Driving Performance

By Dr. Peter Cheng

Co-Founder & Chief of Dialogue

This article is the 8th in a 9-part series by Dr. Peter Cheng that discusses the Who-ness and What-ness of A Real Leader who Shapes Culture and Drives Performance.

“What gets measured, gets done and what gets rewarded gets done more.”

Unpacking this statement, one can see that measuring what others do facilitates them doing the tasks assigned to them. You might say “but nobody likes being monitored on what they do”. There’s no doubt that measuring and monitoring of one’s performance or contributions are almost inseparable but it’s the approach and attitude behind the measurement that matters. Real leaders measure their people’s performance and contributions for several reasons.

Firstly, to make people accountable for the tasks they are responsible for. How else could we hold others accountable? Real leaders measure others' performance to provide a gauge for developing people. Knowing where people stand in their performance gives leaders the opportunity to introduce appropriate interventions to help develop (and counsel) their people. Measuring performance allows leaders to give due recognition and rewards to performers. In short, real leaders hold people accountable for their performance, and develop people and reward people for good performance. Indeed, real leaders bring with them a sense of positional accountability that holds people responsible and drives them to achieve performance expectations.

I’ve previously discussed how real leaders embrace the Essentials of Real Leadership to bring about leadership effectiveness and ultimately organisational effectiveness. These include Competence, Creating An Inclusive Environment, Compassion, Character, Conviction With Courage, Credibility and Shape Culture. In driving the performance of their people, real leaders demonstrate these essentials to conduct performance appraisals effectively to achieve organisational goals.


Real leaders are also effective appraisers and know the intricacies of conducting good appraisals. They do not take appraisals as an annual exercise as we have witnessed even in the most established multinational corporations. To attain competence, real leaders avail themselves to learn about how they could conduct effective appraisals that are meaningful and memorable, inspiring their people to excel. They reflect on each appraisal encounter and ask “What did I do well in this appraisal? How can I do better?” In doing so, they continually engage themselves in renewed learning and raise their competence level to the point of unconscious competence. As a result, conducting effective appraisals become second nature.

Compassion and Creating an Inclusive Environment

Real leaders have strong professional resolve to drive performance with their team members. They hold their people accountable for the agreed performance that they set to achieve. However, they don’t neglect the need to show compassion by engaging in an empathetic mode when dealing with poor performers. Creating an inclusive environment means giving your people a voice to speak, and respecting that voice; but it may not mean accepting their “justification” of performance. While real leaders are mindful in allowing people to “justify” their shortfall in performance and take ownership to make good for it, they exercise seasoned judgment to balance the act between achieving organisational goals and having a true sense of compassion for their people. In our OD consulting experiences, we’ve seen the extreme behaviours of appraisers; either too un-objectively strict or too compassionate to the point of losing objectivity. Do you demonstrate the “balance” of being compassionate & creating an inclusive environment, with being overly strict?

Conviction with Courage

Real leaders have the conviction to reward people for great performance. However, they don't hesitate to address poor performers and discipline recalcitrant and unwilling ones. I've met leaders who were afraid to confront their underperforming employees and such lack of courage inadvertently impacts their team’s performance. To think of that, they’ve also done their employees a disservice, allowing them to dwell in their lackluster performance and incompetence. Noting that any leader’s key role is to engage, inspire and transform their people, leaders who lack the conviction and courage must reconsider how they mustn’t set their people up to fail - through their lack of interventions on poor performance. In displaying conviction with courage, real leaders stand up to invalid oppositions brought up by employees, to address the key issues that will help their people “shape up” in their performance for personal and organisational growth.

Shape Culture

Real leaders shape the organisation’s culture by ensuring that everyone onboard embraces and lives out their espoused core values. These leaders are conscious in applying core values even when measuring their people’s performances. In fact, the appraisal is one critical incident for leaders to demonstrate how they stay true to the organisational core values. Real leaders are masters in this area, ensuring that core values are observed during performance appraisals to achieve fair and meaningful appraisals. As an illustration, let’s say that one of the values is authenticity. Real leaders will embrace authenticity in their appraisal exercise to remain truthful in giving feedback, ushering in observations of their people’s performance without changing their perception of their people. Given that it might be awkward to talk about poor performance, real leaders combine their conviction with courage and authenticity to address poor performers.

Price or Prize?

People are the most valued assets of organisations, so they say. We’ve heard of this repeatedly over the years, almost everywhere. Do organisations truly value its people as the most valued assets? We’ve found mixed reactions to this. While many might say they value their people as assets, it's ironic that their actions are not congruent to their proclamation.

However, real leaders do truly view their people as assets. These leaders are compassionate toward their people, build their competence, create an inclusive environment for them to feel belonged, build their people to become men and women of character and instil in them the conviction with courage to stand up against invalid opposition. Real leaders see their people as a prize to cherish, not as a price to pay. Their positive perception about their people as an asset and not liability reinforces how they treat and respect their people. In doing so, real leaders win the hearts of their people, engaging them and inspiring them to greater heights of excellence to perform exceptionally well.

In this increasingly fraudulent corporate world, the need to raise real leaders to value, engage and inspire people cannot be emphasised more. In my concluding article next month, I’ll be discussing in depth on how real leaders can shape organisational culture.