Many years ago, I was told that as a manager, we are an average of our entire team. This is an accurate observation, because we rely on each and every person on our team to create our outcomes.
I have reflected on this advice a many times over the years when employees performance and behaviours have impacted positively or negatively on my reputation or performance.
I have been guilty of allowing high performing, but terribly behaved staff to cause teams to suffer, I have made emotional decisions when recruiting and I have also helped develop some amazing employees. We all make mistakes and we become better managers when we genuinely learn from our experiences.
Some key times to consider this concept;
- When hiring new staff – will this person increase or decrease my performance?
- When managing performance – is the issue a lack of capacity or is it an attitude problem? What can I contribute to the solution or the person’s development? I.E. Training, coaching, setting boundaries, re-motivating, etc. Do I need to cut my losses and exit the employee from the business?
- When a high performer resigns – what is the reason for this person leaving? What can I learn so I don’t lose people who are increasing my performance in the future?
Sam has 3 employees on his team;
- Stacy is fairly new to the business and is still learning the ropes. She has the potential to be a good performer once she gains more experience and technical skill. Currently Sam would score her overall performance at 60%
- Fred has been with the business for several years. He lacks motivation and Sam spends a fair amount of time pushing him to get work done and to standard. Fred is capable of a better standard of work, however he usually does the bare minimum. Sam scores Fred’s performance at 40%
- Chloe has been with the business for 2 years and is a dream employee. She consistently performs above expectations and is self-driven. She gets along with the team and works hard. Sam feels he would be lost without Chloe and rates her performance at 100%
So despite Sam having a dream employee, his other team members are bringing down his performance. Sam’s score is 66%
At this point, Sam has a few options available to him. To increase his own performance, he can performance manage Fred to either exit him from the business or improve his performance. Sam can also make sure that Stacy is given every opportunity to learn and grow as quickly as possible. The more confident she is, the better her performance will be.
A side note on Fred’s performance; if Fred was previously working at a higher level, I would recommend digging down and finding out what is the reason for the attitude change. People sabotage their jobs for a range of reasons and they’re not always obvious and sometimes it is something we can have a role in improving.
Now let’s imagine that Sam tends to avoid conflict and doesn’t deal with Fred’s performance. This is extremely dangerous because as a new employee, Stacy might learn bad attitudes and behaviours from him and never meet her potential and it would be a major crisis if Chloe got sick of doing all the heavy lifting and left the business.
This would be a disaster and drop Sam’s average to 50%
Some actions I would recommend for Sam;
- Use a HR consultancy business to help if he is not confident or comfortable with conducting performance management; it’s a great opportunity to learn from an expert.
- Meet with all staff on a regular schedule to build rapport, address issues, give and receive feedback, reward good performance.
- Address incidents of poor behaviour and recognise great actions immediately, as they happen.
A simple coaching tool that I use when working with people is to make a table that looks like this;
I get the employee to identify the 5 most important aspects of their job. For example, for a teacher this could be (1) Educate students (2) Managing student behaviours (3) Parent engagement (4) Lesson planning (5) Record keeping and reporting.
These are listed on the left-hand column.
Sometimes the process of getting your employee to identify the 5 functions or tasks that make up the majority of their performance can help get their focus on the important things.
The employee then fills in the middle column, where they consider each task/function and determines what perfect looks like. I.E. a teacher might consider a perfect outcome for ‘Educating students’ to be that every student in the class gains an ‘A’. Again, this is another opportunity to compare expectations with your employee – maybe you would score 10/10 if each student got at least a B and had an 80% attendance rate.
The employee then scores themselves out of 10 for their current performance for each of the five tasks/functions.
Employees often will score themselves low, so this is a good opportunity to increase confidence and give them recognition for good work. If they score much higher than you, then you can have a discussion around what things you feel needs improvement and give them a bit of a reality check.
Once the final column has been filled in, you can work out what their performance score is. I’m not a maths wiz by a long shot, but this is how I work it out;
Work with the employee to identify things that you and the employee can do to improve their score. Especially when it comes to new staff, make sure they understand that you would expect a lower score for a new employee who is just learning the ropes and focus on the positives and how they are improving each time you conduct this exercise.
A word of warning; quantifying performance can be very powerful, but you must use it carefully to ensure you don’t alienate or demotivate team members. How you use the tool is the secret to success.
If putting this amount of effort into your team members seems like a lot of work . . . it is! But it is extremely important that we do spend the time to develop our staff and our management skills, or we will have to accept our own average performance.
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