Managers Could Do A Lot Better At Performance Management

I was excited to see an email from the Gallup Business Journal with this headline hit my inbox recently. Awesome topic! Since Gallup has done so much research on employee engagement, I couldn’t wait to see their analysis and recommendations for managers to get better that this fundamental part of their jobs.

My excitement didn’t last long. Gallup’s list, it turns out, was a series of high-level platitudes:

  • Clarify the organization’s purpose and brand.
  • Remove cultural barriers to performance (executive team misalignment, lack of commitment to change, lack of role clarity, inconsistency in strategy execution …)
  • Study [high performers]… to ensure that strategies for selecting and developing employees are on target.
  • Use predictive analytics to hire for excellence.
  • Align people and processes.

That’s a fine list for top executives crafting an organization’s future. And sure, those things could improve performance management in indirect ways. But what I wanted was insight about helping actual managers get better at managing performance now.

My disappointment in Gallup’s article led me to wonder, “what would be on my list if I wrote an article with that title?” What could help managers do a better job at performance management? Here are four suggestions for your consideration.

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Four Rules For Better Results With and Through People

When it comes to organizational success, every interaction between people is for better or worse. The effects are cumulative. If they aren’t getting better they probably are getting worse.

Ridge’s training is built on the four following principles or “rules” to make sure interactions and important relationships are consistently and intentionally getting better so they yield better results.

Rule One: Communicate with purpose.

Most people think they know what they want to get out of an interaction, but they’re casual about it. You may think that all you need to do is tell people about a new policy, procedure, task, or deadline—but what do you want people to do as a result? Do you want them to change in some way? Do they need to be bought in? Do they have competing priorities that need to be addressed? Being intentional about your purpose up front will inform your communication strategy and reduce the toll needless friction takes on your time, results, and relationships.

Rule Two: Tune into tension.

Unmanaged tension kills productivity and the relationships crucial to your success. Don’t wait until arguments break out to manage it. People are always sending us signals about how they’re receiving what we’re saying–in their tone and body language as well as in their words. By keeping your radar up you can keep the dynamics between you and others positive which in turn yield better outcomes and more effective relationships, now and in the future.

Rule Three: Listen early and often.

Listening truly is the master skill of effective communication. It transforms misunderstanding, conveys empathy, and is an expression of respect and positive regard for the speaker–even in the midst of tension or conflict. Unfortunately listening isn’t as easy or common as most people think. We may think we’re listening but more often than not others don’t experience us that way. Few people in our work or home lives feel listened to enough. Do you? Great listening is an ongoing practice, not an occasional event. Cultivating this practice and closing the listening gap is key to getting the best from your working relationships with others.

Rule Four: Speak so people can learn.

When you speak, do you think about how others will receive what you say? Probably not: most people speak from their own frames of reference rather than speak to the recipient’s. If your words seem to fall on deaf ears, that may be why. To get better results, speak so people can learn. Tell employees how the feedback you’re giving will improve their success. Explain to customers the rationale for a specific policy. Be genuine, even if it is the company line. What you need to say may not always be up to you. How you say it is.

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