In this post, I continue to explore the tenets of the new field I’m pioneering, “Management Design.” Management Design is a response to the bad existing designs that are currently used in creating managers. These current designs describe how managers tend to be created by accident, rather than by design, or that efforts to develop quality and effective managers fall short.
So today’s tenet: Focus on basic tasks of people and team management, then move to style points
I introduce the concept of style points as a way of prioritizing what goes into creating great managers, and the steps that should be taken to get to the status of “great manager.” Style points are the flourishes that can be performed if you have successfully completed the fundamentals, the basics, or the preliminary tasks. Someone who tries to go for style points without having mastered the basics can look pretty foolish. Unfortunately, this tends to happen a lot with managers, both new and experienced. If you have ever rolled your eyes in response to a manager’s actions, then it likely he or she was trying get style points prior to having done something more basic.
A mistaken notion that many managers have is the belief that on a performance review they need to comment on and provide examples of both the good things and the bad things that an employee did over the course of the review period. This is sometimes taken to the next level, where the manager says one good thing and one bad thing about each area of the employee’s performance.
Here’s an example of something a high performer might see on a review:
Jeff exceeded sales expectations by 15%, placing him in the top 10% of the sales force. Jeff was below expectations in submitting his weekly status reports on time, and the reports he did submit were wordy.
This is a mistake and this practice should be stopped.
An important skill of any manager is the ability to provide performance feedback. However, many managers prefer to delay providing performance feedback because of fear of the impression it creates to address an issue with an employee.
For example, managers will delay providing feedback based on fears that the employee will think that manager has forever judged the employee as doing the job incorrectly. Or, perhaps, since the evidence is there that the job is being performed at a lower level, the manager will, indeed, judge the employee as forever being less capable of doing the job. That is, if the manager is providing feedback, they have rendered final judgment. With attitudes like this, you could see how both the manager and the employee dread performance feedback conversations.
Neither of these interpretations of what performance feedback achieves is appropriate. Providing final judgment of the employee is not the point of performance feedback. Providing performance feedback is a discussion aimed toward changing behaviors for the better, and has been discussed in this blog previously, the more specific and more immediate, the more artful the feedback. Once performance feedback has been provided, if the job performed improves, then that dreaded final judgment is, by definition, wrong.
So how to help get past this “final judgment” issue? In today’s post, I provide a way of talking about the behaviors of an employee that is less absolute and provides a more likely path for improvement for the employee. Here’s the tip:
As you transition to making the evaluation and correction, provide qualifiers – “it is a trend” or “it’s a tendency” — that do not imply absolutes. Read more
In the previous post, I provided some markers of behavior-based language that will help managers avoid the pitfalls and tendencies (documented here and here) of providing performance feedback incorrectly. In today’s post, I’ll discuss how using behavior-based language makes it easier to transition to evaluating and providing performance feedback to an employee. As a manager, you are expected to evaluate an employee’s performance as part of the performance management process, so getting to the point where you can do this to your employee is important. Here are some tips for getting to that evaluation using the set-up of behavior-based language.
I advocate for starting a performance feedback discussion with observations using behavior-based language, which isn’t always easy, but worth the effort. Here are some examples of starting a conversation with behavior-based language.
“I heard you say, ‘I plan to slack off work next week.’”
“I observed that you came in late in each of the past three days.”
“I saw that you were setting up the presentation in advance.”
“I observe that you code has not broken the build all month.”
When you use this behavior-based language, you naturally build a case toward an evaluative and corrective conclusion.
The Manager by Design blog explores the core skills that managers need to be good at being managers. A key skill is the ongoing use of behavior-based language. In previous posts, I discussed the kind of language that is decidedly NOT behavior-based: Language that makes generalizations about an employee’s behavior, and language that that makes value-judgments. In these posts, I make the case that there is no use for this, even in the effort to be efficient. In today’s post, I attempt to describe what behavior-based language is.
By its nature, language is a slippery thing, so I don’t make the assumption that there is a clear distinction between what is and is not behavior-based. What I advocate is for managers to at least attempt to slide in the direction of behavior-based language in performance discussions with their employees.
This is the first of two parts identifying if you are using language that is behavior-based:
The Manager by Design blog advocates for a new field called Management Design. The idea is that the creation of great and effective managers in organizations should not occur by accident, but by design. Currently, the creation of great managers falls under diverse, mostly organic methods, which create mixed results at best, and disasters at worst. This is the latest of a series that explores the existing designs that create managers in organizations. Today’s design: Hire as managers only those from within the organization.
In this “design”, the organization values promoting people into first-level and upper-level management positions from within. This is a natural tendency, because there are a lot of good outcomes from this process – it encourages thinking through management development and creating programs to support it; it creates career paths for employees; it assures that managers are familiar with company, department, and team procedures and expertise. The manager is networked already within the company. So if you are going to err on having this be your management design, this would be a good place to start.
However, as a design, it is still lazy, and there are some pitfalls and risks that need to be addressed.
If you manage people, an important skill to have is the ability to consciously use of behavior-based language. This is also known as performance-based language.
This is the second of a series of posts providing tips on how to increase use behavior-based language. In the first post, I described how generalizations, in an effort to be efficient, tend to undermine the intent of changing the employee’s behaviors. A similar mistake that managers tend to make is using value judgments. Using value judgments is an effort to summarize the net impression that an employee is making, but the problem is that this summary completely clouds the behaviors that the employee is doing. Instead, if the value judgment is a negative one, it comes across as a personal attack to the employee. That’s because it is, in essence, a personal attack on an employee.
Here are some examples of value judgments a manager may make in regards to an employee:
You’re not good enough
You don’t have what it takes
Your heart’s not into it
You’re not cutting it
You’re too wordy
Your work is shoddy
If you manage people, one skill you need to develop is the conscious use of behavior-based language. This is also known as performance-based language. This is the first in a series discussing how to transition your language to be more behavior-based.
Behavior-based language is using language that attempts to describe specific behaviors, rather than language that makes generalizations or value judgments. In today’s post, I’ll discuss a common management mistake: Using generalizations.
Examples of generalizations (or generalized language) a manager may use:
“You always show up late for work”
“You don’t seem to know what you’re doing.”
“You’re trying really hard, but it isn’t working out.”
“Your code isn’t up to par.”
“You’re doing a great job!”
“You’re doing a terrible job!”
The Manager by Design blog advocates for a new field called Management Design. The idea is that the creation of great and effective managers in organizations should not occur by accident, but by design. Currently, the creation of great managers falls under diverse, mostly organic methods, which create mixed results at best and disasters at worst. This is the latest of a series that explores the existing designs that create managers in organizations. Today’s “design” we have now: Hire the premier technical expert.
Having the opportunity to hire a premier technical expert to improve your organization’s performance is a great idea. It brings in a fresh perspective, the technical knowledge you need, and perhaps will transition your team from being mediocre to industry-leading. What could go wrong? Lots. Read more
My two previous blog posts have been about “public feedback.” Public feedback is the commonly observed phenomenon where a manager tries to correct the behavior of a few individuals through mass-communication channels such as email or a large-group meeting. Common examples are, “We have a dress code” or “We need to stop the gossiping.” In my first blog post on the subject, I describe how this doesn’t change – or even makes worse – the behavior of the people who are behaving incorrectly. In my second post on the subject, I describe the impact on those who are actually behaving correctly (it throws them out of whack).
OK, so it doesn’t work with the people who you are targeting, and it messing up with the people you aren’t targeting. But what about you, the manager? It messes you up too!
When giving public feedback, the manager is trying to take a shortcut and address several performance issues at once. We’ve already established that it doesn’t work, so that should be enough. Here’s how this short cut plays out. Read more