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Managing other humans can feel like you’re dealing with a non-stop wave of complaints, conflicts and chaos. No one probably told you about the pressure that comes with having your performance evaluated on how others show up. How do you deal with people claiming favoritism, complaining about stagnant career development, and falling short of performance expectations? Believe it or not, the majority of those issues — and others — could be eliminated by having a “manager method.” This simply means applying a management process year-round to every employee who reports to you.
Here are the key elements of a successful manager methodology that you can start using with your direct reports today:
- Get to know what makes your employees tick. If you were given a new computer that used a totally different operating system than you were used to, you’d probably take a glance at the user’s manual. Why wouldn’t you want to do the same with new employees? So how do you get a peek at your new direct report’s user’s manual? As soon as he or she starts reporting to you, set up some time to discuss their interests, motivators and goals. This gives you insight into what actually motivates this person while setting the tone that you care about them as much as you do about getting the work done.
- Set up a year-round performance alignment dialogue. Let your staff know that the purpose of these check-ins is to ensure that you and they are aligned on the work and performance expectations. Be clear that they will drive calendaring quarterly discussions and you will ensure those meetings are prioritized. During the meetings, look for themes that go beyond the day-to-day issues. View this time as a genuine two-way dialogue that generates ideas and solutions to your most important performance challenges. And if one of those challenges happens to involve how well you and the employee communicate, deal with it here.
- Conduct an annual career discussion that’s not connected to a performance review. Too often managers and employees wait until the end of the year to bring up performance issues and career aspirations. At best, this makes for an awkward conversation. At worst, it makes that conversation way less likely to happen at all. Many managers only discuss career opportunities with their top performers because they have little issues to work through during a performance review. However, this tends to lead to perceptions of favoritism and keeps the poor performance from evolving since the other individuals feel there is little reward for effort. By having annual career conversations with everyone, you ensure each person gets to share what they really want to do and you get the insight you need to help them evolve their own performance.
- Solicit feedback on your leadership style. By showing that you’re interested in your staff’s opinion of your leadership skills, you foster a “feedback culture.” And by putting a process around asking for that feedback, you create a true dialogue. Let’s face it, no matter how well-intentioned, feedback that feels one-sided can foster resentment and stress rather than collaboration and problem-solving. You can solicit feedback directly or use anonymous surveys. How you react to the feedback is actually the important part. Be aware of the power dynamic between you and your direct reports. Acting respectfully here teaches your staff that it’s safe to be candid with you. There’s a bonus for your team members, as well: Learning how to give feedback to leadership in a productive and respectful way will empower them throughout their careers to influence their own work environment.
- Practice discretion. While it’s tempting to vent to those with those you click best with on your staff — don’t. You’re courting disaster as a people manager if you do. Simply put, you don’t get to complain to your staff about your staff. Not only will you destroy trust with the employee, but you’ll also hurt your credibility with those who have to listen to you complain. How can they know you don’t speak just as poorly about them to others? Same goes for your peers. While you should absolutely seek help from fellow managers to work through performance challenges, keep the focus on improving your approach and don’t let the conversation devolve into a bitch session. If you do, you’ll be hurting your employee’s reputation and potentially damaging your own rep among your peers, who will wonder how you talk about them when they’re not around. Finally, your own manager doesn’t want to hear you complain about anyone. They want to know about any critical issues and what you’re doing to solve them. If you must, do your venting with friends over a beer.
Without a clear process that ensures everyone gets the same treatment, your team can become a Petri dish for negative assumptions and distrust. Having a method to your manager madness sets you up to be seen as fair and objective. And wouldn’t rather work for that manager?
December 17, 2018 at 09:34PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs