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  • Matt Brown

How to manage your team's performance

This blog continues the theme from last month’s article How to give effective feedback but broadens it out slightly to look at the wider area of Performance Management.

As managers we are responsible for two distinct areas, process and people, yet if we are completely honest with ourselves most of us give pretty much all our attention to the process and only focus on the people when there is a problem. This sends a very dangerous, subliminal message to the team: if you want my attention cause me a problem!

One of your main responsibilities as a manager is to enable your people to be the best that they can be and to meet their potential. If you are not managing their performance effectively you are limiting your people’s development. Take the example of a Koi Carp: the size it grows to is influenced by the size of the environment it lives in – if you keep it in a small pond it may only grow to be about 6 inches long, but if you keep it in a lake it could grow to being over a foot long. Are you allowing your team to grow to their full size?

The Pareto Principle and your team

Managers commonly apply the 80:20 rule (The Pareto Principle) to their teams. The Principle states that 80% of the people related challenges that we face are caused by 20% of the members of the team, and conversely the remaining 80% of the team cause us very few problems. In my experience the team can’t be split quite so simply, and it is more like 20% top performers, 70% genuinely stable and reliable and only 10% ‘disrupters’.

The 70% stable and reliable majority can be split further into 20% future top performers, 40% genuinely stable and reliable and 10% potential ‘disrupters’. If you only focus on the original ‘disrupters’ you could potentially go from only having 10% to finding this has doubled to 20%! Also, I pretty much guarantee that the time that you invest in managing these ‘disrupters’ doesn’t give you a good return. However, if you change your focus and spend most of your performance management time monitoring, supporting and encouraging the genuinely stable and reliable majority you could find that you go from 20% top performers to 40%, and the ‘disrupters’ won’t double in number – a far better return on your time.

To be clear, I am not saying you should ignore the ‘disrupters’, just that you shouldn’t make them the only focus of your performance management approach: all your people need attention.

“The most important minute you spend at work is the minute you

spend on your people” Ken Blanchard

For your people to meet their potential I recommend you follow the approach outlined by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson in the iconic book “The One Minute Manager” originally published in 1982 and updated as “The New One Minute Manager” in 2015. The concepts outlined in the book are often misinterpreted, with people thinking that Blanchard and Johnson are saying that it only takes One Minute to manage your people effectively. This is not the message of the book, the approach is about taking an extra minute to provide feedback, whether redirecting or reinforcing, or an extra minute to discuss the benefit of a development experience they have recently completed. Taking the extra minute is what enables you to invest in the performance management of all your team.

Positive reinforcement

The final area to address in this blog is Ken Blanchard’s concept of ‘catch them doing something right’. Again, I believe that this is often misunderstood. ‘Thank You’, ‘Well Done’ or ‘Good Job’ are probably the most important words in the managers vocabulary, but they should be meaningful, genuine and specific not just given out to all the team daily. If you go down this route, you are in danger of devaluing the meaning of the words. You should acknowledge when someone has gone above and beyond, not just thank then for doing their job! Being told thank you by their manager will give a release of dopamine, the ‘feel good’ hormone, so it will have a positive impact, however being told thank you for… with a specific action being highlighted will make them feel even better!

Performance management conversations

As a final point, we can see in this graph that if we only have a performance management discussion once a year (usually at Appraisal) the skill level of the individuals, and the team, will stay pretty much the same. However, if it becomes more frequent the individuals and the team will develop.

Over the years I have been told by several managers that the reason that they ‘manage by exception’, only discussing things when they are outside of the norm, is that they don’t have time to hold regular performance discussions with their people. I always counter this by saying that for their team to develop and be able to take more responsibility they don’t have time not to hold them!

If you would like to know more about Performance Management or believe that your managers would benefit from training in this area please contact Develop Your People.

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