Effective people management is all about helping people realize their maximum potential by enabling and empowering them to put their best foot forward. New-age leadership tenets are focused on getting employees to harness their own strengths, while encouraging them to work on improvement areas. People managers must work towards building a plethora of team management skills centring around collaboration, communication, problem solving, critical thinking, and agility. Only with the right concoction of skill-building initiatives can leaders expect to enable a growth mindset and set their employees up for success in a sustained manner.
A new performance management paradigm
As more companies moved away from the bell curve, new performance measurement metrics that focussed on employee development grew popular – continuous performance management, continuous feedback, and continuous learning. Often, HR processes fail due to resistance to change; performance management processes have to be rejigged while people managers have to be trained and conditioned to serve as motivators and mentors to their teams. Peer and supervisor feedback are powerful mechanisms to show employees how their work makes a difference in the pursuit of broader shared goals. It is equally important that feedback be given with the right intent, mode and manner to have a truly transformational effect.
Common mistakes people managers make
Waiting for the right time to give feedback: Often, it’s during a half-yearly or annual review that managers give feedback to their teams. However, if positive behavior is not rewarded instantly, it may lose significance. Alternatively, constructive feedback is best given instantaneously for a favourable outcome. Feedback need not be an elaborate affair. A check-in or a quick chat on betterment can go a long way in upholding an agile way of working. Feedback must be continuously and intricately tied to recognition and employee development.
Being too critical: Overtly-critical feedback can make employees lose confidence and trust in their manager, putting them into a negative ‘flee or fight’ mindset. Hence, managers must learn how to communicate failure effectively. Performance reviews with a sandwich-structure may work well, where the performance discussion starts with the positives, moves to the improvement areas, and closes on a constructive yet hopeful note. The new tenets of performance feedback are all about learning and moving ahead in the right direction, not unnecessarily ruminating on the past. Managers must learn to balance praise and reprimands, and communicate with objectivity and empathy with a growth-mindset.
Lack of direction: Employees may perform better when they are made aware of the impact of their jobs. To this end, feedback must be specific and purposeful while providing the employee with a clear direction for course-correction. Managers may often beat around the bush to avoid confrontation. On the contrary, discussing details of what went wrong, why and how, is critical to helping employees step up. People Managers must really hone their communication skills to make the future course of action truly SMART- Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This will help clearly articulate the change needed.
A unidirectional feedback conversation: Effective feedback is a two-way street. Active participation of both parties is essential to build ownership and accountability in the feedback process. Managers must let go of the age-old tendency to “direct and instruct”, and must actively seek inputs and ideas from their team members. Building and applying coaching skills is a great way to gain employee-trust and crowdsource fresh ideas for individual, team and organizational growth .
Feedback is not a one-time intervention, cultivating a culture of continuous feedback is an ongoing commitment. A constructive feedback culture can go a long way in attracting, engaging and retaining today’s employee population. Managers must, therefore, continuously work upon their performance coaching skills, with organizations providing them timely and effective learning interventions. A blend of learning modes such as e-learning, coaching, microlearning, and shadowing, can help managers hone their skills and enable a mindset change. Above all, leaders must foster organizational values of openness, transparency and continuous learning to incorporate continuous feedback as a way of working throughout the organization.