The Manager by Designsm blog seeks to create better managers by design. Here’s a great tool that outlines a simple flowchart of when a manager should provide performance feedback, and when the performance management process should occur. It can be used in many contexts, and provides a simple outline of what a manger’s role is in providing feedback, and how this fits with the performance management process (click for a larger image).
You’ll see that Performance Feedback starts at the task level, not the person level. You want to know what the task is, and make sure the individual gets feedback on how well he or she is performing the task. It also requires the manager to know what acceptable performance looks like. If not, then the manager is in a complex feedback situation, and both the manager and the employee agree to strategize on how to do the task differently, since it isn’t defined yet.
You’ll also notice that there is a lot of activity prior to the performance management process, which is actually a more formal version of this same flowchart. Managers need to perform this informal version first.
Let me know what you think. Do you your managers follow this flow chart? Do they skip steps? Do they add steps?
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:
In my previous post, I described five reasons discussing weaknesses with an employee often seems so awkward, despite the best intentions. Yet, managers are frequently asked to do so on an employee’s annual review form, which, by design, creates some unnecessary and damaging conversations. Here are five more reasons discussing weaknesses with employees fails: Read more
Many managers are asked to discuss with their employees the various strengths and weaknesses of the employee. This often backfires, as the employee is appropriately suspicious of the manager’s intent when discussing “weaknesses”. The reason: This will appear on the employee’s annual performance review, and becomes part of the employee’s “brand” going forward – even if the weaknesses are irrelevant or nonsensical. As a result, any discussion about an employee’s weaknesses should be for the purpose of identifying and planning strategic needs of the organization. Instead what happens more often than not is that a discussion of an employee’s weaknesses is performed simply to document bad things about an employee. But why would you want to do that? You don’t. And here’s why not: 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.
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 wondered how many managers were aware of the performance management process, a systematic way to address poorly performing employees. My conclusion: not many. One reason is that performance management is often hidden beneath a larger framework that involves setting goals, doing performance reviews, and the like. Dealing with performance problems gets lost in this.
In doing a Google search for “Performance Management”, I get results for the larger concept of managing performance of a workforce, which aspires holistically to improve how at the organizational level using goals, and career development as a starting point. It is also associated with the “Performance Review” process (which suffices for some organizations as the only venue to “performance manage” their employees).
These aspirations for holistic performance management of an entire workforce are admirable, and is an important thrust of this blog. But if you have a problematic employee, you need to deal with the situation now. If all you see when you look up “performance management” is how it is important to develop employees and establish goals, it’s easy to miss that this is the process you use to correct and remove toxic behaviors on your team. No wonder it’s such a secret!
“Performance Management” is advertised as an organizational solution (“OK everyone, let’s write goals by the end of the month!”), but it is a very practical individual solution. For those management designers out there—consider getting your managers on board with the performance management process by starting with dealing with for low performers first, and then add style points (goals, development) later in developing your performance management process.
So, without further ado, here is the high level “Performance Management” process for those individuals who are causing problems in your org. Read more
In John Hodgman’s humorous book, “The Areas of My Expertise,” he has sections entitled, “Were you aware of it?” It’s a parody of Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and sample entry is, “Emily Dickenson collected little soaps . . . — WERE YOU AWARE OF IT?”
I would like to add an entry: “There is a way for managers to systematically deal with poorly performing and poorly behaving employees – WERE YOU AWARE OF IT?”