Transforming Managers Into Coaches: The Future Of Performance Management

The future of work is being shaped by changes in technology, globalization and overwhelming information flow. Workers, particularly millennials, are asking for something different. They want clear expectations, accountability, a rich purpose, and they especially want ongoing feedback and coaching.

The need to dramatically change the way employees are managed couldn’t be more urgent. Studies have shown the huge cost of poor management and lost productivity as demonstrated by the workers who are not engaged or actively disengaged. From the “great resignation” to “quiet quitting” and “quite hiring”, some employees have pivoted to personally growing horizontally and not vertically. Managers need to adjust to these changes.

Specifically, traditional performance management systems have struggled to inspire and develop employees because their approach leads to:

  • Unclear and misaligned expectations
  • Ineffective and infrequent feedback
  • Unfair evaluation practices and misplaced accountability

Organizations should transform their managers into coaches by teaching them to effectively and cohesively:

  • Establish and communicate expectations. Expectations influence performance where positive expectations influence performance positively, and negative expectations influence performance negatively. Basically, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Continually provide feedback and coaching. While creating opportunities for the existing workforce to focus on high-value work, consider whether they have the right skills to be able to perform and execute that work. Giving them the opportunity to up-skill can deliver better performance for the organization. There are a range of free and paid skilling programs available which teams can complete in short bursts, building skills that help them deliver better outcomes in their current roles, or grow into new areas of interest that match the organization’s goals.
  • Create accountability through “expectation mirroring”. Accountability starts with the manager. Managers will always get the precise behaviors they have set their staff up to give. It’s a harsh reality, but no one is going to hold the team accountable except the manager. So once managers are willing to own the results and work on the relationships and the outcome of their own behaviors, they will find that the team is able to reach new heights in productivity & value created. Some people call this “Expectation Mirroring.” Mirroring is a thing, and setting clear expectations is a thing. But when put together, it makes work life a heck of a lot easier for both managers & employees.

Studies have found that:

  • Employees whose manager involves them in goal setting are four times more likely to be engaged than other employees. Yet this basic expectation only occurs for 30% of employees. Just look at the failure of remote worker managers who focus on time efficiency. The answer to managing remote workers is not efficiency but getting company objectives (SMART goals) completed.
  • Frequency of feedback alone can boost engagement three fold. But the feedback needs to be meaningful. As a general rule, managers should coach their employees by providing meaningful feedback at least once per week. These coaching conversations can vary from daily “quick connects” to recurring “check-ins” to “developmental coaching.” Remember, people have a strong tendency to rise or fall to the level of our and their own expectations of their performance.
  • While some organizations are moving away from annual performance review systems, accountability is still important. Progress reviews should occur at least twice per year, encouraging open communication, employee-manager-consumer expectations, and planning. As such, these reviews should be centered on communication and expectations.
  • Performance appraisal needs to be blended with individualized development. Without the two in harmony, performance appraisals can be perceived as a threat and development as disconnected from the business. Think individual achievement, team collaboration, and value to the customer.

Employees today demand more from their companies. They are asking for meaningful work and managers who care about them as people and provide ongoing communication, clear work expectations, and opportunities to learn and grow. This requires a human resource management system that is centered around expectations, communication and the customer.

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Copyright ©John Trenary 2023. All rights reserved.

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