How Do the Best Leaders Manage Staff Performance?

Professional Development Series, Part 2

In our last post, we introduced our new Professional Development Series, intended to provide busy leaders with short bursts of food for thought, practice and further study.

Check out our first post: How do the Best Leaders…Know Their Teams?

Today we’re talking about performance, and no, we don’t mean in the gym. We’re discussing how you, as leaders of your organization, can bring out the best in the people who report to you.

The Idea

Unfortunately, when they hear the words “staff” and “performance,” most people think first (and only) about annual performance reviews. The reality is, managing the best performance out of others takes daily and weekly reciprocal work and communication. An employee should never enter a performance review and feel blindsided by what she hears. And why would we want to miss a year’s worth of opportunities to improve, elevate and support the work of our teams?

So, what’s in it for you to commit to performance management on a daily basis?

  • The confidence that you’re being fair and consistent
  • Solid observations to back up future decisions
  • A “growth” environment, where staff look back over a span of time and see progress, change and personal/professional growth, which is a key motivator
  • Greater success when it comes to meeting overall organizational goals

The Practice

What does this look like in everyday ways? Here are some tried and proven ideas:

Hold a “Kickoff” meeting at the start of a project or event. Having everyone on the same page from the start will eliminate confusion and costly rework/waste. Include all stakeholders and partners and build a formal agenda to discuss:

  • Goals and established expectations
  • Anticipated challenges
  • Known logistics
  • Role clarity
  • Questions in an open forum

Provide regular feedback that is:

  • Fast: Short, regular feedback to your staff can go a long way. Whether in touch-bases or “drive by’s”, take the time to share your observations and check in.
  • Accurate: Make this feedback factual. When different personalities come into play, it’s easy to weave stories about what you think is going well or poorly. Stick to the facts.
  • Specific: Be as specific as you can. “I appreciate how you took the time to meet with Lauren’s parents after camp. I noticed you stayed calm and answered all their questions fully. Thank you.”
  • Timely: Don’t wait if there’s an issue, and don’t wait when you see something encouraging. Share your observations and offer your support while you can still make a difference.

Don’t forget to reconvene when major project work concludes to discuss:

  • Wins/What went well
  • Improvements for next time
  • Where each partner felt he/she contributed the most or did their best work
  • How everything stacked up to pre-established goals

Building some of these conversational structures around your team’s everyday work will provide clarity, reduce anxiety and improve outcomes for everyone – including your organization as a whole.

Further Study

The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams, Ken Blanchard
The Hedgehog Effect, Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

Next Up: How do the Best Leaders Manage Conflict Resolution?

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Gina Calvert

Gina is the Senior Marketing Writer for ACTIVE Network, providing marketing and business resources for active lifestyle organizations across a range of markets, including government, nonprofits, YMCAs, Parks & Recs, camps, schools and endurance events, for almost 7 years.

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