As we close out the year, here are the top series of articles published by Manager by Design in 2010. Check out part one here.
Providing expectations sets the bar for what you and your team need to do, and how to get it done. Yet it is an ignored art. Here are some articles on the art of providing expectations:
Managers need to check their usage of language to focus on behaviors. This doesn’t necessarily come naturally. Here is primer on using behavior-based language.
Managing from a deficit:
When one is an individual contributor, it’s generally easy to figure out when you are falling behind. But it isn’t so easy when you’re a manager. These articles focus on the moments that might reveal you’re managing from a deficit, and could benefit from changing your management practices.
Keep reading the Manager by Design blog for tips on people management and team management. Happy new year and see you in 2011!
As we close out the year, here are the top series of articles published by Manager by Design in 2010.
Providing Positive Reinforcement:
A manager needs to provide positive reinforcement to encourage that employees keep doing the things that are going well, and perhaps do more of the things that work, and less the things that don’t. Here are the Manager by Design articles related to Positive Reinforcement:
Using a Performance Log:
So many things happen when managing, it’s easy to forget what happened. Or worse, it’s easy to remember the things that don’t matter as much. What does matter is the performance of the employees. Here are tips on keeping a performance log. Remember — it should include the good stuff your employees are doing!
Managers get invited to meetings all the time. They also invite a lot of people to meetings too. This means that meetings are important. So what makes a good meeting? Here are some articles by Manager by Design on the topic:
Happy New Year from Manager by Design!
I advocate that managers provide performance feedback using direct observation as much as possible. In my previous articles, I recommend that managers set up practice environments and attempt to observe the performance directly to understand how an employee performs. I feel that if this is not done in your work environment, this is bad management design.
There is a third form of “direct observation” a manager can use to provide performance feedback: tangible artifacts.
When an employee does their job, they create all sorts of “artifacts” – the things they are supposed to produce. These can be things such as a project plan, software code, an analysis, an engineering schematic, a recording of a customer service call, a plate of food, etc. I call these things tangible artifacts. If you can print it out or touch it, then it is a tangible artifact. So email would be considered a potential tangible artifact. It is basically something that the person produces, whether digital or physical.
With tangible artifacts, the manager can provide performance feedback to the employee. In many cases this is a great source of direct observation of the employee’s performance. The manager can sit down with the employee, observe the artifact, and say what it is that is good or should be changed about future artifacts. If it a call center agent, the manager can listen to a recent call by the agent, and discuss what was correctly done and what should be done differently. The manager can also look at the “artifact” of what the agent did in the Customer Relation Management system, and provide feedback on this. In a restaurant, the manager can taste the food and look at the presentation of the foot, and provide feedback on what the employee did that created the results. Too much salt?
There are times when the artifact is so far off the mark, it is hard to determine what the employee did to create it. If this is the case, then the observation of the artifact is not direct enough, and more direct observation is needed. Read more
In today’s article, I continue my series of sources of direct observation managers can use to provide improved performance feedback. Previously, I discussed how a manager can use practice sessions to provide specific and immediate feedback that dramatically increases the chances of high quality (and aligned) performance when it counts.
In today’s article, I discuss direct observation of the actual on the job performance as a source of performance feedback.
I advocate that managers should give performance feedback based on directly observed performance. However, there are some guidelines that need to be observed in attempting this.
1. Give performance feedback during the performance only if it doesn’t ruin the performance
In my previous article, I discuss how managers tend to rely on indirect sources of information to provide feedback, rather than direct sources of information. This creates a common mistake for managers. They have to rely on some form of hearsay about the employee, and then they provide feedback on what the hearsay says. It is only an assumption that the hearsay is correct, and, for this reason, employees generally don’t like getting “performance feedback” on such hearsay. Also, the feedback tends to not make any sense.
In today’s article, I’d like to discuss how to increase the amount of performance feedback based on direct observation.
Here are three “sources” of direct observation that a manager can engage in:
- Practice of the performance
- Direct observation of behaviors while they are being performed
- Artifacts that provide evidence of the performance
Let’s talk about “practice of the performance.” Not many managers consider this an option or utilize this, but this is a rich and useful source of providing performance feedback. Imagine an employee needing to do a critical presentation. The manager can improve the chances of success by scheduling a “practice” session of the presentation, in this case, “the performance”.
There are many advantages to this:
–The performer practices and gets better, both by practicing and by getting feedback
–The performer gets performance feedback that doesn’t get conflated with evaluation, since it isn’t the actual performance. That is, the performance feedback is “safer.”
–The performance feedback is specific to the performance and immediately given. You can stop the “practice” at any time and give feedback. That makes it as specific and immediate as possible, and increases the chances that the feedback will be behavior-based.
–The performer and the manager are aligned in what the expected performance is
–The manager has “skin in the game” for the performance
And it doesn’t have to be only on “big events” like a presentation. You could have a manager sit down with a software developer to see how they perform some of the expected tasks in a non-production environment. If the software is doing it right, the manager can say, “you’re doing it right.” Performance feedback is provided and everyone is happy and aligned. If there are some behaviors that can be corrected, the manager can provide that feedback. Read more
The Manager by Design blog is celebrating its one-year anniversary this week!
We’ve published over 100 articles on People and Team Management, and started the discussion on how we can create better managers by design.
To celebrate, let’s count down the top 10 most popular articles of the year!
and the #1 most popular Manager by Design article in 2010 is. . .
Thanks to all who follow and comment on the Manager by Design blog! We have lots of great articles coming out for next year.
Keep reading Manager by Design for great people management tips and awesome team management tips, and we’ll keep developing the emerging field of management design!
If you are a manager, you get lots of inputs in regards to how your employee is performing. Let’s do a quick review of some of these places:
- Direct Observation of Employee Behaviors
- Employee Output and Artifacts (emails, presentations, documents, code, tangible items)
- Peer Feedback
- Customer Feedback
- Employees’ Manager of Manager Feedback
- Metrics tied to employee output (customer satisfaction scores, number of items produced, number of sales made, number of contracts negotiated etc.)
Now, what does the manager do about it? Does the manager provide performance feedback on all of these inputs?
The manager should give performance feedback on only the top two – Direct Observation and Employee Output and Artifacts.
The remainder are all indirect sources of information about an employee’s performance. Let’s look at them:
A common practice for a manager is to ask their employee to do something for them. We’ve seen this a lot. One example: The VP asks for some sort of recommendation, analysis, or revision on a strategy document that wasn’t expected before. Now your team has to do this new thing. It’s going to take time, effort, money. Perhaps also teamwork, new processes, sourcing new information. Lots of stuff. This is one example, and I’m sure you can think of other times where your manager has said, “I need something from you. . .”
As the manager put in this situation, you agree to your VP to get this done and you decide to put your top performer Jackie on this. Jackie is great at doing all sorts of things, and fulfilling this important request is something she can do.
So you go to Jackie and you say, “Jackie, I need to get a revised strategy document ready for the Vice President’s briefing next week. I know that you can do this.”
Jackie replies: “OK, I can do that. I appreciate being trusted to do this. However, I have the following things that I’m working on:
–I’m interviewing six candidates over the next three days
–I have meetings with our vendor to resolve issues with our contracts
–I need to present updates to our stakeholders on our top six projects in the next two days
–I have a deadline on creating a project plan for the project you assigned last week
–I’m filling in for Alex who is out of the office this week and next week
–I’m in the process of resolve a few issues that came in this morning from our operations team
–And I fly out early next week to meet with a potential new partner
Clearly Jackie is a busy woman! However, the manager replies, “I need you to get this done for our VP.”
Jackie replies, “OK, so what should I drop?”
Your answer: “You need to get it all done.”
In my previous article, I noted how setting team expectations can help a manager identify when and how to provide corrective feedback.
There is another value to providing expectations to your team: It allows you and your team to provide reinforcing feedback, and more of it. Reinforcing feedback, also known as positive feedback, is much easier to give and receive than corrective feedback. The key is to reinforce the right thing!
That’s where the expectation-setting comes in. If the team expectations have been set, then they can be reinforced. On the flip side, if no expectations have been set, then what gets reinforced will be generally random. Some of good behaviors get reinforced, and some of bad behaviors get reinforced.
So if you set team expectations, then you and your team are much more likely to reinforce the desired behaviors. As previously written on this blog, the manager should be spending a good chuck of time reinforcing positive behaviors.
In the example I used in the previous article, was the manager set the following general team expectation:
The team will foster an atmosphere of sharing ideas
In this example, let’s say the team actually conducts a meeting where the various team members support each others’ ideas, and allowed everyone to provide their input. The manager observes this and agrees that this reflects the expectation of “fostering an atmosphere of sharing ideas.”
Now the manager needs to reinforce this! The manager can reinforce this in a few different ways.
1. Feedback to the group at the end of the meeting
At the end of the meeting the manager can say:
“This meeting reflected what we are looking for in fostering an atmosphere of ideas. I saw people on the team asking others for their ideas, and I saw that ideas, once offered, weren’t shot down and instead were praised for being offered. This allowed more ideas to be shared. Thanks for doing this, and I like seeing this.”