Crisis Magnifies Inclusive Leadership & Performance Issues

Now is the time for a performance management overhaul and pivot to inclusive leadership

The future of work series is based on the insights from my quantitative and qualitative research with ideas to think about your organization and a toolkit to take action on as a leader.  This theme focuses on how performance management will work in the future of work.

COVID has been a magnifier for performance

HR consultant and author of The Success of Failure, Mike Bensi, shared “this has created a big spotlight on the high and low performers.  It is very clear to leaders those that are performing in the virtual work environment and those that are not.  Those that are stepping up in this time of uncertainty, proactively managing their workload are clearly outperforming their peers that are waiting for direction.”

This begs the question why were these performance issues not dealt with before?  Why did it take a crisis to force organizations to manage performance issues?

Had this been managed proactively, organizations could save the headaches of managing it now amidst a crisis.  WIth most organizations reevaluating their budgets and payroll expenses, it becomes clear the opportunity to save money by letting go lower performers.  For example, one of my clients is taking all of their low performing employees and having one-on-one conversations with them about their performance with a choice to leave the organization with the career transition support  While this is a reactive strategy, this is the reality of not managing performance effectively before COVID.

An alternative approach is to incentivize positive performance by measuring outputs consistently (i.e. productivity), rather than the standard inputs (i.e. hours worked).  Teams need key performance indicators that can be easily tracked and reported regularly.  This is best if the employee has great influence on these metrics and can self-report them to their manager in their one-one-ones.  

Key performance indicators need to be leading, not lagging.  High performers will be motivated by the challenge and low performers cannot hide in the background.  This of course depends on functional area and industry, and could include: % customer growth, number of new ideas, $ saved, # marketing initiatives, % employee engagement, % employee turnover, client satisfaction scores, budget variance, or simply # of tasks completed.  

Inclusive leaders are thriving

Inclusive behavior has never been more important in the workplace.  Being seen, heard, and feeling like you belong, especially virtually, matters.   If teams were having trouble before COVID, they are in real trouble now.  While this has magnified individual performance, this is a pivot point for leadership performance.

Trusted advisor, speaker, and author of The Multiplier Effect, Elise Foster shared, “if you are struggling with low performers, look for the patterns of high and low performers.  Is it a normal distribution across each leader or are there pockets of high performers that tend to steer toward certain leaders.  Often, high performing leaders create the conditions for high performance to succeed.  We are not independent actors in the system.  We are interdependent.”

If you are seeing a high correlation between leadership and performance, this is a chance to educate your leaders on the importance of inclusive leadership behaviors.  Leaders need tools to lead inclusively.  They also need key performance indicators in the form of competencies to drive team performance.  

Some inclusive leadership KPIs include:  emotional intelligence, empathy, candid communication, vulnerability, curiosity, confidence, delegation, influence, feedback, facilitation, or transparency.  See my full Inclusive Leadership Checklist for more ideas.

HR is in flux

Looking at this as a positive opportunity for positive change, CEO and author of The Way of the HR Warrier, Keri Ohlrich, PhD noted this is going to shake up HR significantly.  Specifically, “we gotta be more open to new approaches to traditional HR processes in the future.  That means less focus on rigid HR policies, and more empowerment on people to make decisions with flexible guidelines.”

That means shaking up performance management.

Toolkit to take action

Let this be an opportunity to pivot forward as a leader.  Get your team together virtually or live and be curious to learn from them.  Ask them for feedback on the Inclusive Leadership Checklist in an one-on-one or by email or chat:

  • FEEDBACK:  What are three things I do well, and what are three things I could do better?
  • KPIs:  What are some key performance indicators for both of us?
  • COMMUNICATION:  How do we want to communicate our progress on KPIs together?

The future of work will not be the same.  There is no return to normal.  The future of work needs an overhaul to performance management and a pivot to inclusive leadership.

This great pause is an opportunity to lead your team to success.  How are you going to take advantage of this opportunity?

If you liked this article, good news.  I created a future of work blog series and video series on the future of work.  You can find time to connect with me  1:1 to discuss ideas here.

We need our allies more than ever.  We will get through this together.  Because we are stronger together.

Message me with your thoughts at  I personally respond to every email I receive.