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!

Leadership is a Partnership

Leadership is not something you do to people. It’s something you do with people. I have believed this statement my entire career—and it might be even more important now than it was 35 years ago. Workforces are more diverse, workplaces are less centralized, and technology continues to revolutionize how business is conducted and how people communicate. The most successful leaders are the ones who partner with their staff.

Partnership starts with clear and frequent communication. Leaders must establish a rhythm or consistent schedule of discussions with team members. I suggest that leaders meet at least once a week, for 30 minutes with each direct report. That might sound like a lot of extra work, but I guarantee if you spend this time you’ll create trusting relationships with your team that will improve morale and productivity in your department.

Use these meetings to work with your team member to set clear goals, to praise progress on tasks, to redirect efforts if necessary, and to celebrate the completion of each project. It is critical that the leader and team member participate equally in these meetings, speak their truths, and listen with the intent of learning something—not judging.

Some of you reading this might be saying, “This isn’t new information.” You’re right it isn’t—but it is such a simple truth of leadership that I want to remind people again and again. You’ve probably heard me say that the information I provide for leaders is just common sense. But I also say that my philosophy isn’t always commonly practiced.

My goal is to have every leader start having these important conversations with their teams. I urge you to partner with each team member to help them be successful. So, I provide this reminder for you to be a leader that makes this common sense, common practice. You’ll soon realize how a small investment of time spent partnering with your people will build a stronger, more self-reliant team.

Let’s Talk: Tips for New Managers

A new manager faces important and sometimes jarring differences in their new role. They must focus on not only achieving their own work, but also managing the work of their team, managing the relationships of former colleagues who are now direct reports, and managing projects that have an impact on the organization. One of the keys to becoming an effective manager is the ability to conduct meaningful conversations. Our new First-time Manager program introduces the four most important conversations a new manager can master: goal setting, praising, redirecting, and wrapping up.

Put yourself in the place of a direct report who is beginning work on a new task or project. What questions do you think they would have? Here are four areas of concern that I believe drive people’s behavior at work:

“What are my goals on this task or project?”

“Am I doing the right things to help the team move forward?”

“How did I get off track—and how can I get back on?”

“Now that we’ve achieved the goal, what did we learn?”

The answers to these questions lie within the four types of conversations every manager needs to have with each team member at various stages of work on a task or goal.

For example, when a direct report needs to understand what they are supposed to be doing, they need to have a goal setting conversation with their manager. This dialogue focuses on exactly what the direct report needs to do and by when. It should take place at the beginning of a project or task and should include clear and compelling goals that are written down and reviewed frequently. This conversation sets the direct report up for success, growth, and development.

During the course of the task or project, the manager must give feedback to the direct report about their performance. When the individual is making good progress and doing things right, it’s time for a praising conversation. This conversation helps the person understand what specific behaviors are helping achieve the goal, why they matter, and that they were noticed and appreciated.

When things aren’t going as well in terms of a direct report’s behaviors or actions, the manager must initiate a redirecting conversation. This discussion will guide the direct report back on track toward the goal by helping them know what specific behaviors are out of alignment with the goal, why they matter, and that the manager wants the person to succeed.

Once a project or task is completed, it is important to have a wrapping up conversation. This is the manager’s chance to focus on the outcome, celebrate accomplishments, and acknowledge learnings. Managers see the wrapping up conversation as a great way to keep people energized and to inspire engagement by encouraging their progress and honoring the work they have done.

Have you started conducting these conversations with your team? How’s it going? If you find some of the conversations easier to have than others, that’s normal—but I hope you see the importance of continuing to have each of these important discussions with each of your people. You’ll build their trust and confidence while improving morale and performance—and getting excellent results—all for the greater good.

Praising Performance to Build Confidence, Productivity, and Morale

Business People Talking On Business MeetingI ask people all the time, “How many of you are sick and tired of all the praisings you get at work?” I always get the same response—laughter. It’s sad how many managers spend their time pointing out things that are wrong with performance instead of catching people doing things right. That’s why Spencer Johnson and I encourage you to focus on the Second Secret of The New One Minute Manager®, One Minute Praisings.

After you have set clear goals with someone, it’s important to spend a good amount of time with that person to make sure they are set up for success. In fact, let people know you’re going to give them lots of feedback on their performance because you believe in their talent and you want them to be high performers. If they aren’t used to receiving much feedback it might seem confusing, but soon they’ll realize what a valuable tool it can be.

When you praise performance, remember to do it promptly and be specific about the behavior. Let the person know how you feel about their achievement and encourage them to keep up the good work. This is especially true when someone is working on a new skill or task, because praising will help build confidence. As people become more proficient, they will actually learn to praise themselves for a job well done.

Something to keep in mind: a One Minute Praising is not the same as flattery. It’s a statement that builds trust and improves communication because it’s based on facts and data. Saying “nice job” isn’t specific enough to build rapport. But if you say, “Sally, thank you for getting your monthly report to me on time. It provided accurate information and allowed me to meet my deadlines. Keep up the great work,” it clearly states your appreciation and will boost Sally’s morale. It will also help her realize she is an important member of the team and improve her productivity overall.

So spend a few minutes every day catching your people doing something right. It doesn’t take much time. Remember: the best minute of the day is the one you invest in your people.

NOMM-book-featureTo learn more about The New One Minute Manager, visit the book homepage where you can download the first chapter.

A New Book for a New Generation: The New One Minute Manager®

NOMM-book-featureOn May 5, HarperCollins will release The New One Minute Manager. I’m already getting a lot of questions about how the One Minute Manager has changed since the original book was published in 1982.

The workplace has evolved dramatically over the last 30 years. In the early 1980s command and control leadership was a way of life. In those days, the One Minute Manager was the one who set goals—he decided who to praise and who to reprimand. The New One Minute Manager realizes that today the old top-down management style doesn’t work, because people want to find meaning in their work and be recognized for their contributions. Now side-by-side leadership—being a partner with your people—is much more effective.

To address these changes, my coauthor Spencer Johnson and I have updated and adapted the Three Secrets used by the New One Minute Manager—One Minute Goals, One Minute Praisings, and One Minute Re-Directs. Now the Secrets are more relevant than ever.

Readers will discover that goal setting is no longer a task managed by the leader and handed off to the employee as a list of directives. Setting One Minute Goals is now a collaborative activity that the leader and direct report work on together. The focus is on setting clear expectations and providing examples of what a good performance looks like. People are encouraged to review their goals daily so they can stay on track by focusing on their most important projects.

The Second Secret, One Minute Praisings, remains one of the most powerful tools a leader can use to encourage and motivate people. The New One Minute Manager knows the importance of catching people doing things right and praising them right away. In time, people learn to praise themselves and become self-leaders.

The Third Secret is where we’ve made the biggest change: One Minute Reprimands have been changed to One Minute Re-Directs. We did this because the pace of work is so fast today that people are in constant learning mode. Even if you’re an expert today, tomorrow your area of expertise may be outmoded. It’s not helpful to reprimand or punish a learner. Today it’s more effective to coach and support people with One Minute Re-Directs.

I’m excited about the practical tips we’ve incorporated into this book for a new generation. Now more than ever, the Three Secrets provide powerful tools to help you build relationships and achieve personal and professional goals. And the heart and soul of the new book remains the same: one minute really can make a difference. In fact, I believe the best minute of the day is the one you invest in your people.

To learn more about The New One Minute Manager and download the first chapter, visit The New One Minute Manager pre-release website.