Katriina Tahka
April 10, 2023
coaching, Leadership, performance management

Was Tony Abbott performance managed?

Australia has its fifth Prime Minister in less than five years with the rolling of Tony Abbott for Malcolm Turnbull and there are two things we can learn from it;

1) Strong leadership is essential

In a recent interview Julie Bishop made it clear that it was her leadership obligation as the Liberal party deputy, to honour the feedback from her colleagues who had lost faith in Abbott as the party leader. She felt it her responsibility to give the feedback to her leader even though it came with a possibility of losing her own job in the process.

Many people shy away from giving feedback to others because they perceive it to be confrontational. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I upset them? Maybe they have other stuff going that I don’t know about! Too often we fail to give the right feedback to colleagues because our emotions blur the line for us and we end up giving only half the story.

A great model for giving feedback is AIMS:

A – Action ( the action or behaviour I observed)
I – Impact ( the impact of the action or behaviour observed on others)
M – Meaning ( what this means for the team, outcome, performance etc.)
S – So what ( what happens next; improvement, termination etc.)

2) Performance conversations should start early

Bishop went on to say that back in February 2015, Abbott asked his colleagues and the Australian public to give him six more months to prove his abilities. Seven months on and his performance was still under question. Bishop recounts telling Abbott that his performance was now coming under question again and he had a specific period of time in which to respond to the leadership spill. So does this mean that Abbott was performance managed?


Photo by Troy Constable Photography™/CC BY

While we don’t know the truth behind the leadership spill, if Abbott was performance managed, it certainly appeared to have been done well. Our Co-CEO, Katriina Tahka has spent much of her career as an employment lawyer and has many stories of employers not properly managing performance discussions and ending up in tribunal wishing they had had done things differently.

Bishop, true to her word as deputy leader expressed how important it was to share the party room feedback with Abbott so that the whole team can move forward. Isn’t that what we all want when performance is under question? To deal with it and move on. Too often we leave it until it is too late and the situation gets out of control. The trick is to deal with performance issues early through regular conversations.

Four great tips for dealing with performance issues:

  1. Be honest – easier said than done, but removes unwanted surprises and lets all parties understand the whole situation
  2. Build a plan – we believe in giving people the benefit of doubt, so work with the employee in building an action plan that shows them what greater performance looks like
  3. Coach – be a coach to them. Don’t cast them aside, waiting for the next fumble. Coach them by giving real time feedback that is firm but gives them hope for improvement
  4. Be prepared to make tough decisions – outline the ramifications of not adhering to the plan. There are other options available besides termination.

What’s your impression of the leadership spill? An example of performance managment in action or perhaps new material for the Bad Bosses film clips produced by the Centre for Workplace Leadership?

Whether you need help developing a performance management plan for a tricky situation or know someone who could benefit from some coaching, we have experts on our Team who can help. Chat to us about effective solutions to help make positive change happen.

In October we will be running an A-HA! Learning Lab on Coaching. Pre-register your interest now to secure one of a limited number of places in the Lab. Watch this space for further details.

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