How To Manage Your Team’s Performance Effectively

Given 3 simple examples of employee types, which needs Performance management from their supervisor?

A – Professional, technically proficient, model employee, engaged with peers and managers, respected, influential, natural leader

B – Comes to work on time, meets expectations, trains when required, skills need sharpening, complains about technology and change, will call in sick on occasion

C – Chronically ill, skills are lacking, earn and burn leave – zero balance, tardy, unhappy with everything, break abuser, uses inappropriate language, attitude cancer

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The correct answer is all three. Yet, the first two are often ignored. Example A will only continue to perform well if they are rewarded (praised). However, the better reason for praising their behavior is to set an example of the manager’s expectation and desired behavior. Example B likely wants to perform better, but lacks the example, instruction, coaching and/or motivation from the supervisor.

Employee C may not know they are not behaving well if the supervisor has not clearly spelled out the expectation(s) or has not shared perspective with them. If, after expectation and perspective is shared, employee C continues to underwhelm, then the question of continued employment should arise.

Understanding Employees
Covey’s graph on engagement and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs should be regularly referenced by the supervisor regarding each of their employee’s current state. Both are critical to the successful manager in knowing and understanding how to best help their employees meet the expectations of the organization and grow personally.


Two other considerations for the supervisor are: First, the understanding that they are no longer producing, they are producing producers.  First level supervisors tend to make this change slowly. Leaving the comfort of near perfection and familiarity, entering the new and unfamiliar realm of accomplishing your work through someone else is challenging. “Your success is our success. Our success is your success.” Second, there exists a very large difference in a 60 year old employee and a 22 year old one. They need to be addressed differently. They need to be praised differently. They need to be motivated differently. Etc.

The Manager’s Role
Very simplistically, the manager’s role can be divided logically into four main areas, in order of importance:

  1. Safety and Welfare
  2. Productivity
  3. Enabler (provide training, resources, etc.)
  4. Progress

Safety and welfare are first because without employees, an organization cannot be successful, or will at least experience slowdowns. This MUST be the primary function of every supervisor, top to bottom, in an organization. Insuring that productivity is the next priority is paramount to the organization. “The reason we exist is… produce, sell and make profit.” The term enabler has taken on a harsh meaning in psychology worlds today, but in my case the supervisor enables their employees by supplying them with a never ending supply of whatever they need to be successful. That could be training, staples and papers, encouragement, assistants, or sympathy. Finally, supervisors are expected to be innovative. “Can we do this more efficiently?” Building a better mousetrap, bigger, better, stronger, faster.

Purpose for Performance Management
The simplest reason to conduct performance management in any organization is for Organizational Alignment. The supervisor needs to know, share and insure that all employees are aligned with the mission and vision of the organization.

Performance Management should be accomplished every day, not once a year. Human Resources, in larger organizations will have annual requirements to conduct performance management throughout an organization. This insures that everyone is getting the minimum, and that everyone is judged by universal benchmarks. But this should not be how a supervisor conducts effective performance management.

There is sound rational behind an annual requirement, but there is more reason to conduct daily review and even “on the spot” performance management. Daily (or at least weekly) review, employing Covey’s graph and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are a great way to determine the productivity and engagement of a supervisor’s employees. Then that should be shared with the employee. Praise, perspective, motivation, or discipline.  The “on the spot” performance management should be exercised when safety of the employee or their peers are threatened.

The example is of a 3 year old child darting into the street. To wait until the end of the year to talk about it seems ludicrous. But as ineffective, would be to wait until the end of the week, or even the end of the day to discuss the misbehavior and desired expectation. The behavior needs to be corrected on the spot.

10 Practical Tips

  1. Ignoring poor performers lowers morale, diminishes quality and reduces teamwork.
  2. The most effective way to resolve inadequate performance is to have people self evaluate.
  3. Ask questions rather than tell.
  4. Low performance often has more than one cause. So get the whole story.
  5. Engage motivation by linking it to results rather than performance.
  6. Communicate the quality outcomes before the work begins. Not after the performance falls short.
  7. If a task is to be intrinsically motivating either the results or the outcomes most be needs meeting (personal value).
  8. Menial tasks, low autonomy, lack of connection, and over-supervision all lead to lower performance.
  9. Asking people for their performance improvement solutions creates ownership, builds sustainability and empowers the individual.
  10. Make improving performance part of your culture, rather than an annual ritual.

In conclusion, several years ago I coined a phrase that I love to share with audiences. “Lift Someone Daily” can be abbreviated LSD, which is also the abbreviation of an illegal street drug. I joke that I have been addicted to LSD for several years, that I can no longer be satisfied with only one hit per day, and that it also has a contagious factor to it, meaning that others also want the high. Of course, my LSD is Lift Someone Daily, or intentionally finding a way to exercise direct of indirect leadership with those around you, stranger or friend.

It can be as simple as smiling and saying “hello,” or more pointed like telling an employee that you see great potential in them as a manager in the future. Get started. Get addicted!

“If you inspire someone to dream more, learn more, be more, and become more, you are a leader.”                                                                     – John Quincy Adams

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