"manager performance"

Sun 26 September 2021
Attracting and retaining talent in the summer of 2021 has been incredibly difficult – so much so that LinkedIn and other news outlets have dubbed this time period as the “Great Resignation”. I have personally interviewed dozens of executives and consistently heard sentiments like this: 

“Business is booming, but we can’t find people to staff the demand we are receiving or keep the people we have!”

Some executives I have interviewed have blamed working from home and the general burnout from the increased uncertainty as reasons for this. Other executives blame generous unemployment benefits as the reason for these hiring struggles.

This article won’t serve as a deep-dive into why the Great Resignation is happening. Instead, I’m going to focus on solutions and highlight one major way we can handle this challenge to our businesses’ viability.

According to a Gallup survey, 75% of employees who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses, not because of the position itself. 

In other words, the adage ‘people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses’ seems to ring true for people who are quitting – and with workers quitting at an incredibly high level at the moment, it is paramount that we, as leaders, do more to equip our managers with the tools and resources to be better managers.

There has been significant research into measuring work engagement and its impact on retention and productivity from teams – and if your team isn’t measuring engagement, I would highly recommend starting now. But new research is showing that there are 5 additional criteria that should be measured to understand the level of satisfaction employees have at work and their productivity.

1.       Team Cohesion – Employees’ self-assessment of how well the team has been working together in terms of their camaraderie
2.       Team Productivity – Employees’ self-assessment of how productive the team has been 
3.       Task Performance – Employees’ self-assessment of how productive, they personally, have been
4.       Manager Performance – Employees’ assessment of how effective their manager has been at leading them
5.       Organizational Citizenship – Employees’ self-assessment of their ability to be helpful to the team outside of their explicit work duties 

Caveats about measuring this data: 

1.       It should be measured monthly, at a minimum. Feelings about work and productivity change rapidly and asking annually, bi-annually, or quarterly is not enough to garner an accurate picture.
2.       It should be measured on a team-by-team basis, not a general overview of the entire company. The dynamics that occur within teams are more relevant and critical to an employee’s sense of belonging and willingness to stay at a company. Company-wide metrics are far too broad to be useful.  
3.       Managers should be provided with tools for enacting change based on these metrics. For example, conversation prompts and suggested questions for 1-on-1 meetings with direct reports can help managers address these issues early. Collecting data without immediate action diminishes the employee experience instead of enhancing it.

If you can measure this data on a month by month basis for each and every manager and their respective teams and equip your managers with suggested questions and conversation prompts to discuss with their direct reports based on the data, you are significantly better equipped to elevate the employee experience and feelings of belonging at work.

Why?

Because employees’ feelings of burnout and dissatisfaction with managers don’t happen because the manager is purposefully trying to sabotage the team or individual employees. These negative feelings typically happen because of poor communication between the manager and their employees. Most bad managers think they are good managers.

When an employee receives poor communication from their manager, there are consequences. It may cause them to do work that is not what the manager actually wanted, or to feel they are being treated unfairly, or to feel they aren’t receiving ample feedback (or too much unnecessary feedback), or just feel uncomfortable or dissatisfied with the manager in any way. When this happens, it is VITAL that the manager understands this frustration right away and have a conversation to rectify it (Kim Scott, the author of Radical Candor calls this “challenge directly while caring personally”).

If a manager doesn’t rectify the situation and this feeling of dissatisfaction from the employee festers, they are going to become actively disengaged, bring down other employees because of their dissatisfaction, and eventually leave. 

If you are a CEO and you believe that having an “open door policy” or “clear lines of communication” is enough to gather this information, you are making the MASSIVE assumption that your managers’ direct reports have the same level of psychological safety as your direct reports have with you. You are also assuming that your employees have personality traits in which they are comfortable being optimally objective with everyone they interact with across all levels of an organization. 

Overall, now is the time to equip our managers with the data and the tools necessary to build strong teams. Providing a robust system through conversation prompts helps managers understand how their direct reports are feeling about work in terms of their team cohesion, team productivity, task performance, manager performance, and organizational citizenship. If we can do that, we are much more likely to increase retention and the productivity of our teams.

A quick final note, my team and I at Ambition In Motion are working on tools and ways to research these 5 core areas that increase work satisfaction and productivity across all employees. If you are a manager that is interested in collaborating or learning more about our research, please feel free to send me an email at [email protected]

Sun 28 November 2021
I was fortunate enough to be invited as a guest on the IBJ podcast a month ago to discuss the topic of the Great Resignation and why people are making career changes in droves. One of the consistent themes my fellow guest, Mandy Haskins, and I identified was how critical of a role that the manager plays in whether people stay or go.

One of the most important components for being a strong manager that engages their team and helps them feel connected to the work is their ability to have effective one-on-one meetings with their direct reports. 

This article is going to explain why having one-on-one meetings between managers and direct reports is so critical to being a strong manager. Next, I’ll present some tips on how to have effective one-on-ones and how you can assess the quality of those important meetings.

Gallup came out with research that identified that 70% of employee engagement variance is based on the relationship between the manager and that employee. The adage “people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses” is absolutely true. And the best way to ensure that you are consistently connecting with and having a pulse on your people is by having regular 1:1 meetings with direct reports to understand their feelings about work and their own path within the organization.

What is 1:1?

A 1:1 is time taken between a manager and direct report to discuss updates between each other and their overall feelings about the work. However, not all managers treat these meetings with the same significance. Some managers define a 1:1 as a quick chat about upcoming tasks. On the other hand, some other managers create an agenda to discuss key components of the employee’s work, keep notes from previous conversations to follow up on, and share a vision for the employee (and have the employee share a vision with them) that includes their role in the organization and their role within the particular team or department. 

The problem here is that the difference between the former and latter examples of 1:1’s is vast: you simply can’t get a good read on the situation without putting in the work to have effective 1:1’s. So I wanted to take some time to identify what an effective 1:1 looks like, what you should be discussing, and how you can assess the value of those meetings over time.

What does an effective 1:1 look like?

An effective 1:1 is a meeting between manager and direct where report the manager has asked the direct report to share some updates about their work and tasks to the manager before the meeting has started (i.e., updates on goals, perceptions of task performance, team productivity, team cohesion, and feelings about their ability to help others without being asked - organizational citizenship). This key step gives the manager context on to what has been accomplished since their last meeting and how they are feeling about work from a high level.

When the manager and direct report meet, the manager has questions prepared to ask their direct report that will help the manager better understand any gaps between the manager’s perspective and the direct report’s experience. For example, consider a case where a direct report shared before the 1:1 that they are feeling a little down on their task performance this month. However, their manager feels that the individual did a fine job and didn’t notice any signs of lower task performance. Effective managers can learn more about the cause of this gap in perception by asking questions like these in the next 1:1 meeting:

·         What areas do you think you performed well this past month and what areas do you think you could improve?
·         What aspects of your work do you like most? How do they play into your strengths and vision for where you'd like to be?
·         How do you feel about your work and the people you work with?
·         What areas of your work would benefit from greater clarity from myself or other team members?

What is critical about the questions a manager has prepared for the conversation is that they are not simple yes/no questions, nor are they “why” questions. Yes/no questions are not as effective in a 1:1 because managing and understanding your direct reports requires some curiosity from the manager to get useful answers. Binary questions leave out the details that provide needed context and understanding between manager and direct report. 

“Why” questions are also not as effective in a 1:1 because they insinuate that something needs to be justified. For example, if the manager would have asked “Why do you think you performed poorly over the past month?”, the subsequent response involves backtracking and providing a justification for why they scored themselves the way they did. It puts the employee on the defensive and hampers shared understanding. It also disincentives’ employees from being honest in future conversations and doesn’t lead to any greater understanding between manager and direct reports. What/How/Who questions are much more effective for 1:1’s because they emphasize curiosity and help a direct report feel comfortable sharing an honest assessment of themselves, their team, and their experience.

How does one measure the impact of a 1:1?

Management simply doesn’t allow for some one-size-fits-all scientific solution. Management is more of an art that needs to be adjusted on a case-by-case basis to fit their direct reports, their work, and work culture. At Ambition In Motion, we have created a tool that helps managers better understand their direct reports’ core feelings about work over time (updates on goals, feelings about their task performance, feelings about the team productivity and cohesion, and feelings about their ability to help others without being asked - organizational citizenship) called AIM Insights. 

One thing we have found to be really effective with the tool is when we measure the correlation between the number of 1:1’s had and their employees’ change in responses month-over-month trends for those core feelings on work. When there is a positive correlation, that would mean that the more meetings that manager has with that direct report, the higher the direct reports’ scores are (which means they should have more 1:1’s with that employee). When there is a negative correlation that would mean that the content and quality of those meetings need to change to help improve that employee’s feelings about work.

Of course, there are other factors that can impact how an employee is feeling at work, beyond their relationship with their manager, so this can’t solve every challenge an employee is facing at work.

However, refer back to the Gallup statistic – 70% of employee engagement variance is based on the relationship between manager and direct report. Measuring this every month can help a manager find the right communication style and cadence that works best for each direct report. This, in turn, can help managers better understand their employees, improve their engagement levels, and increase retention. As the relationship between employees and employers continues to change and evolve, I’m sure that the “winners” of the great resignation will be the managers who adapt and thrive: they will keep their best employees, develop up-and-coming stars, and provide a prime landing spot for anybody that’s sick of the old paradigm.

Thu 6 January 2022

Work Orientation is how you derive meaning from work

Everyone has their own way for deriving meaning from work. We call this your Work Orientation. Research has helped show that people generally fall into one of three major categories based on how they find meaning at work. Some people are: 
  • Career Oriented – or motivated by professional growth like getting promoted or learning new skills that support career advancement.  
  • Calling Oriented – or motivated by the fulfillment from doing the work and making a positive impact on the world with their work. 
  • Job Oriented – or motivated by gaining greater control over work/life balance and gaining material benefits to support their life outside of work.
Work Orientation is fluid, meaning it likely will change throughout your life and be impacted by both personal and professional events. Work Orientation is also on a spectrum, meaning that you aren’t necessarily purely career, calling, or job oriented, and many people have mixed orientations.
Next, I’m going to share tips on how work orientation affects your work, either as a manager or as an employee, and how you could leverage this information to create a better, more sustainable work environment.
Career Oriented
As a Career-Oriented Professional
If you are a career oriented professional, it means you are motivated by learning new skills and getting promoted. In a work setting, it can feel frustrating and uninspiring when you don’t have a clear path that you are working towards or if you feel like you have been passed up for promotions or opportunities. When this happens, you need to take the matter into your own hands and advocate for yourself.
Advocating for yourself to your manager about your professional aspirations can seem daunting because you don’t know how your manager is going to react. But, for you to get the most enjoyment from your work, it is critical that you clearly communicate your goals to your boss in a respectful way (so they aren’t surprised when you share your goals with them) yet in a meaningful way (so they can start working with you on a plan for where you would like to go professionally).
To get you started, here is one way that you could ask your manager for a meeting like this. Once you set the meeting, you can use these questions and suggestions to help you broach the topic with your manager:
  •  Hi {manager name}, I was wondering if we could have a conversation sometime over the next week or two so I can share with you some of my professional goals and collaborate with you on how our team goals can align?
    •  This may seem like a daunting question to ask your manager, but a good manager would much prefer you be upfront with them about your career goals. This helps you work towards your goals and helps you find ways to simultaneously align with the team goals. A good manager knows that for career-oriented people like you, these tough conversations are crucial to keeping you from feeling underappreciated, confused as to how you fit in with the team, and potentially wanting out of this role.
  •  What are some of our biggest team goals over the next year? How can I contribute in a positive way to help the team succeed?
  •  How do you see my position evolving over the next 6 months to a year?
  •  Who is somebody on our team (or another team you have worked on) that you feel did a great job of effectively rising through the ranks of the company by being a great team member? What did they do that helped them stand out?
  •  Some of my professional goals are {xyz}. I was wondering if you think it could be possible for me to work towards some of those goals over the next year? If so, which goals make the most sense for our team? If not, what do you think would be a realistic goal for me over the next year?
Managing a Career-Oriented Professional
Career-oriented professionals need to have a timeline that they can work towards. If you lead a career-oriented professional, ambiguity is your worst enemy.
“Great job!” and “I appreciate the hard work” only go so far with career-oriented professionals.
Eventually, they need to have some form of concrete outcome that they can work towards, or they will become disengaged and leave.
Therefore, it is critical that during discussions with this direct report, you should be considering their professional goals and help create a path for them to look forward to.
You may be thinking to yourself “I don’t have control over who gets promoted, how can I still provide a path?” The answer is that, regardless, you should create some form of roadmap for your people to look forward to that is within your control. For example, I have seen call centers provide different tiered titles to professionals based on their tenure and effectiveness like Customer Support Representative I, II, and III. Perhaps the pay is slightly higher, or unchanged, but the job title embodies the progress for that employee. What matters is that your career-oriented direct reports are very achievement-focused so having something to look forward to is vital to your effectiveness in leading them.
If you are still struggling with creating a roadmap for your career-oriented direct reports, the easiest way to start is brainstorming. Jot down all your ideas on how you might be able to create a roadmap for them and share those ideas with your boss. If your company is investing in you by providing you with AIM Insights for your team, more likely than not they are invested in helping you identify the best solutions for your direct reports.
Here are some suggested questions you can ask your career-oriented direct reports to better understand their goals and aspirations:
  • In terms of your career, what would your ideal professional situation be in 10 years? (10 years is a good length of time because it’s distant enough to remove potentially troubling topics like switching companies or taking over someone’s role).
  • What are some experiences you would like to have while working with us?
  • Who do you know whose career path you would like to emulate? Could you elaborate on their career path and what they did?
  • {Share your ideas as to tasks they can work on and when and convey how those tasks helps them achieve their goals while also helps achieve team goals} After sharing some of those ideas with you, do you think those tasks would align with some of the professional goals you are working towards?
  • I would like to schedule another conversation with you in a month. Over the next month, I would like us both to brainstorm additional tasks you can work on that will help you achieve your professional goals and help our team achieve our team goals. Does that sound okay with you? (then put the date and time on the calendar for the next meeting!)

Thu 6 January 2022

Work Orientation is how you derive meaning from work

Everyone has their own way of deriving meaning from work. We call this your Work Orientation. Research has helped show that people generally fall into one of three major categories based on how they find meaning at work. Some people are:
Career Oriented – or motivated by professional growth like getting promoted or learning new skills that support career advancement. 
Calling Oriented – or motivated by the fulfillment from doing the work and making a positive impact on the world with their work.
Job Oriented – or motivated by gaining greater control over work/life balance and gaining material benefits to support their life outside of work.
Work Orientation is fluid, meaning it likely will change throughout your life and be impacted by both personal and professional events. Work Orientation is also on a spectrum, meaning that you aren’t necessarily purely career, calling, or job oriented, and many people have mixed orientations.
Next, I’m going to share tips on how work orientation affects your work, either as a manager or as an employee, and how you could leverage this information to create a better, more sustainable work environment.
Calling Oriented
As a Calling Oriented Professional
If you are a calling-oriented professional, it means you are motivated by changing the world through your work. Your professional life and personal mission are intertwined. In a work setting, it can be frustrating if your work loses its clarity as to how it is changing the world. Eventually, you will become burnt out if you don’t receive clarity and reinforcement as to how your work is positively impacting the world.
Advocating for yourself and asking your manager to have these conversations can seem daunting, especially if your manager does not share your work orientation. But, for you to gain value and meaning from your work, it is critical that you have regular conversations with your manager about why the work is meaningful to you and find ways that reinforce and build more meaningful work practices. Your fellow coworkers may not also be calling-oriented and may not share your drive for changing the world through your work. But that is okay as long as you can work with your boss to stay cognizant of your impact and nourish your drive to continue making a difference.
Here are some suggested questions and suggestions you can use to help you broach the topic with your manager:
  • Hi {manager name}, I was wondering if we could have a conversation sometime over the next week or two so I could dive deeper with you into our work and how our work impacts the people we serve?
    • This may seem like a daunting question to ask your manager, but a good manager would much prefer you be upfront with them about your motivation for work. This helps you build a shared perspective and helps you find new ways to approach team goals. A good manager knows that for calling-oriented people like you, these tough conversations are crucial for understanding the meaning of your work and finding new ways to change the world. 
  • What is the biggest benefits people gain from the work we do? How does our work positively impact their lives?
  •  Can you share with me any recent testimonials from our clients about how our product/service positively impacted them?
  •  What are some of our goals for further impacting our clients in the future? How can I get more involved in having a positive impact on our clients?
  •  Some of my goals for impacting the world through work are {xyz}. I was wondering if you think it could be possible for me to work towards some of those goals over the next year? If so, which goals make the most sense for our team? If not, what do you think would be a realistic goal for me over the next year?
Managing a Calling Oriented Professional
Calling-oriented professionals are motivated by the belief that they are positively changing the world through their work. As a manager, you may not be calling-oriented and that is okay.
But it is critical that you nourish this drive from your calling-oriented direct reports, or they will leave to seek out work that better satisfies their calling to change the world through their work.
Calling-oriented professionals need regular confirmation that their work is making a difference. It can be easy for them to get lost in the minutiae and lose focus as to why they are doing the work. If your calling-oriented professionals lose focus on the “why” to work, they will become disengaged and eventually seek out better prospects. For example, I have seen calling-oriented professionals leave nonprofits because they lost sight of the positive outcomes driven by their work. 
Calling-oriented professionals will bend over backward to do a great job, so long as it’s clear that their hard work is making a difference. Calling-oriented professionals often can stay highly engaged, even for seemingly grueling work with long hours and not incredible pay, because truly believe in the value of the work they are doing. Often, this includes their manager regularly reinforcing how their work impacts the people they serve. 
Just to be clear, eventually, there comes a point where a calling can only get you so far. Work orientation is fluid and can change, and this shift can make previously acceptable conditions no longer tenable for a calling-oriented professional. When you are asking your people to do too much, consistent reinforcement will eventually run dry, often the case in startups with a charismatic founder. Their work orientation will adapt, and they will demand more from their work before being ready to switch back into that calling-oriented workstyle. But, if you are leading calling-oriented professionals, it is critical that you nourish their drive for impact regularly and creatively. "Regularly” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here, but once per month is a good benchmark, especially if you can find new ways to connect your employees to the greater value of their work.
Here are some suggested questions you can ask your calling oriented direct reports to better understand their goals and aspirations:
  • In your perspective, what is the best way we impact our customers?
  • How could see us making an even greater impact on the world?
  • How could you see our business growth goals also impacting the world?
  • Throughout a typical month, what typically reinforces to you that we are on track and continuing to impact the world in a positive way?
  • I would like to schedule another conversation with you in a month. Over the next month, I would like us both to brainstorm additional ways we are impacting the clients we serve and ways we can be more innovative at better serving them – even if they all aren’t realistic at the moment. Does that sound okay with you? (then put the date and time on the calendar for the next meeting!)

Thu 6 January 2022

Work Orientation is how you derive meaning from work

Everyone has their own way of deriving meaning from work. We call this your Work Orientation. Research has helped show that people generally fall into one of three major categories based on how they find meaning at work. Some people are:
Career Oriented – or motivated by professional growth like getting promoted or learning new skills that support career advancement. 
Calling Oriented – or motivated by the fulfillment from doing the work and making a positive impact on the world with their work.
Job Oriented – or motivated by gaining greater control over work/life balance and gaining material benefits to support their life outside of work.
Work Orientation is fluid, meaning it likely will change throughout your life and be impacted by both personal and professional events. Work Orientation is also on a spectrum, meaning that you aren’t necessarily purely career, calling, or job oriented, and many people have mixed orientations.
Next, I’m going to share tips on how work orientation affects your work, either as a manager or as an employee, and how you could leverage this information to create a better, more sustainable work environment.
Job Oriented
As a Job Oriented Professional
If you are a job-oriented professional, it means you are motivated by work/life balance and using your professional development to gain greater control and freedom over your life. In a work setting, it can feel frustrating when your company wants to keep pushing additional responsibilities onto you without considering your input on how this affects your workload, compensation, or balance. 
Advocating for yourself can be difficult because it might be counter to the culture that is set at the company. If your manager and everyone around you is working 16-hour days, you may feel like a slacker when you finish up after only 10 hours. But, for you to get the most value from your work, particularly with regard to your long-term engagement, it is critical that you broach this topic with your manager or you will become burnt out.
Here are some suggested questions and suggestions you can use to help you broach the topic with your manager:
  • Hi {manager name}, I was wondering if we could have a conversation sometime over the next week or two so I can gain some clarity on my role and set some expectations for the upcoming months?
    • This may seem like a daunting question to ask your manager, but a good manager would much prefer you be upfront with them about your need for work/life balance. This helps you enact greater control over your situation and can ensure that you have a say in your work/life balance. A good manager knows that failing to have these conversations with job-oriented professionals can lead to overwork and potentially an exit from the company.
  • I am struggling with creating boundaries between work and life and I was wondering if you could help me clarify my goals so then I can feel like I am holding up my share of the work?
    • Job-oriented professionals excel at finding ways to do great work when the rewards are connected to their desire for control over their work/life balance. Leaving early doesn’t mean leaving with work left undone; it means you want to find new or better ways to do your part so you can reap the fruits of your labors. 
  • Right now, my current workload is impacting my ability to {xyz – spend time with family, play videogames, spend time with friends, etc.} and that is really important to me. Would you be open to helping me structure my work schedule so then I could get my work complete and optimize my ability to {xyz}?
  • If I feel a task assigned to me is too much for what I have the capability to handle, how would you like me to communicate that to you?
  • What is the most important aspect of my work and what do I bring to the team? How can I optimize my time to be most impactful?
Managing a Job Oriented Professional
Job-oriented professionals are motivated by work/life balance and gaining control over that balance. You may have a different work orientation than somebody that is job-oriented and that is okay. Being job-oriented doesn’t mean you are lazy or disengaged, it just means you want work/life balance. Pursuing the next promotion or making an impact on the world are not significant motivators for you. This simply presents a different way for an employee to find their motivation for work, and it doesn’t mean that calling or career orientations lead to better work. In fact, after studying thousands of professionals and their work orientation, our team has found that no single orientation has greater engagement than another. Essentially, job-oriented professionals are just as engaged as everyone else.
What is critical, as managers of job-oriented professionals, is that we understand that and are conscientious of that when we add work to their plates.
When managing job-oriented professionals, it is critical that we set clear expectations with them regarding how much they expect to work, their compensation for that work, and how their work should be prioritized. Good managers must do their best to maintain standards and adapt compensation (not strictly monetary) to match changes in workload. Job-oriented professionals will be particularly frustrated when new, arduous tasks disrupt their expectations, and this leads to disengagement or leaving the company.
For job-oriented professionals, their work is not their entire life, and that is okay! Job-oriented professionals want consistency. They want to know their work or workload isn’t going to drastically change overnight so they can put their mental energy into their life outside of work.
For example, some managers of job-oriented professionals give them incredible amounts of autonomy with their work with very clear expectations. These managers know how much time it takes the average person to complete the task and what quality metrics are necessary. They support motivation for job-oriented employees by providing incentives for great work like pay bonuses, greater control over hours, or even intangible rewards like a manager’s trust when picking projects. 
However, you don’t want to cheat the system because your employee will notice, not even including the broader effects of dishonesty at work. Job-oriented professionals expect a fair deal and will respond fairly. So if you are offering half-measures or offering poor incentives, they will take notice. “Fake” rewards (e.g., offering to let them leave early for completing a task impossibly fast) will only build distrust. They are not going to fall for that trick a second time and they are going to lose trust that you have their best interests at heart.
What is critical to job-oriented professionals is clarity as to what you expect from them and that they are in agreement that your expectations are reasonable for them to complete.
Here are some suggested questions you can ask your job oriented direct reports to better understand their goals and aspirations:
  • How do you feel about your current workload? When do you feel like you are working too much? When do you feel like you are working the right amount?
  • What aspects of your work could benefit from greater clarity from myself or other team members?
  • Who on the team do you feel is working too many hours?
  • What aspects of your work do you like the most?

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