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Preface/Background: Baylor University and SAP have joined together in a semester long project to find the answer to the question: How do managers actually manage? Over the course of 4 months, a group of 6 students (Team 1) have been assigned the task of conducting 80+ interviews, finding trends and developing appropriate recommendations. In the course of our research a reemerging performance management factor caught our team’s intention, that factor being the intangible element of “care”.


There has been a long standing dichotomy, for managers, between pulling the brakes on the operational train — in an attempt to cater to emotions — and being both incentivized and pressured to press-on, full-steam ahead. For managers, pulling the reigns back to adhere to the emotional needs of their employees can mean a direct hit to company profits. Interestingly, research conducted by our (performance management) team at Baylor University, shows that compassion is a perceived vital component in managerial success in the eyes of: senior leaders, employees, and even managers themselves.


Compassion or “emotional intelligence”, as described by one middle manager, becomes the ‘X’ factor in performance management success. Data retrieved from our interviews, shows that more than a dozen managers and employees mention emotional connectedness and/or awareness as a key driver in PM conversations. It seems that in an attempt to hit the numbers, some senior leaders and managers neglect the fact that their front-line workers are human. Time and time again, a recurring theme from PM interviews was that employees felt under appreciated and managers felt awkward about having difficult conversations. Sensitivity to a situation and individual employee empathy can be a learned skilled, and is certainly not something that should fall by the wayside.


As defined by Forbes.com writer Travis Bradberry, “personal competence is made up of your-self-awareness and self-management skills, which focus more on you individually…”. TalentSmart found that emotional intelligence is the leading indicator in performance success, “explaining a full 58% of success in all jobs” (Bradberry). It seems that utilizing this intangible component of PM can debunk traditional profit-driven thinking and give way to relation-based management.


Changing gears can be a daunting task; elements of time, money, and know-how often discourage corporate leaders from making the necessary change to more emotion inclusive management. At the root, hesitation seems to stem from inexperience and lack of top-down support. Although those interviewed during our PM project recognized emotional intelligence as key to PM prosperity, getting there is an entirely different challenge. No matter the disposition, moving ahead towards any improvement is superior to PM stagnancy.


By: Kevin D Mitchell

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