Performance management and coaching is a core leadership skill. During tough times “dumbsizing” or layoffs are used with all the finesse of a neurosurgeon doing brain surgery with a chainsaw (see “Wise Managers Treat Layoffs as Last Resort”). Too many managers don’t have the courage or skill to face performance issues and deal one-on-one with people who are struggling and clearly don’t belong in the roles they are in. So one easy way out are lay-offs. Even worse are the cowards that do it by e-mail!

As I look back at the hundreds of people I’ve led over the past few decades one of my regrets was letting underperformers and people not doing well struggle too long. I am not sure I was being fair to them by prolonging their own suffering and that of the others on their team.

Getting managers to recognize and deal with their own ineffective behavior and that they have sprouted moose antlers has been one of my career-long challenges. I have had successes in coaching and developing some of them. But I have not found a magic formula that suddenly makes these managers wake up and say “Oh, my God. He’s talking about me and I need to change.” In our business we always talk about personal, team, and organizational readiness as being a factor we can’t control and yet so critical to success.

I’ve found that very few managers deliberately try to say one thing and do another. Most are unaware of the disconnect between their words and actions. So they need help through sensitive feedback and people around them with the courage and skill to address their behavior through courageous upward leadership. We could use an upward leadership revolution during these turbulent times.