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3 steps to lead your people’s perceived performance vs their actual performance

Looking back over the past twelve months of 2023, I’ve reflected on a constant theme that has emerged while working with leaders from around the world. This theme is where a leader has recognised a significant difference between someone's perceived performance and their actual performance which is lower than expected.  

If you are a leader and recognise these challenges with one or more of your own people, then addressing these discrepancies is crucial for those individuals' personal and professional development.  

What are the challenges?

If an individual believes they're performing exceptionally well while their actual performance falls short, it can lead to a mismatch between what they expect and what's realistically achievable.

In a team setting, discrepancies between perceived and actual performance might affect collaboration and teamwork. Others may need to compensate for the shortfall, leading to frustration or decreased team morale.

An individual overestimating their performance can lead to missed opportunities for advancement or recognition. If someone believes they're excelling, they might not actively seek further challenges or growth opportunities.

When there's a significant disparity between perceived and actual performance, individuals may struggle to accept constructive criticism or feedback, hindering their ability to improve.

Three steps you can take to address these challenges

Step 1 - Feedback

Start by providing clear, constructive feedback. Highlight specific areas where the individual might overestimate their performance. Use data, examples, or specific incidents, to illustrate your point. Ensure that performance metrics and expectations are well-defined. Sometimes, overestimation can stem from a lack of clarity about what success looks like.

Step 2 – Communication

Create a safe environment for open communication. Encourage the individual to express their thoughts and concerns. Be receptive to their perspective while gently steering them towards a more realistic understanding of their performance. Encourage self-reflection by requesting the individual self-assess their own work against your newly defined expectations. Acknowledge their strengths and achievements to build their confidence but also discuss areas needing improvement. Balance is key to maintaining motivation while addressing areas for growth.

Step 3 – Development and Support

Offer mentorship or support to bridge the gap between perception and reality. This could involve training, coaching, or mentoring programmes to help them enhance their skills. Approach these discussions with empathy and a genuine desire to help them grow. It's important to strike a balance between correcting overestimations and maintaining their motivation.

Approaching these three steps with empathy, a willingness to listen, and a focus on constructive improvement can help individuals align their perception of their performance with reality and, ultimately, grow professionally.

To find out more about our approach to ALIGNED® leadership, please contact me at so we can continue the conversation.


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