Archive for June, 2009

Performance Management – two important skills may be the key

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Performance management isn’t only about how a manager communicates with staff, but out of nine qualities employees rate in reports of good managers in best companies to work for (www.bestcompanies.co.uk), qualities of communication come into all of them (more details below).

My observations from studies on successful management in organisations, and from my work with staff and managers, is that the core of performance management is getting the best from your people and there are two main skills which good managers need which apply to most performance management needs, whether it is the annual review, the everyday briefing of individuals and teams, the feedback on a project, etc.:

1. Share information (not opinion!)
2. Ask questions (and listen to the answers!)

It sounds simple but I am on the side of managers when I say that I don’t think it necessarily comes easily to people for very good reasons:

1. Managers feel that their role requires them to make value-judgements – about the work of the department, the performance of the team and of individuals. And that is true, but in making the value judgements, they need to make sure that they are standing inside the situation and not making assumptions from the outside.

2. Managers think that giving feedback is about expressing value judgements. Fine when things are going well, but when they’re not, this feels uncomfortable – they wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end themselves. Being clear with people about what you need them to do and how they are doing it means holding the value judgement in mind, but not leading with it in what you say. Feedback needs to follow the information/questions model to be effective.

3. Managers don’t want to give people bad news, let alone consult them on it. This, too, feels unpalatable. You know it is likely to be uncomfortable, people may be angry and they may be justified. However, learning to deal with the situation constructively while managing your own emotions will be better for your relationship with your staff than hiding behind an email.

4. Most of us equate the management role with the parental role (both managers and staff) and indeed the exerting of social responsibility as a manager is very close to the role of parent. Our experience of our own parents, or of being a parent, doesn’t necessarily prepare us for being a successful manager.

I have found that an understanding of these key issues and working on the skills of sharing information and asking questions, using examples, discussion and role-play, provides managers with the tools and the confidence they need to do a good job of managing people. Seven out of ten people who leave organisations leave a manager. These are important skills and acquiring them requires a mixture of:
• Self-awareness
• Insight into others
• Behavioural skills

For more information on my work with managers on performance management please go to http://www.syntagm.co.uk/peopleskills/managing.htm

If you are still wondering about the nine top qualities of a good manager as rated by employees of best companies to work for, they were:

Talks openly and honestly
Shares important information
Expresses appreciation
Supports and cares
Listens more than talks
Helps fulfil potential
Motivates us to give our best
Is a good role model
Demonstrates leadership skills

Valerie Fawcett (valerie.fawcett@syntagm.co.uk)