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 need to avoid making generalizations and stop making value-judgments. I’ve also provided the markers for what good behavior-based language looks like. In today’s post, I provide another marker of behavior-based language: Refraining from using adverbs and superlatives.
Step #1: Remove adverbs when describing or discussing your employee’s performance
If you use the common words “very”, “really,” “totally” or “completely” to describe your employee’s performance, you are using adverbs. Adverbs such as these have no place in using behavior-based language and they should be removed. Removing the adverb from the sentence will elevate the objectivity of the statement without sacrificing the content:
|With Adverb||Without Adverb|
|Joe was very effective at closing the sale.||Joe was effective at closing the sale.|
|Mark totally addresses customer needs.||Mark addresses customer needs.|
|Janet really works at finding and resolving bugs.||Janet works at finding and resolving bugs.|
|Rene completely finished her work items.||Rene finished her work items.|
In my previous post, I discussed why mandatory meetings create a bad dynamic for your group or your team. The post centered on the cycle that the people who don’t want to attend – the ones that compelled you to make it mandatory – end up sabotaging your meeting anyway, making it a bad experience for you, the ones who wanted to attend, and the ones who didn’t want to attend.
But there are more reasons you should consider not making any meetings mandatory. And here they are:
Reason number 1: You can’t get everyone to attend anyway
This is an obvious point, but one that seems to be lost on many managers who require attendance at meetings. For any given meeting, there is going to be a group of people who will not or cannot attend. Read more
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.
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
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
In my previous post, I described some examples where a manager tries to give “public feedback” in an effort to change the behaviors of a few people through mass communication. The communication may be efficient, but the outcomes are not there, and could actually make things worse. Today, I discuss four more reasons why public feedback is rife with unintended consequences.
“Public Feedback” is when a manager notices or learns something he or she doesn’t like on the part of a few, and instead of addressing it with those individuals, addresses it with the entire team. Three simple examples are:
1) Employees not following a dress code. Manager: “Reminder to everyone: Follow the dress code.”
2) Employees late on their status reports. Manger: “Everyone, I need the status report by end of week, no exceptions.”
3) Employees gossiping. Manager: “I will not tolerate gossiping from anyone.”
A quirk that many managers have is the willingness to provide feedback publically. That is, the manager will identify something that is going wrong on the team, and then tell the entire team to stop doing that. An example is, say, one or two people are violating the dress code. The manager sends an email to the entire organization (let’s say, 100 people) stating, “As a reminder, we have a strict dress code, and all people in the organization are expected to adhere to it.” Another example is that someone on the team is habitually late with status reports. The manager writes an email to the entire team stating, “I would like status reports by end of day Friday, no exceptions.” Here’s a third example: One or two people have been to gossiping about the latest re-orgs being planned. At a team meeting, the manager says, “There’s a lot of gossip going around about a potential re-org. I will not tolerate this, as there is no information about this to discuss.”
This is what I call “Public Feedback.” The manager is attempting to correct behavior by telling everyone on the team to stop doing what a small segment is doing. This doesn’t work, and may make things worse here’s why: Read more
In my previous post, I introduced the concept of “managing from a deficit.” In today’s post, I discuss a common scenario of when a manager “manages from a deficit”, and tries a short cut to get out of it. This I call the “ineffective-you-doing-OK-swing-by.”
If you are a manager, you want to be able to take the temperature of how the members of your team are doing. Knowing who is doing well and who needs support is an important skill. The basic premise that many managers operate under is that they don’t pay attention to the ones who are doing well, and the ones who are struggling need some “moral support.”
To address those times when someone is need of support or it is suspected that something is wrong, it is frequently observed that managers perform what I call the “ineffective-you-doing-OK-swing-by.”
If you are a manager, you may value loyalty in your employees. You may even express this in your presentation to your employees as part of your values. However, if you ask for loyalty, then you are attempting a short cut. Loyalty is a lagging indicator that you can obtain only several years down the road. If you treat it like a leading indicator by asking for it initially, then you probably have lost some loyalty in your employees, defeating the purpose. Here’s how it works: Read more
Many managers dread the annual performance review, and for good reason. The annual performance review requires the manager to put in writing exactly how they think the employee has done over the course of the year. It’s a lot to cover, and can create some pretty tense and toxic situations if you get it wrong.
By “getting it wrong,” I mean that the employee disagrees with what you documented. The employee who disagrees with what the boss wrote has to either challenge the boss (not always a good scene), or accept something they don’t agree with that has career-level impact.
If an employee steps up and disagrees with your performance evaluation, you, the manager, have many options, none of which are good: Read more