I meet so many apologetic managers. Managers who really wish they weren’t managers; who see entering management as a step towards the ‘dark side’. The truth is that as a manager, you can have a profound effect on how your staff experience their work, and how your clients experience them and your organisation. Embrace this responsibility with creativity, imagination, courage and a systematic approach and you can deliver positive results all around.
If you see management as a necessary evil, that’s just what it will become. To get the most from this material, I suggest that you use it to identify one or possibly two things that you can most easily do differently, or work on, to make a difference to your practice.
Choose one or two things and work on them for a week or so, then review the exercise and see whether you can shift your efforts to a different dimension of your management practice. Don’t try and work on all eight things at once!
And of course, if you need any help to put this stuff into practice, please do get in touch.
Communicate clear performance expectations
Get really clear about what you expect from the people you manage and then find ways to communicate those expectations clearly and consistently. This is likely to include the results that you expect them to achieve in their work, but it is also likely to include some criteria for how the work is to be done. For most of us it’s not just about results, but also how they’re achieved. I’d argue that most managers spend too much time obsessing about results and not enough time creating the process, systems and cultures that allow the results to be produced.
Provide regular performance feedback
By ‘regular performance feedback’ I don’t mean an annual appraisal. I mean daily, preferably more than daily, feedback that’s based on what people are actually doing at work. If you see someone modelling values and behaviours that matter to your organisation, then give them good performance feedback. If you see someone modelling values and behaviours that undermine what your organisation is trying to achieve, give them constructive feedback. Giving this sort of feedback need not be a big exercise involving lots of emotion – it should take just a few seconds of your time.
Consider all relevant information when appraising performance
Annual appraisals are great, but annual appraisals supported by quarterly mini-appraisals are even better. Quarterly mini-appraisals supported by documented, weekly 121s are better yet! But how can you get the voice of the customer to inform the appraisal process? What about the voices of other colleagues? Develop a culture and systems that ensure that you’ve considered all the relevant information when you’re appraising performance.
Watch staff working with clients
You can’t just manage people – or manage them well – by monitoring performance data.. You might be able to prevent them slipping beneath minimum acceptable standards, but you certainly wont be able to help them do their best work. Take the time to watch staff working with clients. Observe the details, the mannerisms, the language patterns. Understand how they do what they do, and help them to reflect and improve – mostly by giving them timely feedback on performance, but also by coaching them where appropriate.
Help staff develop self-improvement plans
You should not only expect people to ‘do their job’ but to get better at doing their job too. Self-development is primarily their job, not yours. Of course you stand by ready roll up your sleeves and help, but primarily the expectation is that they will be the architects of their own success.
Recognise and reward high performance
More often than not when I see where managers spend their time, effort and attention, it’s on the underwhelmers; the staff that come in late, leave early and do as little as they can get away with while they’re at work. Now, of course underperformance has to be managed, and managed effectively, robustly and quickly. However you should be rewarding and attending to those that are performing well – thanking them, praising them, developing and encouraging them in whatever way you can. Time spent recognising and rewarding high performance is likely to reward you with even more high performance. Leave it unrecognised and it is likely to whither over time….
Provide help, training and guidance
This isn’t about the annual performance development plan. This is about building a culture of help, training and guidance. It’s about providing role models and ensuring that everyone is looking to learn from their experience. It’s about giving people the skill of self-managed learning and an expectation that they use it to improve performance.
Build a (better) working relationship
This should really be number one on the list, because without a working relationship you can’t manage people. Take time to understand people and their motivations and aspirations. Be curious about them. Don’t judge them too quickly and work out your role in helping them to do the very best work they’re capable of. Build a two-way relationship where they respond to your management and leadership and you respond to their wants and needs too. Recognise where relationships aren’t working and commit to either making them work or ending them. Don’t let non-working relationships drag on.
Good luck! We’re always keen to hear your thoughts and views, so please use the comments section to get in touch and let us know your own top tips.
You might also like to read more and download our guides here for further support.