To determine how well a manager is performing in their role, we look at the performance of their team.
If the team is achieving their objectives, it means the manager is doing well. Yet, even when managers help their direct reports set goals, teams may fall short in terms of follow-through. The primary function of a manager is to help prevent this from happening. Managers must therefore give teams the tools and resources they need to achieve results, including continuous feedback and clear, measureable goals (such as Objectives and Key Results).
In giving your teams these tools, you’ll drive focus, clarity, alignment, and engagement – all of which will ultimately lead to accelerated performance.
Create a goals-driven workforce by implementing the following best practices:
1. Establish company goals
To get teams focused on their objectives, you must start at the top. Identify the most important company priorities by assessing what’s most critical to the company right now. Refer to your strategy to ensure the objectives you’re setting align with your company vision and mission.
The top-level goals you set at your company level will cascade down to the department, team, and individual level. Whenever possible, use metrics to help gauge the progress and success of each goal. A company goal with a metric, for instance, might be to increase the average deal size by 30% with up-sells. The 30% is a metric that you can use to measure the performance. The same goes for your team and individual goals: set the objective (the thing to be accomplished), which will be measured by a key result (the metric used determine the success of the objective).
This powerful goal setting strategy helps companies achieve results by aligning all teams with the top-level priorities. Google, for one, has been using it for over a decade. For best results, share goals and their progress on a platform that everyone can access so teams all have visibility into how their efforts are supporting company goals.
Some companies may use shared spreadsheets, while others implement goal setting software to optimize visibility. No matter which method you use, ensure all company, team, and employee goals are written. One study by Dominican University shows 70% of written, shared goals are accomplished, compared to only 35% which are not written and made visible to others.
2. Set strengths-based objectives
In addition to being aligned with the top company priorities, your employees’ objectives should also be based on their strengths. Collaborate with your teams to create goals that allow them to use and further develop their talents and skills.
According to Gallup, this approach boosts productivity and retention. Employees are less likely to leave when they feel their strengths are being used. Moreover, additional research by Gallup indicates managers who focus on building their team’s strengths (instead of working to improve weaknesses) can improve employee engagement by as much as 61%.
Set some operational objectives, as well as some moonshots or aspirational goals, for even greater benefits. This approach works because it doesn’t overwhelm the employee by giving them only significant challenges to focus on, which could be demotivating. Instead, you’ll strike a balance between stretch goals, which will challenge them and encourage growth, as well as operational objectives, which allow them to achieve a sense of accomplishment through small yet important weekly wins.
3. Develop a culture of collaboration
Encourage your teams to share ideas and offer their insights to facilitate a driven, innovative culture. Everyone should feel as if their input is not only welcome, but valued. For this reason, all managers must develop ongoing feedback loops not only to provide their own feedback on employee performance, but also to give teams an outlet for sharing their own ideas.
One effective way to develop and maintain a culture of collaboration is to give everyone an opportunity to speak during team meetings. In fact, you should designate a time frame for each team member to share updates, and include it on the meeting agenda. Another powerful method for creating a strong culture of collaboration is to invite their input during one-on-one meetings, which brings us to our next point.
4. Use one-on-ones to coach teams
One-on-one meetings are considered the best management practice of all time. Also called weekly check-ins, these meetings are held once each week between managers and each direct report. By implementing these meetings into your ongoing performance management practices, you will:
- Get updates on goal progress each week;
- Give actionable feedback to coach teams towards achieving their goals;
- Provide praise for weekly wins;
- Clarify expectations so teams know exactly what they’re accountable for;
- Discuss development goals and progress on development plans to promote employee engagement and retention;
- Build trust by showing teams you’re committed to their success;
- Reduce time spent putting out fires and tracking down teams for updates during the week, since expectations and updates are exchanged routinely;
- Keep teams focused on their objectives by holding them accountable for progress each week; and
- Provide course-correcting guidance and help teams overcome obstacles.
Ultimately, one-on-one check-ins are among the best tool you have available to you as a manager.
In order to help your teams achieve their objectives, you must get to know them exceptionally well. This is crucial because it allows you to identify their strengths, weaknesses, and most importantly, their motivators. The best way to know your teams well is to communicate with them regularly.
5. Create an ongoing feedback loop
Ongoing feedback has already been mentioned a few times throughout this article, but it’s so important that it deserves its own point. Employees are humans, and therefore have a basic need to feel recognized.
While this is true for all of your team members, it’s especially important among millennials. Now the largest age group in the workforce, millennials crave feedback more than any other generation. Feedback is linked to a number of a company’s performance indicators, including retention and engagement. Yet, Gallup indicates only 19% of millennial employees receive feedback regularly, and only 17% consider the feedback they do receive to be meaningful. Moreover, only 15% will actually ask for feedback, even if they want it more of it.
The good news is that once you’ve established a practice of weekly one-on-one meetings, an ongoing feedback loop will become a natural byproduct of regular communication. Just make sure that you’re listening to teams just as much as you’re giving feedback.
To become a better listener, ask open-ended questions such as:
- Which resources do you need (that you don’t already have) to complete your goals?
- Which obstacles are getting in the way of your progress?
- What are some wins (big or small) you achieved since we last checked in?
To show your teams you value their input and are committed to their success, always act on the feedback you receive in a timely manner.
In terms of the feedback you provide, give praise in a way that the employee appreciates most. For some, this may be in a public setting (i.e., during weekly team meetings); for others, they may prefer a quick “thank you” message. Give constructive feedback that focuses on the behavior (not the person), its implications, and what the team member can do differently next time.
Always give feedback promptly. Instead of waiting days (or worse, weeks) after the behavior took place – good or bad – give feedback as early on as possible, when it’s still fresh in the employee’s mind. Most importantly, use your one-on-one check-ins and any other communication systems you may have in place to maintain ongoing feedback (feedback apps, etc.) to hold regular, frequent discussions on goals and performance.
Each manager should adjust their practices according to their direct reports’ specific needs, but the tactics described above will help you create clarity, focus, and ongoing communication to keep teams engaged. By factoring these practices into your ongoing performance management system, you’ll drive your people towards accelerated results, which is the best reflection of your efficacy as a manager.