Performance improvement plans (PIPs) are these amazing little forms that can pave a smoother path to professional growth or termination. They can end bad behavior and create positive new habits.

Unfortunately, they require a few things of which we do not often have enough: time, patience and focus. Here are a few reasons why PIPs should be a manager’s favorite tool and how they should be used.

PIP Power!

A well-executed PIP is great because it opens a very direct line of communication between an employee and the employee’s manager. It addresses a specific issue and it contains details outlining expectations, follow-up, a timeline and consequences.

While the nature of the tool is such that it addresses a default, the specificity with which it addresses the behavior can be extremely effective.

It is for these very reasons, that PIPs are often challenging. Unlike most performance reviews, they must be specific and include a clear plan for improvement. Also, unlike most performance reviews, they include consequences should the behavior not change in the specified time.

Thus, it can be challenging for managers to find the time, inclination and diligence to ensure it is written and implemented effectively.

On the other hand, developing the ability to articulate a problem, have a direct conversation about it. and then clearly define the solution are skills that sets leaders apart. And implementing a PIP that elicits the desired behavior change can have a significant, positive impact on the employee, his teammates, and the relationship among and between them and the leader.

Positive PIP?

As with many things at work, the negative, problematic and crisis-oriented issues often get more of our focus and attention than the positive, sustainable, success-oriented issues. As such, if we can get comfortable wielding our PIP power to transform unhelpful behaviors into productive, why not take it a step further and use the PIP to further develop productive behaviors?

We likely cannot call it a PIP because of the very ingrained negative association with the term. And we would not want to call it a performance review because it is likely more structured, comprehensive, has a specific timetable and, let’s be honest, there is also likely a very ingrained negative association with the term.

For discussion purposes we could call it a professional development or growth plan. The idea being, we use the same principles for PIPs, noted above, and apply them to develop the strengths on our team.

Carol finishes her TPS reports on time every time? On a PDP/PGP we could add the quarterly TPS reporting and teaching her system to others as part of her professional growth and then reward her for her continued development and growth.

The bottom line is that PIPs may have a negative connotation yet implementing one effectively can positively affect the entire organization.