Corina Walsh Of Shift People Development On 5 Tips For A Successful Performance Management Process

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Change the yearly performance review to yearly goal setting conversations. If managers are giving feedback to employees on an as-needed basis, yearly performance reviews can become about goal setting and career aspirations. This will make the process something managers and employees look forward to.

Performance management is notoriously difficult to get right, but not impossible. In this series we speak with experts to get their insights into creating an effective performance management system. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Corina Walsh, Certified Leadership Coach and Founder of Managing Made Easy™.

Corina Walsh is a storyteller, motivator, and high-impact speaker. She is on a mission to revolutionize the way we feel about work. She accomplishes this by leveraging the transformative power of leadership coaching.

Corina developed her signature leadership program, Managing Made Easy™, after collecting hundreds of data points on the struggles faced by today’s manager and executives. Corina is an expert at nurturing leaders into their full potential. Her superpower lies in her ability to distill complex leadership and management principles into easily digestible nuggets of wisdom, empowering companies to transcend performance boundaries and achieve unprecedented progress. 

Corina’s innovative approaches in leadership development have garnered her accolades including being recognized as a Top 50 Leader Under 40 in Atlantic Canada and receiving a YWCA Woman of Distinction Award in Business. She has delivered her keynote talks and training programs across Canada, the U.S., and the U.K., captivating audiences on crucial topics like emotional intelligence, leadership, and workplace culture

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Before we drive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

By the time I reached the age of 34 I had changed jobs 3 times searching for an engaging place to work where I could use my talents and contribute. Every place I worked had the same challenges. Employees did not seem engaged and were frustrated with the culture and management. I know there was a better way. I decided to go out on my own as a consultant so I could help companies understand what it really means to build an engaging workplace culture where employees feel fulfilled by the work they are doing, and managers are not so overwhelmed. Today, my work is centered on training and coaching managers on people-first leadership skills they need to engage and lead a team in today’s workplace. 

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I was promoted to my first management role, I made a classic mistake. My manager at the time was a severe micromanager and I vowed that I would never watch over my team’s shoulder when my turn came. When I did get the opportunity to build my own team, I went too far in the other direction. I was so concerned with how I didn’t want to manage, that I didn’t stop to ask my team what they needed from their manager. I had to switch gears quickly. This is a common problem for new managers today. No one wants to be labeled a micromanager, so we end up not managing enough. 

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Yes, I had a chance to work with a leader right before I left to start my own business. She is the type of leader I aspire to be. She never waited for a team member to come to her with their problems. She could sense when someone was struggling, and she would go to them and check in with them. She would sit in their office. She demonstrated a high level of empathy and was always approachable. 

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? 

There is a quote from Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” I think this speaks to the importance of self-belief. To succeed in anything you must believe in yourself. 

Thinking back on your own career, what would you tell your younger self?

I would tell my younger self that confidence is overrated. You don’t need confidence to move forward. You need courage and curiosity. 

Let’s now move to the central part of our interview. Why is performance management so tricky to get right?

Performance management can be tricky because every person on your team is so different. One person on your team might prefer their manager to be direct. Another team member may be more sensitive to feedback and may need to hear the information differently. There is a lot of emotion entwined with our performance. Many people have their identity tied to their work and that can make these conversations challenging. Also, our current performance management system in most companies is outdated and does not work for the manager or the employee. 

Where do you see a lot of organizations go wrong with performance management?

The first mistake organizations make is not providing their managers with training and how to give effective feedback and how to navigate difficult conversations. Why do we expect managers to feel good or safe navigating performance conversations when they have not had the training. Performance management is a skill that requires tools and knowledge to do it effectively. 

The second mistake is sticking with the yearly performance review process. I have never met a manager who enjoys the yearly performance review. Some companies are still ‘grading’ employees’ performance using long performance review documentation that is time consuming and drains managers of their energy. Companies must adopt a new process where managers approach performance conversations on an on-going basis and do not ‘save up’ feedback for a once a year conversation. And that requires the proper training I mentioned. 


Based on your experience and success, what are your top 5 tips for a successful performance management process?

  1. Train managers in how to give effective feedback. An example is some people still think the feedback sandwich is an effective method for giving constructive feedback. It is outdated and doesn’t work. Give managers examples of what effective positive and constructive feedback sounds like. 
  2. Change the yearly performance review to yearly goal setting conversations. If managers are giving feedback to employees on an as-needed basis, yearly performance reviews can become about goal setting and career aspirations. This will make the process something managers and employees look forward to. 
  3. Create a culture of feedback. Set the expectation that managers and employees can and will share feedback on an on-going basis. No one can improve performance without feedback. Avoiding constructive feedback conversations will hold the employee back, the team’s performance, and the company. 
  4. Ensure feedback is being delivered in all directions – not just top-down. One of my most successful clients is a tech company that leverages technology to allow employees to give feedback to their colleagues and managers. Feedback should be going in all directions. 
  5. Don’t forget to catch employees doing something right! Positive feedback should also be actionable and delivered often. 

How do you approach performance management in your organization? Do you tie it to compensation for example?

I give feedback as soon as I see the opportunity to do so. It is rare that I need to address behaviour. Most of the time it is simply a matter of letting an employee know that what they did was ‘good’ and here are some suggestions as to how we can get to ‘great’. An employee will come to realize that it is better to give feedback immediately and correct or improve work as we go. I do not tie performance to compensation. I think it is more effective to constantly communicate the vision and mission of the work and let the employee know that the feedback they are receiving is tied to that mission. Money will only go so far in motivating people. Salaries should be competitive but when it comes to getting a higher level of performance from people, intrinsic motivators can be more effective. 

Which tools do you use for your performance management?

I use short pulse surveys so I can get feedback from my employees. I use regular one-on-ones (biweekly) where we discuss what improvements we can make to the work we are doing to achieve better results. Performance management does not have to be complicated. A short, concise tool for documenting notes and objectives can be more effective for managers than a long form. 

How do you measure and improve your performance management process?

The first step would be to talk to managers and employees and ask them what they like and dislike about your current performance management system. Use that feedback to create a process that is working for everyone. 

Ensure managers are trained on how to communicate with employees which includes examples on what effective feedback looks like and how to communicate with empathy. 

Lastly, develop a performance management process that is aligned with what the company is trying to achieve. If you are a fast-growth company and the company must be agile and adaptable is it realistic to have a performance management process that no one wants to participate in because it is long and taxing?

We are very blessed to have some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 

I would love to have lunch with Barbara Corcoran or Arlene Dickinson. These are two powerhouse women who clearly know what it takes to build a team of high performing individuals. 

How can our readers further follow your work?

Linkedin is a great place to connect and follow. My website and mailing list are also great places to read my latest work and keep up with upcoming programs: 

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health! 

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.