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Performance management: three things to stop doing to managers now

28th Jun 2018
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Managers are the vital link between senior leadership and employees on the ground, but too many organisations are neglecting their training and development – with disastrous consequences.

‘People don’t leave companies, they leave managers’. We’ve all heard it before, but not all business leaders really believe it.

According to one Gallup study, around 50% of employees leave jobs ‘to get away from their manager’. Ouch.

If you want engaged employees and a successful business, your managers can be your secret weapons. Since many companies struggle to believe or implement all the advice out there on how to approach it, let’s try something a little different and look at what a lot of people are doing wrong – and how to fix it.

What NOT to do

1) Don’t invent bad managers

Too often, we make our best employees our worst managers. For some reason, management becomes an employee’s definition of progression in a company and we promote these employees as a result of their success. With minimal training or tools provided, they then fail.

The solution? Don’t promote employees to manager until they’re ready. Have them lead committees or large projects and get feedback from the people they work with, then use the data to make decisions.

2) Don’t enable bad management

Your company processes can create bad management, especially with poor tools, procedures, and poor information.

There’s a reason why every article about traditional performance management, for example, is being slated as dead - processes such as these are too infrequent and out of date.

It’s time to update your processes. Remember:

  • Annual engagement data is already outdated when your managers get hold of it. Use more real-time engagement ‘pulses’ when measuring engagement. It’s easier to deal with smoke before fire.
  • Institute mandatory one-to-ones for managers and their employees.  Gallup’s research also found that workers whose managers hold regular meetings with them are three times more likely to be engaged (i.e. feel involved in and enthusiastic about their jobs).
  • Don’t reward annually. Instead, ensure that recognition is part of the daily fabric of your company. Enabling daily recognition with managers will have a large impact on engagement.

3) Don’t forget them

If you want managers to have a positive impact, they must be part of the strategic narrative of your company’s objectives and mission.

After all, they are the bridge between senior leadership that doesn’t see what happens on a daily basis and the employees that do all the work and interact with your customers.  

If managers do not understand strategic goals and what success look like, they’ll be unaware and disengaged. Not only this, but if employees ask them questions they don’t know the answers to, they’ll look like idiots. No one wants to follow an idiot.

It’s essential to involve all managers in your planning processes, both on a quarterly and annual basis. Give them a voice and make them a part of understanding why some are prioritised higher than others.  

It needs to be every leader’s objective to succeed at the company’s goals – and you need managers to build that alignment with employees.

Finally, don’t forget managers are employees too. They need to be engaged just as much as the team members who work under them.

Another Gallup poll found that just 35% of managers are engaged at work. They’re traditionally forgotten in the process, or senior leadership thinks they should already have the answers. This obviously isn’t working – if you set them up for failure, you can’t then be surprised when they don’t succeed.

Interested in this topic? Read Why you need to create a positive, profitable employee experience.

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By Mr_Lizard
28th Jan 2016 14:55

Three things to remember.

People management is hard.
Good people management is damned hard.
Leadership is so hard that the British Army require you to go to Sandhurst for two years to learn how to do it properly.

So why do we so often assume that simply because someone's been doing a job very acceptably for a few years, that they are now ready to manage the team they were working in until five minutes ago? It's as though we assume that bestowing the title of Team Leader magically also conveys all the skills and abilities needed to perform all the duties of the role.

We discovered recently, through chats with people in HR, that they distinguished between two distinct types of manager - the professional people manager, and the technical team manager. The 'professionals' maintained a good relationship with HR, but didn't often need it, as they managed their people well enough that problems didn't often arise. The 'technicals' didn't maintain a relationship with HR, and indeed, only contacted them once things had already gone pear-shaped, because they were still trying to manage processes, not people. They didn't actually have the skills needed to manage a modern team, and were trying to get by on instinct. Having been managed doesn't necessarily qualify you to do the actual managing.

Some companies don't seem to grasp this - that without proper, specialist training in the arts and skills of management, most people can't/won't do it to the level required in a modern workplace. How do you handle regular 1-1s, performance mamagement, under-performance management, difficult conversations, goals, ratings, continuous improvement, career development, etc. etc.?

My company has just begun to roll out an extensive training programme for all staff with line management responsibility. Feedback from the staff association made it apparent that in many cases, members of the staff association had had much more, and better, training, than the managers they were meeting with to try to resolve disputes and disciplinaries. The new programme offers multiple full-day modules over the course of a year, and in all honesty, it's not going to be cheap.

But then, I wonder how many companies have had to find money to pay a lawyer to fight a tribunal case, but pleaded poverty when asked for some money to fund a training course, the lessons of which would have avoided the situation which led to the tribunal?

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