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How the Pina Colada song can help manage Performance.

4 practical steps that will improve employee performance and maybe your love life too.

Manager reviewing workers job performance
Manager reviewing workers job performance

Have you ever found yourself wondering why an employee is not performing a certain task consistently? Or you’ve been in a relationship where you found yourself pining “if only they…. (Brought me flowers, made dinner, were more adventurous, or fill in the blank”).

Whether it’s an employee or a lover, have you ever wondered, ‘don’t they know how important this is to me?

Well the answer may be in the question.

For those of you who remember the Pina Colada song [Escape, by Rupert Holmes] as the author becomes disenchanted in his relationship he responds to a personal ad from someone that seems to yearn for the same things he does: “…if you like Pina Colada’s, and getting caught in the rain, and the feel of the ocean, and the taste of champagne…”.  When they meet for their secret rendezvous he realizes “it was my own lovely lady, and she said ‘awe it’s you’ and we laughed for a moment, and I said ‘I never knew”….

Did you catch that?  I never knew’.  So what does this have to do with managing performance?

If you’re not getting what you want, ask yourself, ‘have I told them? Have I been clear?

Whether we’re in a personal relationship or a work relationship, it’s tempting to think that the other person ‘should just know’.  But that’s like expecting someone to read your mind.  Or you might think, “yes but if I tell them to bring me flowers then they’re just doing it because I asked them to….”  Wouldn’t that be terrible if you got more of what you want? (Please read this sarcasm as a ‘wink’).

Step 1 – Set Clear expectationsEvery employee has a right to know what’s expected.

Think to yourself ‘What do I want this person to do, or do more of?’ Then get clear on what specifically you’d like to see.  For example, if you’re thinking ‘I’d like them to take more initiative’, add in ‘such as volunteering to take on an additional project, organizing the weekly team meeting, or resolving a customer issue without asking for permission’. Now they know.  Now they can take action to deliver on what you have communicated is important.

Step 2 – Provide meaningful feedback.  Every employee has a right to know how they are doing.

What are some things this person does that you like?  Tell them.  A lot of people dismiss positive feedback as a way of being nice.  Positive feedback is about reinforcing a behavior you want. If you don’t reinforce it, the person may unintentionally stop doing it.  Catch the person doing the right thing – and tell them.

“You’re so romantic, I love it when you bring me flowers for no reason”.

“You’re so collaborative – I really appreciate the way you involve your team mates in problem solving in our meetings – people feel like their opinion matters and we get diverse input”.

What if they’re not doing what you want? Well you’ve got a choice. You could point out what they’re not doing and provide negative feedback. This helps them be aware of what is not working. If someone is doing something consistently that is not working, you owe it to them to point it out.  For example:

“Jim, on your customer call this morning, I noticed you used a number of closed questions and it took 3 to 4 minutes before you uncovered the customer’s key issue”. Now Jim knows what’s not working.

As I mentioned in my article on 3 reasons to stop giving positive feedback, I’m not a big fan of negative feedback as a way of changing behavior.  When I want someone to do something different, I often lead with what I want, an idea, or as Marshall Goldsmith calls it,  Feed Forward.

“Jim, one idea is to use an open question at the  beginning of the call. This will get the customer talking about what they’ve already tried and uncover their key issue more quickly.  How does that sound?”

Be consistent.  Don’t wait until the annual Performance Review to give the employee your first burst of feedback. Provide ongoing feedback.  click here for ‘How to Motivate your employee in 10 minutes or less’.

Step 3 – Provide help.  Every employee deserves our help – we want them to be successful.    

 If you’ve set clear expectations so that the person knows what you want, and you’ve provided meaningful feedback, and they’re still not doing what you want, it’s possible they may not know how or lack the confidence to do it.  They may not have the skill to do it.  They may need some help, practice, or support.

Help can come in the form of coaching, a well-timed idea, having a mentor, or providing training.  If you’re not sure what kind of support to provide, ask the employee.  ‘Hey Jim, what would help you to overcome this challenge?’ or simply ‘how can I help?

As Phil Geldart says in his book ‘In Your Hands’, “the focus should be on helping the performer become strong, not on helping them feel better about being weak.”

So in summary:

  1. Set Clear expectations.
    1. Make sure people know what it is that you want.
    2. Be specific, take the guess work out of it.
  2. Provide meaningful feedback.
    1. Reinforce the behavior you want. (Catch them doing it right).
    2. If something is holding them back or not working, let them know.
    3. Provide ideas or ‘feed forward’ what they can do, or do more of for success.
  3. Provide help.
    1. Remember, we want people to succeed.
    2. Understand what may be causing the gap, and provide help:
      1. Coaching, Mentoring, Training, an article.
      2. Ask them what support they may need

Do these three steps consistently and you’ll take the dread out of performance reviews, and maybe take your relationships to the next level too.  Ok, I’m off to buy some flowers!

If you like the concepts in this article and think it might help your organization, gives us a call – it’s what we do!



Igniting the best in self and others


  • Matt, this is excellent! It really speaks to the need to invest in any relationship. It’s so easy for us to wait for the other person to “get it” – hardly every works. Keep this good stuff coming!

    • thanks Hugh.
      Yes, I’ve ‘been there done that’ mistakenly thinking someone would ‘just know’ or ‘should know by now’.
      thanks Hugh

  • Thanks for your marvelous posting! I quite enjoyed reading it, you happen to be a great
    author.I will be sure to bookmark your blog and may come back
    later in life. I want to encourage you to definitely continue your great
    posts, have a nice morning!

    Liverpool maglia

    • Hi Dolores
      thank you so much for your kind words.

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