Tenets of Management Design: Identify and reward employees who do good work

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In this post, I continue to explore the tenets of the new field this blog pioneers, “Management Design.” Management Design is a response to the poorly performing 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 of Management Design:  Design ways that managers consistently identify and reward employees who do good work

This seems like a somewhat obvious tenet that should occur naturally in any organization.  The employees who do good work should be identified and rewarded.  However, it doesn’t seem to work out that way enough.  How many times have we seen it that underperforming employees jockey for visibility and accolades, while the high performing employees feel like they are being ignored or taken for granted?  How many times have we seen managers not give thanks or offer praise when it is well earned?

This is an especially important tenet that Management Design attempts to solve, because one adage regarding management seems to recur, that “Good people leave bad managers” (here’s one book on the topic: People Leave Managers…Not Organizations!: Action Based Leadership)

To prevent good people from leaving bad managers, you have to

1)      Systemically identify who the good performers are

2)      Reduce the number of bad managers and bad management practices

3)      Make it so that the good performers can maximize their performance and want to stay

OK, sounds pretty simple, but with the current “designs”, we fall short.

For item 1 – systematically identify who the good performers are: We tend to leave it to managers to independently assess, identify and document who the top performers are.  That is, the manager is the only person really responsible for saying who is good on the team and why.  If it is a bad manager, then this assessment is going to be faulty.  The top performer has the choice to leave the team and hopefully go elsewhere in the organization, or go to another organization.  For the top performer, the option of making the team and manager better isn’t really in the equation.

Further, the time for identifying top performers is usually reserved for the once-a-year annual performance review.   In the hands of poor management practices, this is a great way to alienate employees, create team angst, and introduce toxicity into the workplace.

For item 2 – Reduce the number of bad managers and bad management practices: This blog has identified and will continue to identify several “designs” of how managers are created.  The inventory so far shows ad-hoc methods, filled with short-cuts taken by organizations that essentially reflects the hope that making a cagey hiring decision will translate into a good management practices.  The typical design is, in essence, try to mine some good managers from some sources, and hope they bring excellent practices to the job.  The design does work well.  Good management practices are not guaranteed, and, as is documented in this blog, they are entirely based on hope, and that hope is rarely realized.

For item 3 — Make it so that the good performers can maximize their performance and want to stay: The current management “design” does not necessarily encourage top performance from those with the potential to achieve it.  Sloppy management practices can subtly encourage employees to focus on the wrong thing, feel punished for doing good work, and be rewarded for regressing to the mean.  An example of a sloppy management practice that creates this dynamic is public feedback, where the entire team is told to do something differently, when it is only a few who need course correction.  Another example is talking about “strengths and weaknesses” as though strengths and weaknesses are equal in a top performer.

A new set of designs need to be created that systemically create good managers and management practices that identify and reward good work, and the employees who perform it – including the managers.

Feel free to share your ideas and insights of how organizations move beyond the default designs (annual performance reviews, relying on managers to identify and praise top employees, etc.) and build systemically repeatable structures that drive toward higher employee and managerial performance!

Also, feel free to suggest your tenets of management design as well!

Related Posts:

Tenets of Management Design: Focus on the basics, then move to style points

Tenets of Management Design: Managing is a functional skill

Examples of when to offer thanks and when to offer praise

When an employee does something wrong, it’s not always about the person. It’s about the system, too.

Why the annual performance review is often toxic

The myth of “one good thing, one bad thing” on a performance review

“Thanks for your Hard Work” vs. “Thanks for your Good Work”

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About Walter Oelwein
Walter Oelwein, CMC, CPT, helps managers become better at managing. To do this, he founded Business Performance Consulting, LLC .

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