A blog post can come from almost anywhere… I was on a call today with a potential client. The client wanted some consulting help for his managers on how to discuss performance with their teams. They has completed their annual performance appraisal system a few months back and have had a lot of issues with feedback on how this years appraisals were received by the teams.
I had to ask, why do you think it is the managers needing help with discussing performance? The simple answer was the feedback came back that every manager within his team received negative comments around how they handle performance. For me, I could take that a number of different ways, but I let it sit for awhile.
I asked the client what type of performance management system are they using. I was hoping to hear something like we have a year round system that has the manager and employee meeting regularly to discuss performance. Was not the case. It was a simple yearly review that the managers write and deliver to them once a year. I asked about mid year reviews? Looking for those that are doing extremely well or those that are struggling and need help. Nothing!
Last question from me was, “how do you discuss performance with your managers?” He pretty much said the same as above.
He asked if I can help? I said sure… We can really set up a year round performance management cycle that can quarterly have a focused discussion on performance. Having the “system” in place, provide training and insure that that implementation is setup properly. Should be fun! Silence on the other end. The clients only words were – this seems like a lot of work. I tried to point out that it could be, it is all really about if you want to have solid performance discussions and have the improved workforce from that work.
, New To Management
, Leading Teams
, Management task cycle
, performance appraisal
, performance management
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By 360′s I mean, 360° feedback systems for managers. Are people out there still using them? I know that this was one of the hot items of the 90′s that many employers implemented. I was tasked to implement one for our manufacturing organization when supervisor to team member ratios were about 30 to 1. Having 30 is tough for supervisors to effectively evaluate their employees.. Having a 360-degree feedback system gave them a better picture of what is happening when the supervisor was not around. Later on, the supervisor were being rated within the 360-degree tool as well. Like all hot at the time programs, this one only lasted a short time. There were many different reasons that the tool failed, but 360-degree feedback lived on.
One of the ways that it lived on, was managers felt that this was a pretty good way to get a clearer picture of what is happening. Getting additional feedback was a great way to expand the view of performance outside of just the managers eyes. Of course, that comes with the fears. Those being 360′d really don’t know what is being said. As a manager, I was impressed with the insight that many folks provided. Some of the insights were additional examples of what was demonstrated to me already. When the feedback seemed a bit out of character, I would get additional information and watch closer over time. A good manager can make a 360-degree feedback a powerful thing.
360-degree feedback can still be scary. I bet if you asked 10 people what they think about a 360-degree system for performance, 6 folks would tell you, “no thanks!” For me, I set up a few guidelines around 360 feedback that I used when I was getting reviewed. Every year when the dreaded performance review would come around, I would pass on my guidelines of proper 360 feedback receiving!
- Adjust your perception: Most people fear what is happening outside of their sphere of control. Getting feedback from folks anonymously is out of their control. I would stress that the feedback is the tool that I use to help me insure that their individual development plan is complete. I used to use my example of if everything is perfect, then I am just lucky. I learn more from my mistakes or faults. Sometimes I have a blind spot and need to have folks shine a light on it, before it will get better.
- Evaluate the feedback: This step to me is critical. If you have technology that gathers the feedback and offers up a report, great! Sit down with the person and let them look it over and provide your insights. For me, my system was more a simple email with questions asked that the feedback provider would just email back their thoughts and examples. I would then compile the information – as is.. Share with them the information. I would facilitate a session of what do you get from this feedback. Helping them to evaluate the feedback.
- Develop Improvement Plan: Part of a performance review that I liked to do was ask the employee to write their own rev 0 (after the 360-degree feedback was presented). This allowed the employee to take the feedback and look at the stuff that they truly felt was in need of developing. I would have their Rev 0, 360-degree feedback, my data and would write my Rev 1. We would sit down and discuss the overall Rev 1. The goal was to have a complete performance review in the end.
I believe that without the 360-degree feedback, the employee and manager are missing out on information. I don’t know of any manager that can be in all places, all the time. When the manager is normally around, the employee is usually on the best behavior or insuring that they are doing their best! We all know employees that manage their manager very well. Having different viewpoints is necessary. When I was receiving my 360 feedback, I used that information more for my development than just my manager. Treat it as powerful information!
One of my favorite tasks as a manager was interviewing potential candidates for open or soon-to-be open positions within my team. Getting out and meeting people is something that I enjoy. When I get a chance to interview people to fill my team, I really look forward to that activity. During my early years, I went through some mandatory training on how to conduct an interview and what type of questions to ask (or not ask). The training, while good in the beginning to get the basics, never was set up to help me make “good” hiring decision. Over my many years of hiring thousands of candidates, I have honed in on a pretty good system.
Interviewing to me, is making sure that this process is set up for a simple honest conversation. Conversations are key that focus on what really works for the potential candidate. As the interviewer, I should know my team and the work environment better than the potential candidate. What I need to get out of the interview is getting the same level of understanding of the candidate. I usually spend a short time on, setting the stage on the work and such that the particular opening is.. Watching closely for understanding, I then move onto the interview questions that I hope will help me size the candidate up for my team.
Those questions I have developed over the years that help me!
- What are the key elements of your work that truly energizes you to perform your best?
- What kind of performance feedback do you find to be most useful?
- What type of supervision helps you be the most effective?
- What would be one idea or innovation you would like to implement within our industry?
I like these questions as I get a better understanding of the potential candidate. I like to put the focus on them and what works best for them. It does not mean that the candidate is the best fit for “my” team, but it helps. Listen closely to the answers. You don’t want book answers or what the candidate thinks you want to hear. You want to hear their passion and excitement in the answers. Putting that feeling in, really demonstrates to me that the candidate is being open and honest.
What are your favorite interview questions?
How do you go about putting the best team together? You know the one that is excited to work together and produces amazing results while having fun doing it! As a manager, doesn’t that sound great? When I am thinking about my teams, that is the end goal of all of my work as their team leader.
Here are the steps I like to take:
- Set expectations that set the tone. When I first come into a team, I always put forth my simple guidelines of what I want us to do. There are 3 key points. First, we will be trained and cross trained to issue that we can complete our assignments. Second, we will make and keep commitments. Lastly, we will have fun. Not hard to remember. Usually no one has problems with those, but if they do, it is time to start looking elsewhere.
- I ask my current team to think about which co-worker that they have worked with that they would really like to work with again. We all have those folks in our past, that we would love to work with again. Building a strong team from the teams perspective is very key to getting their team development quickly. When we have an opening, it is a quick reference (and my current team helps recruit strong candidates).
- I use the team to help describe, “what characteristics are for the ideal teammate.” It gets them to think about what is truly important to the team. It helps set the stage for what we are looking for. The added bonus is that each member of the team has a better understanding of what is important as well. I have seen team members change their behavior based on just that activity.
- All potential candidates are interviewed by an interview subset of the work team. That subset are usually 3 folks that have additional interview training. We set up what each person wants to interview on and how we will grade the responses. When completed, we do a face to face debrief on the overall interview and fill in our grading. The interview team pretty much has decided which candidate is their best choice, but they understand that the final decision is usually mine to make.
- We always have a “buddy” or mentor for every new team member. It is to help with assimilation into the team. It is an important role, that every team member will play at one time or another. Everyone wins. The buddy keeps focus on the important things. The new person comes up to speed quicker. Lastly, I get to see each person in action around some of the basic team skills (like communication, relationship building and problem solving).
Those are mine, what are yours?
The only important piece of all of this is, make sure that you are including your team in helping build your team! We all like to think we can do everything, but we just can’t.
I was with some friends the other day and one of them asked, “what was the toughest situation you faced as a manager in your 20+ years of leading your work teams?” Talk about putting you on the spot, without any notice to prepare for answering that question. After taking a few moments to think back, the toughest moment came to me quickly and really clear. There are situations that you remember both quickly and clearly because they left an impression, either good or bad.
I need to set the stage a bit. In any work environment, you have cycles of good, great and bad times. This particular situation happened during the companies down cycles. Basically, the company was redeploying employees. Redeployment means that one group is having to downsize the total number of employees and hopefully another group can use that skill set and employee for their needs. In theory, it sounds like a good idea. There have been some employees that have done well in redeployment. Most of the time, the employees just don’t find another group that can use their skill set. Having to leave the company! With the statistics the way they are most employees would rather chose to separate from the company, rather than try their luck at redeployment. In my career, as a manager, I have administered (and have happened to me) three cycles of identification of employees for redeployment. Three times having to downsize (or eliminate) my team.
I will be honest with you, every one of these situations had tough moments in them. You are dealing with people! I have always tried my best to be an outstanding manager and leader for my teams. Relationships were built with each employee. I felt that my teams have always performed well in their given area. Those teams have stepped up and delivered some amazing results. Getting back to the question… The toughest situation was the second time that I went through the redeployment process.
Why the second time was tougher than the first (or third)?
- In most organizations, there is always a level of “fat” built-in after the company has been in a growth (and great financial results). Downsizing was required and we all knew that it was best for the organization. Standing up and presenting to the team, was tough because we were going to lose some team member(s). The who was the white elephant in the room. Processes were followed to identify those that did not have the skill sets that were necessary to move forward. When the redeployment hit the second time, well, now we knew we were going to have to make big changes, both in workload and what we had to do to accomplish our work.
- The first time, was all new to everyone. When I presented out the process of redeployment, many folks thought this was a good thing, as it would give potential opportunity to folks that wanted to do something different. In theory, the process look and sounded good. When the second time (one year later) hit, we all witnessed the actually reality of the redeployment process. Less than 50% of the folks that attempted to find work in a different group were successful. The theory was replaced with real data…
- The third time through the process and I hate to even say it, I had become numb to the complete process. Numb! While I was going through the process with my teams, I was having it happen to me as well. I got to “feel” and experience it 2x.
- The second time was the toughest!
- I was actually having to tell some pretty awesome employees that they were being selected for redeployment. I lost sleep the nights before each discussion. I was being asked to make a radical change to the team and how we were going to accomplish our work moving forward. I had to put on a positive exterior when inside I was hurting.
- I had built a very strong team. They all stepped up after the first redeployment and made the team even better. We were actually doing more with less. We were an example to all of the teams. We were going to stop doing some work, shift our focus and basically going to tell our internal customers that we will not be doing much of what they needed. Customer service was not a focus. It was all about cost and nothing else. If the company wanted to downsize, then everyone needed to feel the pain. You can not expect customer service focused individuals to not care about customer service. My job was going to get really tough. I was going to be put in the middle and the challenges were going to be huge.
What do you do? As their leader, you have to make sure that you are being providing your team with the right level of balance. Make sure to communicate everything. Make sure that when you are speaking you are being yourself. Tell them everything! For me, I was always upfront with what is happening. I made sure to tell them that the only thing they can control now, is the work on their desk. I know times are scary, but we still have our jobs to do. I put on the company hat as needed. We all will take time to react to what is being communicated to us, just make that time moments and keep the focus on what we control. It was the toughest situation I faced in all of my 20+ years. As a leader, it is about your people and having them do some amazing results… We all knew that people and the work at this particular point in time, was not the focus. So, I tried to make sure that my focus was with the people and their amazing results. It was the only thing, that we could feel good about!
, New To Management
, Leading Teams