Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Managing people can pose a variety of challenges, but there are simple building blocks you can use to identify performance issues, address them, and create the results you want.

So my gift to you this holiday season is a variety of tips to help you improve your management skills and increase your impact.

For me, it starts before you hire anyone. You see, there are only a few reasons people don’t perform (and we can only influence a few of them):

Reasons for poor performance:

  • Ability: they can’t perform the job, meaning they don’t have the skill or ability to do the job >> These people should never have been hired; help them find a suitable position in (or perhaps outside) the company
  • Experience/Knowledge: they don’t know how to perform the job >> Again, possibly a hiring error but this is a workable situation; train the person and give them adequate time/resources to get up-to-speed pair them with a mentor or colleague who can help them along, give them regular and ongoing attention and feedback, manage them!
  • Structural: something is in the way of them performing the job — performing the job results in a punishment or not performing the job results in a reward >> Most people want to do well and succeed, but something internal to the company is preventing that in this case; remove the obstacles and make sure the behaviors you want are the behaviors you acknowledge and reward
  • Willingness: they won’t perform the job; meaning they’ve lost the will or motivation to perform their work >> This is mostly beyond your control, think of it as burnout; these people need to be put on a progressive path of discipline leading to termination

How do we set ourselves up for success as leaders/managers?

In the Beginning:

  • Determine what kind of attitudes, beliefs, values exist in your company, department, division…
  • Create a vision and mission statement
  • Be crystal clear about what type of work you need done to achieve your mission
  • Use this information to create an organization chart (it’s OK if it is informal and if multiple roles are initially filled by one person)
  • Use a Key Accountabilities sheet to list no more than five primary job tasks for each position; then apply a rank (1 through 5) and weight (percentage of total job) to each task
  • Don’t hire anyone until you have a specific job description that outlines the behaviors and traits you need in each position in your org chart based on your Key Accountabilities sheets
  • Do as much pre-screening as you can before interviewing anyone (interviewing is the least valid predictor of job success)
  • Create a job interview form that uses behavioral questions and allows you to score and track candidate responses
  • Use assessment tools wherever possible to test candidates’ abilities to perform the primary job tasks
  • Create a tool that allows you to easily compare all candidates’ scores

In the seat:

  • Set specific job expectations with each employee (they should be in the job description); be crystal clear with them, anything you don’t ask them to do you can’t expect them to do (how can they if they don’t know about it?!)
  • Solicit their ideas on how they can accomplish their objectives; people need to make their own brain connections, this creates motivation and commitment
  • Set clear targets, milestones, or due dates
  • Create a regular follow-up mechanism (I used brief weekly appointments with each staff member)
  • Follow-up!

Bumps in the Road:

  • Address issues right away; letting them linger only makes things worse and drains you, the employee, their co-workers, and overall productivity
  • Before having the conversation, make notes; have specific examples of the issue and its impact on the department and the company
  • Schedule the conversation at a mutually agreed upon time
  • Use your notes during the conversation to stay on track
  • Create and agree to a collaborative course of corrective action with a time-line
  • Outline acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and results/outcomes (positive and negative)
  • Follow-through!

If you or one of your managers need help with any of these areas, feel free to contact me.

It’s not always easy, but it ain’t that hard!

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