Management Essentials: How To Address A Performance Problem

by Randy Murray on February 14, 2012

Managing is an important skill, but too often it is thrust upon the unsuspecting and unwilling. I’ve learned a lot about managing others though hard knocks, but also by making mistakes. Here’s the most importing thing I’ve learned about being a good manager: it’s not about being “the boss.” It’s helping others and helping yourself to get things done.

The best managers never deliver surprises. If you’re doing a poor job, you need to know it. Your manager needs to make it clear that he or she knows it, too, and immediately. Nothing is hidden or left unspoken. A good manager lets you know immediately and sets out a path for you to do better. A bad manager saves things up to use as weapons against you. Good managers don’t let employees speculate.  If there’s a problem coming up, too much work, not enough work, a major shakeup, a good manager informs you. You are never left in the dark. Managers like this are rare and precious.

There should never be a time, especially during a performance review, where your manager surprises you with stored up lists of failures and poor performance issues. That, in itself, is a clear sign that you have a bad manager.

But it is very hard to learn to manage well.

Here’s the first step: if you want to be a really good and really effective manager you’ll need to learn to deal immediately with any and all performance problems.

When you, as a manager, see something happening that doesn’t go as you expected, immediately address it. Do not store it up for later. For example, someone misses a deadline. Don’t shrug it off. Sit down on the spot and discuss it. Right that minute.

I’d recommend this process:

  1. Ask first: were we clear about the deadline and what we wanted?
  2. Allow no equivocation. Don’t let the other person to jump to excuses. Be firm and let them know that you’ll discuss that soon. The first step is getting agreement that everyone was clear about the deadline and the deliverables.
  3. Once you have agreement move on to “why that didn’t happen” - the excuses.
  4. Once the excuses were listed, discuss why they affected the deliverable and how the employee could have worked to eliminate them OR notified you early enough for you to do something about them.
  5. Set a plan for the future with clear steps. Don’t repeat the same mistake.
  6. Follow up. When a project comes in on time, repeat this process and find out what worked. Do that again. If another deadline is missed, bring out the notes from this past review, repeat the process, and refine.
  7. Never let a problem go unnoticed.

If you follow a process like this, one where you listen, make notes, and show that you hold clear standards and are willing to work with employees to make effective changes, you’ll find that you can achieve miracles.

And you’ll never have to deliver a surprise performance review again.

More Management Essentials.


The Management Essentials: How To Address A Performance Problem by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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