Coaching—the Most Essential Part of Performance Management

Performance management has three elements—planning, day-to-day coaching, and evaluation. When I ask managers which of these elements takes the most time, they almost always say evaluation. Sometimes I hear long statements full of frustration about the forms, activities, and deadlines involved in the evaluation process. It makes me realize that people are putting the emphasis on the process—not the performance. And that is where many managers make the wrong choice.

Effective managers should spend most of their time on day-to-day coaching. Let’s take a closer look.

As a leader, it’s true that you have to spend time up front to set clear goals. Once you’ve completed that part, however, your job is to be there to coach your employees and help them accomplish those goals. I think of it as turning the traditional hierarchical pyramid upside down so that you work for your people. You are there to help them.

If you spend most of your time coaching your people and helping them succeed, what do you think happens when it is time for the evaluation? You get to celebrate accomplishments! When you help your people win, you win, your department wins, and ultimately your organization wins. That’s why I say coaching is the most essential part of performance management.

A Simple Framework to Manage Performance

A critical skill for any leader is managing the performance of others. In our book Putting the One Minute Manager to Work, Bob Lorber and I introduce the ABCs of management as a framework to help leaders and their people succeed. It is a simple way to get back to the basics of influencing performance.

A stands for Activators—this refers to things a leader does before performance. All good performance starts with clear goals, so in this phase of the framework leaders must make sure employees understand (1) their areas of responsibility and (2) what good performance looks like in each of those areas. Goal setting is critical because it activates the management process. Once goals are clear, the leader provides the appropriate leadership style—directing, supporting, coaching, or delegating—to help the employee achieve the goals.

B is for Behavior. Here is where the leader observes what employees say and do while working on their goals. Leaders take note of tasks being completed (or not), deadlines being met (or not), and progress being made (or not). Since goals are clearly developed and agreed to in the first step, it is easy to determine whether people’s behaviors are contributing to the accomplishment of the goal or taking away from goal achievement.

What leaders observe in the Behavior stage determines the basis of a response. This leads to the C element in the framework—Consequences. In this phase, leaders manage the behaviors they have observed. If an employee is making progress, the leader praises that progress; if not, they redirect the employee to help them get back on track.

The ABC framework makes managing performance easier for leaders as well as their people. Employees have clear goals and an understanding of performance expectations—and leaders manage consequences in a helpful, respectful way. Give it a try!

Meeting the Challenge of Being a First-Time Manager

Congratulations! You got that promotion you’ve been waiting for. You are a first-time manager!

My guess is that you earned your promotion by being a high achiever—and that’s fabulous. Keep in mind, though, that the skills that helped you succeed as an individual contributor are not necessarily the same ones you will need to achieve success as a manager. That’s why I’m so excited about our First-time Manager program, a new training program I’m working on with Linda Miller and Scott Blanchard that will help new managers master the skills they need to make it through this major transition.

In our research, we have found that first-time managers must deal with three new realities.

The first new reality: First-time managers must shift from being responsible only for their own work to managing the work of others, as well. As a manager, they need to work with their staff to set performance goals and then manage that performance along the way. This can be challenging when dealing with someone who is underperforming.

The second new reality: It can be emotionally challenging to manage a group of former peers who are now direct reports. Some new managers report suddenly being unfollowed on social media or not invited to lunches or other group activities. This can make a new manager feel as if they are alone in their new endeavor.

The third new reality: Managers have a greater level of impact than non-managers. Not only are they responsible for helping their own team succeed, they now play a role in the overall success of the organization. They must manage new relationships, both with their people and with other leaders in the company. And they now serve two groups—their direct reports as well as their own leader.

If this all sounds pretty daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Learning how to communicate effectively will set first-time managers up for success. I believe that leading is something you do with people, not to them. So knowing how to hold conversations that strengthen relationships and build trust will get your management career off to a great start.

Our new program focuses on four critical conversations new managers need to master: Goal Setting, Praising, Redirecting, and Wrapping Up. In the next few weeks, I’ll go into detail about how and why to hold these conversations and I’ll also show you four skills that will further improve the quality of your communication with others. You’ll learn how to Listen to Learn, Inquire for Insight, Tell Your Truth, and Express Confidence in each interaction. These tips will improve your relationships with your team, your colleagues, and your leaders.

In the meantime, celebrate your success in your new role—and be open to learning how you can make a positive and fulfilling transition to being a first-time manager!