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How to Fire Your Mother: Seven Essentials for Handling Nightmarishly Hard Performance Management

"I love you...but...we're going have to let you go, Mom."

Well, hopefully that's an exaggeration for you. But, performance management in the family-owned business can be VERY difficult at times. Whether you have to correct a brother or sister who thinks the rules don't apply to them or set new expectations about change for your own father who STARTED the company or a cousin who just doesn't fit in or some distant relative who was given a job because of some other type of commitment. Performance management is hard.

In today's environment where we all do not just more with less, but significantly more with significantly less, it is essential that we manage performance better than ever no matter the personal or family relationships. The good news is that by using the seven essentials shared here you can get great performance from the employee and maintain peace in the family even if it's Dad you're talking to.

Seven Essentials of Performance Management in the Family-Run Business

1. Always assume the best of intentions. Assuming that the person is not performing well just to get by with doing little work or to undermine your authority is a set-up for frustration and tension in the office. This is frequently seen among siblings and cousins who work together. Instead, examine all other factors first. Truly look for the best intentions. If you do have to go here let it be the last place after everything else has been exhausted.

2. Set ultra-clear relational boundaries from the very beginning. Get the realities of the potential relational conflict out on the table before it becomes a problem. It's much easier to refer back to this conversation later if things take a turn for the worse. If you never discussed the boundaries and how the relationship was going to be blended with work in the first place, then you have no anchor points when the relational storm rages.

3. Manage performance based on facts rather than emotions. Ok, we all have feelings, but running any part of your business based on feelings alone is a recipe for disaster. Operate using fact-based, non-emotional conversations and feedback based on work performance only. Let that last sentence be your guiding thought as you manage the performance of all employees not just family members.

4. Set ultra-clear performance expectations for the job. This is Performance Management 101 here and applies to every employee. Put the expectations in writing and refuse to move forward until you achieve mutual agreement. This is a critical step so don't just "agree to disagree" and move on. Negotiate the agreement even if it means you must negotiate the fact that the employee must accept your authority in the situation. You'll deal with this now or later, but you will deal with it at some point. Make it now!

5. Establish objective performance metrics. Establishing metrics and communicating them with the employee is often overlooked. Not defining how success will be measured leaves performance outcomes totally up to the discretion of the parties involved. Usually, the managers expectations are more stringent than the employees creating a gap between people. These metrics and expectations are the tools you'll use to measure and close that gap. If you never create or use the metrics in the first place it's all subjective.

6. Get agreement on all expectations. There's nothing worse than to expect performance from an employee only to have them miss the deadline, or worse, simply miss the mark altogether. And then to have them say they tried but never promised to perform in the first place. This happens because of what seems to be a very benign statement at the end of a delegation conversation. Non-committal statements such as "I'll try" or "I'll see what I can do" or "I'll give it my best shot" seem like a commitment but they're not. Be bold and courageous and ask for commitment. Commitment should sound like "yes, I will get that done." Think closed-ended answers to closed-ended questions here. Be prepared to challenge the soft, non-committal answers when they come up.

7. Provide ongoing feedback on performance. Performance management is an ongoing process whereas the performance review is a once or twice a year event. Don't wait until the review to address performance gaps. When you wait to address performance not only does the business suffer through lost productivity, but the tension builds between all parties involved including other employees and customers. By the time the review comes around it becomes an explosive and destructive event. Engaging in continual performance management conversations creates a constructive process which culminates in the celebration of the employees success at performance review time.

In the end, performance management in the family-run business, while uncomfortable at times, can be simplified by following these Seven Essentials. The reality that performance management is a necessary process in every business is a given. The choice of how you handle it is yours. Choose wisely or you may find yourself calling security to have your mother escorted off the property.


Matthew Bennett is the Founder of SolutionSource™ Groups, a family of LinkedIn groups focused on delivering true, valuable connectedness in a virtual environment. Search SolutionSource™ in LinkedIn to find or start one that's right for you. He is also an award-winning global speaker in the fields of Leadership, Sales and Entrepreneurial Success. Matthew speaks at close to 200 corporate events around the world each year, has helped over 200,000 people in audiences Achieve More, Better since 2002 and has spent over 12,000 hours on the stage. To learn more about Matthew and his programs or to book him to speak at your next event visit or contact him directly at 01.205.540.8489.

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