Photo by Aaron Mason
What makes a great performance manager?
There’s been a plethora of literature and training solutions developed over the years aimed at developing managers and creating an engaging workplace. Yet employees seem increasingly overwhelmed by sheer workload and expectations placed upon them, whilst feeling frustrated that their efforts are not being valued nor recognised. This includes managers like you, many of whom are promoted due to strengths in technical knowledge and experience. On becoming accountable for managing people you receive little or no training and are often unsure of how best to engage your team members to make the most of their talents and strengths. This lack of management development fuels the sense of overwhelm and frustration within your organisation.
So if you are a manager seeking inspiration, read on to find out how to make a positive impact on your team by introducing effective performance management.
Effective performance management starts by developing your knowledge. Knowledge about yourself; knowledge of your team; and knowledge to flex your style and get the best from each team member, through a process commonly known as performance management. No, not that once a year, routine conversation and tick box activity, but an ongoing, regular process of working effectively, and investing in your team, to deliver the performance results necessary to achieve and exceed your business goals.
This is a process whereby you dedicate time to build professional relationships with each team member and you learn how to respond to each of their needs to enable them to perform to the best of their ability and deliver optimum results.
Here are 7 smart tips to get you started:
- Know yourself and be yourself
- Develop relationships and get to know your team
- Create a positive environment
- Make feedback the norm
- Hold those difficult conversations
- Develop potential
- Reward success
To know yourself sounds simple after all we live with ourselves 24 / 7, and yet we are often blind side to our quirks and strengths. The traits that make up our personality, for many, are so habitual that we take them for granted. Get to know yourself by taking time to reflect... if you receive an unexpected response from a colleague, take time to consider how did to contribute. What do you do or say that irritates others, or conversely leaves them feeling elated? Own the impact of your communication, if you’re unhappy with the response, change your style and try something different.
Your team need to get to know you, the real you, so be yourself, share insights about yourself and what is important to you. This type of disclosure breaks down barriers and promotes openness and trust, essential when building a high performing team.
2. Develop Relationships
Effective performance management needs you to develop rapport with your team members. To build rapport you need to be genuinely interested in each person as an individual, make time to get to know them. Start by exploring what do you have in common?
Pace the conversation and trust yourself to move on and discover what is important to them.
“What is important to you?” is one of the most valuable questions you can ask your colleagues. Ask this question in relation to their work, their hobbies or a specific project. Their answer reveals a lot about them, what they value and believe, their skills, experience, knowledge and concerns. Make sure you listen to your colleague and their replies. Ten minutes of true listening is likely to lead to a wealth of valuable information to help you manage your team member productively going forward and leave them feeling highly valued by you.
Connect with each team member on a regular basis and make sure you take an interest in whatever is important to them at that time.
Building this level of rapport will help you develop a very individual relationship based on trust and openness. Remember the key to building a meaningful relationship is your ability to listen, without judgement and to ask insightful questions by taking genuine interest in your team member.
3. Develop a Positive Environment
A positive environment is crucial for the successful performance of a team. It is created by adopting a healthy attitude towards one another and as manager you need to lead by example. In addition to implementing the tips shared in this article and you can encourage a healthy team environment by:
- Involving the team in creating a compelling team vision.
- Exploring how the team vision relates to each team member’s personal sense of purpose.
- Engaging team members in developing their own performance goals and measures.
- Appreciating one another for your individual strengths and contributions to team performance.
- Encouraging an open and trusting environment where everyone has a voice and an opportunity to share their opinions without fear of being judged.
- Eliminating harmful gossip.
- Focusing on finding solutions, rather than dwelling on problems.
- Having fun!
4. Make Feedback the Norm
A good manager must be observant, using all your senses to notice, hear and feel the dynamics of your team and interactions with wider stakeholders. When the dynamics are working well recognise it, say what is going well... be specific. Similarly when performance is a concern, it is vital that the team and individuals receive feedback regarding their contribution.
Developing a culture where feedback is the norm, enables individuals to grow and performance to thrive. Take every opportunity to give and receive feedback, make it the norm.
5. Difficult Conversations
Performance concerns need to be raised, the specifics discussed with the individuals concerned and solutions agreed. Very often managers put off holding perceived ‘difficult conversations’ to the detriment of the team. The longer an issue is left unchecked, gives time for rot to set in undoing all the good work you have done to create a positive environment, damaging the relationships and performance of the entire team in the process. Burying your head in the sand is not a successful strategy for effective performance management, as most often the problem doesn’t simply go away.
The next two tips are offered to help you sustain the performance of you team.
6. Develop Potential
Having established open relationships, based on knowing each of your team members as individuals and adopting a feedback culture, you now need to be able to flex your management style between the directive and non directive ends of the spectrum. Most people are energised when encouraged to think for themselves. When they identify ideas for themselves and develop their own actions and solutions they are far more likely to be accountable for implementing them. This is a coaching style of management and it can be highly effective for engaging your team.
Knowing each of your team well will enable you to know how much support they require and how they respond to challenge. Too much support, and not enough challenge, develops into a comfort zone, whilst too much challenge and not enough support results in stress. To develop the potential of each of your team you need to provide sufficient support and challenge to promote high performance and facilitate development.
The motivation of your team is essential to sustain high performance. Your success, and that of your team, is built on the foundations from implementing tips one to six.
To promote and sustain the motivation of your team, they need to be FIT:
F ocused on what matters
I nclusive and engaged
T alents being harnessed and developed
7.1 Focused on what matters
Tip two recommended having a shared vision, along with clear personal outcomes and measures, so that you and your team are able to track and reward success.
Whilst tip three leads to a deep knowledge of your team and will give you insight as to what each member needs to feel valued and rewarded for their contribution. Some may appreciate public recognition, others preferring to be rewarded privately. If you’re not sure how best to reward them, ask “what’s important to them?”.
The simple gesture of recognising achievement and rewarding success is often missed by managers, to busy focusing on achieving the next task or goal. This is a big mistake, leading to individual feelings of dissatisfaction and demotivation. Get it right and you will boost self esteem, confidence and morale, leading to increased performance of the whole team.
7.2 Inclusive and engaged
As a successful manager you will appreciate the diversity of your team and recognise the strengths that each team member brings. It is essential that all team members feel included and engaged in the team vision to ensure they contribute effectively to the performance of the team.
7.3 Talents being harnessed
People feel motivated when their talents are valued and they are being developed. Encourage your team to recognise their strengths and talents, seek creative ways to utilise and develop them further in order to achieve goals. Harnessing strengths and talents in this way will lead to sustainable high performance.
So when at work how do you spend your time?
Do you focus on using your technical knowledge and experience to the detriment of building relationships with your team?
Taking time to develop these relationships underpins your success as a manager and in delivering effective performance. It could be the wisest investment you make. When you know your team well and learn to manage them flexibly, as individuals, your will reap the rewards.
If you were to do one thing, having read this article, to improve the performance management of your team what will you choose?
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