Most managers dread performance evaluations. That’s understandable. The way many performance evaluation programs are structured can be daunting to navigate, especially if you are new or if you are uncomfortable talking with your team members about performance. New managers often have the technical or other skills needed to do their jobs, but they may be left to themselves to figure out how best to manage performance. What they can fail to appreciate is that even though they are new and lack experience, they have opportunities to establish meaningful relationships with their team members, relationships built upon frequent dialogue and trust. The level of success managers realize is often a direct result of how they approach their work. To give yourself the advantage as a new manager, ask yourself these three important questions.
1. How will I establish and maintain meaningful relationships with my team members? Focus on establishing rapport, getting to know your team members, and developing trust. Invest time in getting to know your team by spending both planned and unplanned time with each team member on a regular basis. Understand their strengths and interests, not just any deficiencies they may have and what’s being done to improve upon them. Managers too often focus on performance improvement compared to leveraging strengths because the processes for managing performance are set up to do so. Improving challenging performance is important but perhaps equally as powerful, is understanding what conditions need to exist to bring out the best in others. Be deliberate, spend time with your team members regularly, ask questions, and listen.
2. What are the most important actions I can take to position my team for success? Seek ideas from your team and involve them in decision making whenever possible. Empower them to do their work, then give them the space they need to thrive. Offer support, remove obstacles, and inspire them to do their best work. Recognize their efforts, even when everything doesn’t go as planned. Give feedback, doing so helps them learn and grow and stay invested in results. Be available and ensure team members have the face time they need with you. Be humble and treat everyone fairly.
3. What do I need to do within my first ninety days? Once you understand your goals, ensure your team members understand their goals and the goals of the broader team and department. Goal setting can be one of the most powerful tools you have as a manager. Ensure the goals that have been set for individual team members are realistic, measurable, time bound, and understood. The most effective managers understand the goal setting process, model the way for employees, and align employee strengths with goals to maximize results. Focus on relationships with team members, peers, and other stakeholders. Engage your team in dialogue about challenges and opportunities. Communicate formally and informally, empower your team, and recognize progress.
Managing performance effectively as a new manager begins with clarity. That’s where the three questions can serve you well. You may be used to asking questions of others but not of yourself. By asking yourself questions, weighing options, and making decisions, you position yourself to manage performance with confidence.
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