New Manager Challenge: Knowing How and When to Manage Performance

This is a cartoon of a boss and employee on the golf course with very different ideas of whether or not to sink the putt

The cartoon illustrates a classic new manager situation – a lack of communication between a boss and employee.

The worker assumes he should miss the putt in order to make his boss look good. The boss plans to evaluate the employee in a positive way only if he makes the putt. As a new manager, don’t let this kind of performance confusion block your employees from performing at their peak.

Creating a high performance environment to get the most out of your employees is perhaps your most critical challenge as a new manager. Individual performance improvement leads to improved team performance. And improved team performance is your new goal as a new manager.

The dreaded annual performance review is no longer in vogue…and with good reason. A once yearly check-in on an employee’s job performance is not very effective. When you have to think back on 12 or even 6 months of a worker’s job execution, you risk omitting important coaching points…both positive and negative. An issue may have arisen, remain unresolved and continue to impede your employee’s full engagement in the job. Or an opportunity for learning on-the-job will have been missed. Either way you lose your influence as a manager over improving a team member’s performance in a timely fashion.

This is not to say that there should not be some formalized process for reviewing employees on the quality of their work. You need some sort of rating system that can let people know where they stand, help guide merit pay increases and promotions, and create targeted development plans. It is important to have a structure in place that holds managers accountable for engaging and developing their employees. But we maintain that both the employee and the manager benefit from ongoing, less structured, more frequent performance conversations in addition to the more formal performance discussion.

Our local school district experimented recently with eliminating number grades in favor of general comments on student behavior, effort and progress and they issued these report cards only twice during the academic year. You’d have thought that teachers would be relieved not to have to assign specific grades, that students would be relieved of the performance pressure to get high grades, and that parents would be less concerned about where their student fit in the class as long as they were learning, behaving appropriately and trying their best. But not one of these three stakeholders was satisfied.

  • Teachers surprisingly found it easier to give grades than original, motivating and appropriate comments
  • Students wanted to know where they stood vis-s-vis their classmates and statewide performance standards
  • Parents preferred to have a more standard assessment of their children’s accomplishments and progress

The point is that, in a corporate setting as in an academic environment, regular, meaningful, accurate, timely, fair and transparent performance exposure that lets people know where they stand and helps to both motivate and manage higher performance.

The Bottom Line
The most effective new managers set clear performance expectations. The most effective new managers consistently hold weekly or bi-weekly one-hour sessions with individual team members to review goals, discuss performance, address issues and stay on the same page. Frequent feedback and attention from caring managers help employees stay focused, motivated and on target. Monitor progress regularly, give praise where it’s due and coach for improvement when needed. This is how you can lead toward high performance.

You will know you are on the right path when employees:

• Trust the way their performance is measured
• Receive frequent and balanced feedback
• Understand what constitutes both success and failure
• Know how their goals align with team and company goals

Benchmark your performance management practices to see where you stand

Download performance management whitepaper – Top 5 Warning Signs That Your Performance Environment May Be in Trouble

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