performance management

January 12, 2011

Poor Management? This is No Solution!

Happy New Year!

OK, so after the hectic period of Christmas and New Year, I sort of forgot my usual Sunday evening activity of writing my newsletter. I knew it this morning and so I thought that I’d do it later on.

As it happens, this was fortuitous, because there was a phone-in on Radio 5 Live this morning as I was driving into my office that really resonated at first and, as the show and callers ran on, really began to annoy me.

It seems that the Cameron co-alliance, co-operative or co-alition thing – whatever we want to call it – has come up with a bright idea to stimulate business. They intend – or so it has been reported, that employees will not be able to take an employer to an industrial tribunal for unfair dismissal unless they have been employed for 2 years, rather than the current one year.

For once in my life as a manager, I found myself in complete agreement with the Union member of the panel. This was ably assisted by a rude, arrogant and 70’s command-and-control style business owner (Peter from South Wales) who, amongst other things, complained that women who are sick during pregnancy are a pain in the rear end.

I was amazed that he was allowed to get away with this – or perhaps there was little the presenter seemed to be able to do with such a rude, loud and equality-resistant man. It was a horrifying reminder of days gone by.

What I took from the program was that this change in the law is intended to nanny-state protect poor-quality managers who simply do not use existing processes, such as performance management or discipline rules to manage their people effectively, so would be given a right to get rid of under-performers – or indeed anyone they took a dislike to, with little or no redress for the employee. Back to pagan times then.

This is simply crazy. In 25 years managing, I was able to dismiss a few people who needed managing out of the businesses I was running because quite simply they were not good enough. Capable management practices enabled me to manage this adequately and legally within the framework of management.

I don’t think I needed some bizarre law change to do that.

No, this smacks of a soother to managers who simply have poor management skills. Managers who are unable to be effective; to hold difficult conversations; to be strong and fair; to be focused and rigorous with standards.

I once dismissed an individual whose performance was managed very precisely. It took myself and her line manager a full 12 months to work through the agreed performance assessment processes that were fair to the employee and to us. That was perfectly acceptable, if a bit of a challenge, but it worked and was fair.

As obnoxious caller Peter from South Wales, who found that someone pregnant who was ‘a little bit stressed’ and was signed off sick, well, it’s time to get real, my friend. Since when are you capable of making a medical decision about her condition? Time to manage effectively and what’s more, time to plan for the unexpected by developing more of your people, more of the time, so that you have a succession plan in place for eventualities just like this.

Mr Cameron, we need no changes in the framework for employees to be able to be got rid of more easily. What you do need to pay a bit attention to is the poor quality of managers we often find in this country and get that sorted out.

Not to create excuses for them.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Focus on Results, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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December 15, 2010

Go For Your Goals!

For many managers, career development is about putting the hours in, developing performance and skills and then moving up the ladder when the opportunity comes along.

The next rung to climb may, depending on the organization (and how organized they are) be structured to bring the best out of the potential that manager seems to have, dictated by the outcomes of assessments, performance reviews and consequently ‘noticed’ possibilities espied by line managers, project team leaders and others – often in random ways.

The next opportunity comes along on a wing and a prayer and suddenly you’re in the thick of a new challenge, trying to make the best of what you inherit. That can be an established team running well; a poor team who are struggling (‘Where did our last boss go, anyway?’) or a new project where the sheet of paper is blank.

The temptation to get in the thick of what you find is very attractive.

Heads down and see how things show up is an easy attitude to have. Being really busy from the off, shows the team your style of hard work, focus on the short terms and, above all, role-model the level of effort you expect from them real soon.

Smart managers are a lot cleverer than this. They DO invest their early days creating excellent relationships with their people. They show interest in them, listen a lot to show that they care and show they want to learn and understand about them.

And from a very early stage, they use the language of ‘goals’ and ‘expectations’ so that this becomes embodied in the culture of how the team will operate.

Some caution in the goals created will be necessary, of course, to ensure the direction taken is fully aligned with the outputs expected too. That said, there’s nothing wrong with creating goals together from early on in the relationships – and then together tweaking them as necessary.

The alternative of blindly drifting along, is a recipe for only one outcome, a vague set of results achieved with people who are puzzled with what they are supposed to be doing and disillusioned all the more because of this.

Better to have clearly focused goals to start and then refine together, than have ill-defined (if any) goals and no real direction.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Focus on Results, Management Basics, Management Development Tips by Martin

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October 13, 2010

Managing Performance – Building on Strengths

Most performance management systems for in larger corporates (and many smaller ones nowadays) these days focus on improving individual outputs.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

The goal seems to be to up the average returns that each employee makes and inevitably this often has a focus on making areas of underperformance better.

Not much wrong with that then.

Except there can be. Managers who take the cliched route to mainly work with their people on those parts of their contribution that underperforms are following a well trodden path.

It’s easy to pick out areas where employees don’t deliver. Managers will have a sixth sense to sniff out those parts of an individual’s efforts that fall short of meeting minimal expectations.

The objectives agreed will so often focus on raising someone’s game to deliver at least the average in all areas of their work.

And this is exactly the wrong tactic to adopt.

We are all good at parts of the roles for which we are employed. There are few employees who are able to shine in every single aspect of their work. For we all have one or more achilles heels.

By swinging the impetus of performance management round, we can leverage some outstanding talents in our people.

There is momentum and motivation to be gained when we focus on the very best of our people and make much more of where they are best, rather than demoralise and weary them by insisting they focus on the weaknesses they show.

Indeed, overall performance of a team will grow significantly when we work capabilities harder, especially in each the team members that they are particularly effective in.

And you know what – you will be much happier, less stressed, with motivated and committed employees who love you for how you are with them.

And an improved bottom line will go down pretty well with your bosses too.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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February 9, 2010

Five Unexpected Benefits of Performance Management

Managing performance can be a challenge, especially where you have an organizational process to fulfil.

Outside the more obvious reasons for using such a process, there are more to go for, which will help managers realize why it is a useful tool to embrace fully.

Apart from the individual benefits for each one of your people, there is some incredible additional value that you can add with managing performance, rather than by letting it be a chore.

Check these out…

•    Succession Planning

Where you focus on the development of your people as part of managing their performance, you will ensure that you are growing capability within your team for the future as well.

With individual development, you provide for the challenges that happen when you lose people from your team.

When they leave for the new challenges you’ve prepared them for maybe; geography moves them on or even they retire, you have new, eager people that are ready to rock and roll.

•    Creating Momentum

When performance management is used to its best advantage, successes follow success. For each individual developing their skills and output, a mood of growth envelops the team members.

As your people sense that their capabilities are of value, they do more; create more; take risks and try on new possibilities and between them all, this rubs off.

Each tries more and achieves more, creating an upward spiral of success and a momentum of the ‘can do’ attitude so valuable in developing team spirit that synergizes the combined efforts of individuals.

•    The Culture

Once successes are achieved, not only is there a sense of what’s possible, you people are also focused on each other too.

They support each other as a team, rather than simple as individuals engrossed in themselves.

The culture will be one of mutual synergy, so powerful in making new, exciting things happen out of often almost nothing.

•    Building on What They’re Good At

When there is a culture of success, it comes where each of your people is fully aligned with their actions.

Some call this ‘being in the flow’.

This total focus, concentration and energy makes things happen so effectively that it becomes almost effortless.

A stream of activities that just seem to, well, work, is the return you get from where your people are building on the strengths they have with your encouragement and support, your coaching and developmental challenges.

When you work with people on where their true capabilities are, more becomes available from them and they rise to the new challenges you find for them.

When working in areas where people are in their ‘good at’ zone, much more becomes possible for them.

Your focus as a manager is to find where their performance ‘hot spots’ are and leverage that however you can, safe in the knowledge that you are delivering a win-win to them, so the results are perfect.

•    Creative Coping Strategies

Let’s be honest, no-one is a perfect employee – not even you!

So, there will be times where they are challenged more than is good for them in areas where ‘flow’ is a mystery.

In these gaps, it’s always a valuable support to acknowledge this together with them and help them find new ways to resolve these elements of the role they struggle with.

These solutions might be helping them delegate; helping them create workarounds; creative recruitment strategies; learning from poor performance and more.

By coaching them to solutions that overcome the areas where they aren’t fully at home, you will support and encourage the areas where they are excellent too, without wasting time wringing hands over the effort they need to make in unproductive areas for them.

So, let’s keep the activities that they can’t describe themselves and being ‘good at’ easy too!

There’s more to managing performance than the obvious chore of filling in bits of paper to make the process work and when you recognize the value, you will be much more ready to invest some time in it.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Focus on Results, Management Basics by Martin

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