1. Have a clear performance management framework in place and make sure that everyone knows what the criteria are, when assessments will be carried out and by whom.
2. Use performance management to develop rather than judge staff and make comments constructive and positive, even when you are making it clear there is a gap between performance and expectation.
3. Do not get involved any sooner than necessary. Stick to your framework of middle management and senior leadership roles. A head's participation that is seen to over-ride those roles might be construed as unwarranted pressure. Offer support and advice to the relevant manager as they manage the process. When you do have to get involved, try to depersonalise it as much as possible.
4. When you are making a judgement, alter your tone according to how much power you are exerting over someone's career - the more power you are exerting, the more respectful your tone should be.
5. Discuss your own performance with senior staff and make sure you are willing to listen to what they have to say.