Over the last 15 years I have worked with hundreds of managers, including team leaders and supervisors, in organizations of all shapes and sizes. Many of those managers were, by their own admission, reluctant to manage. Of course on a day by day basis they did manage people – they answered questions, allocated work, went to management meetings, and held some team briefings. But what they most often didn’t do is apply a focused and structured approach to managing their staff’s performance
In theory, managers know they should be managing performance, that they should be using the review or appraisal system, and that they should be having dynamic discussions with their staff about their performance. But clearly there’s an obvious difference between knowing you should do something and actually doing it. And when managers don’t manage, the business suffers and so do their staff. So what’s the answer? These are five steps I’ve seen applied, by my clients, with very positive effect:
Step One – Help managers to understand why performance management is important to the business
Do managers need help in understanding the value of managing performance? Do they need to understand why effective performance management is a critical commercial issue and how effective performance management impacts business success? Only through getting this clarity can a manager gain the confidence that there will be some real business benefit derived from their efforts. Otherwise, why bother?
Step Two – Help managers understand why performance management is important to their staff
Do managers know that research shows that what people seem to want, and want quite badly, is to be well managed? That they want a strong, mutually supportive relationship with their manager based on interest and clarity? Much of what ‘well managed’ means is effective performance management. The manager’s role in the satisfaction and the engagement of their staff can’t be overstated but often needs to be explained.
Step Three – Help managers to embrace their right to manage performance
Frequently the managers I work with seem to feel the need to gain permission to undertake probably the most important part of their role – managing performance. They clearly know there are expectations of them as managers but they don’t feel they have somehow earned the right to manage. Do managers need to understand the rights they have to manage? Do they know what those rights look like in practice?
Step Four – Give managers the tools and techniques they need to manage people’s performance
Do managers have access to a range of tools and techniques which can make the seemingly complex much, much simpler? How can we expect managers to know, for example, that there is a simple way to give feedback about even the most ‘difficult’ performance issue so that the issue can be understood and accepted by the staff member? Managers just do not have the time to work these processes out for themselves so they either waste a lot of time (and staff good will) on ‘trial and error’ or they just give up.
Step Five – Ensure that managing performance is a top priority for your managers
Do managers have ‘managing performance’ listed in their job description, their job objectives or anywhere else? I have heard hundreds of managers tell me that there is nothing written down or agreed that describes their responsibilities as a performance manager. So why would a manager dedicate time and effort to an activity for which they are not held accountable, for which there is no reward, which appears to be just about the lowest priority of the business? How can organisations expect their managers to undertake the complex work of managing their staff’s performance if:
a) the manager does not know what being an effective performance manager looks like ipractice in their organisation
b) the manager is not held accountable for the effective performance management of their staff – it is not seen as an integral part of their job but something to be done when all of the ‘real work’ has been completed
c) they are not acknowledged or rewarded for effective performance management?
It’s all about developing the ‘will’ and the ‘skill’. Helping managers to understand the importance of effective performance management, helping them develop the skills and then holding them accountable for applying those skills in practice