number of reasons an employee could be chronically absent: mental health issues, workplace conflict, personal issues, harassment, child or elder care challenges, job dissatisfaction, and more. As a new leader, how do you investigate the cause of an employee’s abnormally high absentee rate? How do you formulate a development plan to improve their attendance? At what point should termination be considered?


Whether you’re a new leader or a seasoned one, terminating employees is one of the most difficult decisions to make. The impact of the termination on the employee, staff, other stakeholders, and the potential effect the termination may have on the reputation of the organization must all be carefully considered.

As a leader, how you handle a termination makes a huge difference in managing legal risk. In most cases, employees are legally entitled to a fair and reasonable termination package, either in accordance with their employment contract or with their rights associated with employment standards legislation. Carrying out a termination in a planned and professional manner will save your organization the considerable cost and hassle of having to deal with a wrongful dismissal lawsuit.

Preparation through practice

Studies have shown that 47 per cent of managers don't receive any training when they begin a new leadership role. Faced with new responsibilities, and in need of quick, dependable guidance, leaders in the early stages of their careers can't afford to learn on the job by trial and error.

For such an important function, it’s critical for leaders to build their skill level in all areas of performance management. The best way to increase skill level is to practice. With the Ivey Performance Management Program, you’ll get to practice handling different delicate performance management situations until you get them right – before you have to inevitably face them in the real world. By learning the essential skills needed to manage performance effectively, you’ll be prepared to face performance management situations that would otherwise be overwhelming. You’ll transition to your first leadership role with confidence and clarity, cementing a strong foundation for your leadership career.

To learn more about the Ivey Performance Management Program, please download the program brochure.


About The Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School
The Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School is the home for executive Learning and Development (L&D) in Canada. It is Canada’s only full-service L&D house, blending Financial Times top-ranked university-based executive education with talent assessment, instructional design and strategy, and behaviour change sustainment. 

Rooted in Ivey Business School’s real-world leadership approach, The Ivey Academy is a place where professionals come to get better, to break old habits and establish new ones, to practice, to change, to obtain coaching and support, and to join a powerful peer network. Follow The Ivey Academy on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.