by Shayne Thomas
30 Jan 2020
It’s Time to Commit to Being a Good People Manager
Here are the three most common excuses as to why managers say they can’t deliver on continuous performance management effectively.
A manager's primary responsibility is to manage, grow, nurture, and develop your team, helping them to be the best they possibly can be—for you, for your company as a whole, and, most importantly, for their own happiness and well being. If, at any point, you’ve perhaps neglected to make this part of your job your absolute priority, then there’s a chance you’ve done yourself, your company, and your team a huge disservice. But no fear, you can easily reverse this trend.
The truth is, being a manager is more than just a job title. And it’s a lot more than simply rising up through the ranks and eventually finding yourself in a position where you now required to manage a team of people—whether by desire or by default. Just as you’ve done throughout your entire career, you, as a manager, must rise to the occasion because, whether you realize or not, a lot of other people are depending on you lead the way.
Embrace this as a moment of tough love. It is, after all, necessary every now and then, especially if you see this as an opportunity for both professional and personal development. (We hope you do!) For us at Cornerstone, being a strong manager today is more critical than ever before. And after seeing the results from our recent performance management survey, the message was pretty clear (and somewhat troubling): managers are not making time to make continuous performance management or employee development a priority.
Today, we’re inviting all of the managers out there to put the official kaybash on any excuses and, instead, focus on solutions that will get operating as high performing managers again. To do this, we’ll take a look at the three most common reasons that kept popping up in our survey and why, in our humble opinion, they really don’t hold any water.
“I’m too busy to provide meaningful feedback.”
If we were snarky, our immediate response would be: “Well, who isn’t it?” But the truth is that everyone is busy these days. So, using this as an excuse for not doing your job—whether you’re a manager or not—will fall on deaf ears. But, even worse, aside from this coming across as an attempt to downplay your managerial responsibilities, there are a few glaring issues here:
- It implies that you don’t value feedback—providing or receiving—and that you’re unwilling to carve out time for it.
- It could also suggest that, if you are, indeed, a proponent of ongoing feedback, you may not be effective in sharing it, which is consuming more of your time than you’d like.
Unfortunately, for one reason or another, your relationship with feedback hasn’t been a positive one. For all we know, you might actually be very uncomfortable sharing feedback with others. We get it, providing feedback is an art—and it takes a lot of practice. The good news is that there are multiple ways to shift your perspective on the matter, so that you can become a true feedback pro. Here are a few solutions worth considering:
- Try thinking about feedback in a new light. Avoid thinking about it as “constructive criticism” and, instead, approach it as a way to have productive, open-ended conversations with the members of your team. If you think about feedback as a two-way dialogue, it’ll feel less confrontational.
- Dedicate at least 15 minutes per day to feedback-oriented conversations. Everyone has 15 minutes to spare. While you’re at it, try not to fall into the rut of thinking that these conversations have to be scheduled in the calendar, which can make them feel too “official” for anyone’s good. Lose the formalities and focus more on the dialogue. Conversations can happen spontaneously, even when you’re just popping down to grab a morning coffee. By making it less formal, you take the “stress” out of it for all involved.
- Lastly, take full advantage of tools that will make giving and managing feedback a lot easier. If you continue pushing off documenting these conversations in a Word or Excel doc hidden in the depths of your computer files, there’s a very good chance that, as other work crops up throughout the day, you’ll push it further and further down your to-do list. Before you know, you’ll forget what you talked about, which, for better or worse, can “invalidate” that feedback conversation.
Solutions like Cornerstone Performance can help you be more effective at this and, as an added perk, provide instant analytics and reporting that allow you to make sense of and take action on all those feedback conversations. This is worth its weight in gold and will most definitely transform your entire perspective for the better!
“There’s no structure to it all.”
What comes first: the chicken or the egg? This is the exact same dilemma here. Without a solution in place to streamline how you provide, document, and take action on feedback, managers will undoubtedly end up doing it all their own way. And before you know it, the HR team has got the wild, wild west on its hands. While this “to each their own” approach may be manageable for very small businesses—though, still not a best practice by any means—it’s definitely not scalable as your business grows.
This is where we’ll give managers the benefit of the doubt and encourage HR leaders to put a stake in the ground, establishing platforms and solutions, like Cornerstone’s very own (not that we’re tooting our own horn), to make feedback valuable and valued for everyone involved. If you want to establish best practices, HR has got to lead and implement these kinds of initiatives. No one can expect managers to get the ball rolling on their own. (Remember, on top of their own day-to-day responsibilities, they’re also busy taking care of their teams!) However, once HR gets the wheels in motion, then the ball gets passed back over to managers because, at that point, they no longer have any excuse for not playing by the rules.
In reading this, you might think that this all sounds like a bunch of administrative fluff. Of course, establishing new processes always requires getting over some initial onboarding hurdles. That’s simply part of the process. However, once HR has done the heavy lifting to get everything in place, as a manager you’ll wonder how you ever survived before it. It can make a huge difference and change your perspective on what it means to be a manager entirely.
“I don’t have the right skills.”
Many managers, especially first-time managers, have never received formal training to be a good manager. Some have adopted the “baptism by fire” approach while others have leaned on their own past experiences—good or bad—to inform their own management style. Whatever the case may be, more often than not, people who are promoted to management lack the fundamental skills and training to be truly effective managers. This is no one’s fault.
That being said, this is also not one of those “you can’t teach old dogs new tricks” scenarios. There’s always room to learn and grow, and based on the nature of this excuse, it’s clear that today’s managers have an inherent desire to learn. (We applaud this!) So, it’s up to businesses and their HR teams to provide ongoing opportunities for learning and development to happen.
A great starting point is to invest in a solid learning management system, like Cornerstone Learning, to make learning and development available and accessible to all employees. While these “management” courses may be specifically geared to people managers, they can still have tremendous value for individual contributors, too. After all, at some point, those individual contributors will rise to the ranks of management as well. So why not prepare them early?
Learning and development is the best way to groom your future best employees; invest in them, and they’ll certainly invest their time, energy, and enthusiasm back into your business. Fortunately, all of this comes at a time when the role of “Performance Coach” will soon have an increasing presence in the workplace. These people will be on-hand to help managers be as effective as possible, coaching them to succeed every step of the way and, therefore, ensuring that no manager ever feels that they lack the necessary skills to lead their teams effectively.
It’s time to stop making excuses.
If you haven’t made your New Year’s resolutions yet, you still have time. There’s no better time than now to commit to being a better manager. Part of this requires a willingness to change your approach to feedback and team management, while another part requires your HR team to invest in the right tools and solutions to enable your success. With all the tools, coaching, training, and resources available today, there’s no reason why you can’t be a great manager. And for all the HR leaders out there, it’s time to consider upgrading to a solution to enable your entire company to embrace continuous performance management with open arms. Learn more about Cornerstone Performance today. If you have any questions, we’re always here to help.