Top 76 quotes on Performance Management

Regular readers will know I write a lot about performance management (see some of the best examples here, here and here). Today I wanted to share some of my favourite performance management quotes.

I’ve included 76 fantastic performance management quotes from a range of CEOs, political leaders, business thinkers, writers, celebrities and sports stars.

If you’ve got a favourite quote that you think we’ve missed, jump into the comments below. I’d love to hear your suggestions.

CEOs on performance management

Bill Gates 2004

  1. “In business, the idea of measuring what you are doing, picking the measurements that count like customer satisfaction and performance… you thrive on that.”
    – Bill Gates
  2. “Trust gives you the permission to give people direction, get everyone aligned, and give them the energy to go get the job done. Trust enables you to execute with excellence and produce extraordinary results. As you execute with excellence and deliver on your commitments, trust becomes easier to inspire, creating a flywheel of performance.”
    – Douglas Conant
  3. “When you’re a manager, you work for your company. When you’re a leader, your company works for you.”
    – Stan Slap
  4. “To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.”
    – Doug Conant


  1. “There are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow. It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.”
    – Jack Welch
  2. “Employees engage with employers and brands when they’re treated as humans worthy of respect.”
    – Meghan M. Biro
  3. “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.”
    – Stephen R. Covey
  4. “Research indicates that workers have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.”
    – Zig Ziglar
  5. “Appreciate everything your associates do for the business. Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They’re absolutely free and worth a fortune.”
    – Sam Walton
  6. “I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among men the greatest asset I possess. The way to develop the best that is in a man is by appreciation and encouragement.”
    – Charles Schwab
  7. ”I have yet to find a man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.”
    – Charles Schwab
  8. ”There is something that is much more scarce, something rarer than ability. It is the ability to recognise ability.”
    – Robert Half
  9. “Given the right circumstances, from no more than dreams, determination, and the liberty to try, quite ordinary people consistently do extraordinary things.”
    – Dee Hock

Political figures on performance management

Michelle Obama official portrait headshot

  1. “If my future were determined just by my performance on a standardized test, I wouldn’t be here. I guarantee you that.”
    – Michelle Obama
  2. “It is no use saying “we are doing our best.” You have to succeed in doing what is necessary.”
    – Winston Churchill
  3. “Your performance depends on your people. Select the best, train them and back them. When errors occur, give sharper guidance. If errors persist or if the fit feels wrong, help them move on. The country cannot afford amateur hour in the White House.”
    – Donald Rumsfeld
  4. “To handle yourself, use your head. To handle others, use your heart.”
    – Eleanor Roosevelt

Margaret Thatcher headshot

  1. “Being in power is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”
    – Margaret Thatcher
  2. “Leadership is the ability to get people to do what they don’t want to do and like it.”
    – Harry Truman
  3. “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”
    – Ronald Reagan


  1. “A leader… is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”
    – Nelson Mandela
  2. “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
    – John F. Kennedy
  3. “Don’t let your ego get too close to your position, so that if your position gets shot down, your ego doesn’t go with it.”
    – Colin Powell
  4. “Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.”
    – Dwight D. Eisenhower
  5. “Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible.”
    – Colin Powell
  6. ”How far would Moses have gone if he had taken a poll in Egypt?”
    – Harry S. Truman
  7. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
    – John Quincy Adams
  8. “I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”
    – Ralph Nader
  9. “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
    – Theodore Roosevelt
  10. “Compromise: the art of sharing a pie in such a way that everyone thinks he has the biggest part.”
    – Ludwig Erhard

Business thinkers on performance management

  1. “If you are building a culture where honest expectations are communicated and peer accountability is the norm, then the group will address poor performance and attitudes.”
    – Henry Cloud
  2. “A manager is responsible for the application and performance of knowledge.”
    – Peter Drucker


  1. “Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility.”
    – Peter Drucker
  2. “Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.”
    – John C. Maxwell
  3. “Difficult times disrupt your conventional ways of thinking and push you to forge better habits of thought, performance and being.”
    – Robin S. Sharma
  4. “All organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they are now getting. If we want different results, we must change the way we do things.”
    – Tom Northup
  5. “The man who starts out going nowhere, generally gets there.”
    – Dale Carnegie
  6. “To be successful, innovation is not just about value creation, but value capture.”
    – Jay Samit
  7. “An effective leader is also an effective listener.”
    – Artika Tyner
  8. “When I hear people complaining about how hard life is I always ask them “Compared to what?”
    – Sydney Justin Harris
  9. “Business is a combination of war and sport.”
    – Andre Maurois
  10. “No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.”
    – Andrew Carnegie
  11. “The leader has to be practical and a realist, yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist.”
    – Eric Hoffer
  12. “The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.”
    – Walter Lippmann
  13. “Your number one customers are your people. Look after employees first and then customers last.”
    – Ian Hutchinson
  14. “When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.”
    – Simon Sinek
  15. “Executives owe it to the organisation and to their fellow workers not to tolerate nonperforming individuals in important jobs.”
    – Peter Drucker

Stephen Covey (author) - FMI Show Palestrante

  1. ”Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”
    – Stephen R. Covey
  2. “Curious that we spend more time congratulating people who have succeeded than encouraging people who have not.”
    – Neil deGrasse Tyson

Dan Ariely - PopTech 2010 - Camden, Maine

  1. “The bad news is that ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of their eyes. … The good news is that by simply looking at something that somebody has done, scanning it and saying ‘uh huh,’ [you] dramatically improve people’s motivations.”
    – Dan Ariely
  2. “When you prohibit failure, you kill innovation.”
    – Dan Pallotta
  3. “In a battery, I strive to maximize electrical potential. When mentoring, I strive to maximize human potential.”
    – Donald Sadoway
  4. “Leaders can let you fail and yet not let you be a failure.”
    – Stanley McChrystal
  5. “Facebook and Twitter aren’t the real problems in the office. The real problems are what I like to call the M&Ms, the Managers and the Meetings.”
    – Jason Fried
  6. “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.”
    – Ken Blanchard
  7. “Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens people feel centered and that gives their work meaning.”
    – Warren G. Bennis
  8. “A good leader is not the person who does things right, but the person who finds the right things to do.”
    – Anthony T. Padovano

Celebrities on performance management

Tina Fey Bossypants 2011 Shankbone

  1. “In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.”
    – Tina Fey
  2. “When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.”
    – Ellen DeGeneres
  3. “When you train your employees to be risk averse, then you’re preparing your whole company to be reward challenged.”
    – Morgan Spurlock
  4. “The only place you can win a football game is on the field. The only place you can lose it is in your heart.”
    – Darrell Royal
  5. ”Any business or industry that pays equal rewards to its goof-offs and eager beavers sooner or later will find itself with more goof-offs than eager beavers.”
    – Mick Delaney

Historical figures on performance management

  1. “His promises were, as he then was, mighty; But his performance, as he is now, nothing.”
    – William Shakespeare
  1. “What the statesman is most anxious to produce is a certain moral character in his fellow citizens, namely a disposition to virtue and the performance of virtuous actions.”
    – Aristotle
  2. “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
    – Sun Tzŭ
  3. “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
    – Lao Tzu
  4. “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
    – Aristotle
  5. “Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.”
    – Robert Louis Stevenson
  6. “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.”
    – George S. Patton Jr.
  7. “A leader is a dealer in hope.”
    – Napoléon Bonaparte

Santi di Tito - Niccolo Machiavelli's portrait

  1. “Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.”
    – Niccolo Machiavelli
  2. “You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.”
    – William Blake
  3. “The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.”
    – Benjamin Disraeli
  4. “If you command wisely, you’ll be obeyed cheerfully.”
    – Thomas Fuller
  5. “Experience, the name men give to their mistakes.”
    – Oscar Wilde
  6. “Success is blocked by concentrating on it and planning for it…. Success is shy-it won’t come out while you’re watching.”
    – Tennessee Williams
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