Thursday, June 16, 2011

How Do We Help A New Manager Manage?

Have her follow three basic steps to communicate performance expectations, ensure employees have the development tools they need, and connect the dots to each individual's career aspirations.

 How should a new manager approach employees who aren't doing their jobs? All of our employees have job descriptions and written job expectations, yet many come up short when it comes to meeting them. One is a diligent manager who tries hard to create an effective branch—and to help employees develop their skills for possible career advancement. We are concerned she may be overcome by frustration.

Flustered and Fed Up, executive assistant, government, Washington, D.C. 

Dear Flustered and Fed Up:

New managers often inherit a set of expectations that were established by their predecessors, which can make the transition difficult for everyone. You mentioned written expectations, which are effective only if people truly understand how to meet them and, equally important, why they should meet them.

Solving this problem requires three steps.

First, if she has not done so already, the new manager should begin with one-to-one performance discussions with employees about the written job expectations. Are they clear and do they make sense to the employee? This conversation is likely to reveal opportunities for clarification and set the stage for step two.

Next, determine whether the employee has the tools necessary to meet the new manager's expectations. Is more training required? Are there roadblocks that only the manager can remove? Which behaviors are the responsibilities of the employees to change?

Finally, the new manager must make a very important connection for her employees: that meeting expectations will help them to achieve their personal goals. To some degree we all want to know: 'What's in it for me?' If the new manager can demonstrate to her employees that meeting expectations will lead them closer to achieving their personal goals, she will be much more likely to get the results she needs.

By following this process, the new manager has:

    1. Made sure that her employees fully understand her expectations

    2. Have the necessary tools, skills and knowledge to meet those expectations

    3. Helped employees make the connection why this is personally important.

Should some employees still fail to meet expectations, however, then your manager needs to move quickly to address this lingering issue. Many new managers struggle with giving performance feedback. By using the previous three-step conversation as a backdrop, she should address it through ongoing coaching. It will be necessary for her to explain how poor job performance is having a negative effect on the department—and therefore is just as likely to prevent the employee from reaching his professional goals.

Most employers have a progressive discipline process, which is set up to let poor performers know the consequences of their actions (in carefully measured and legally defensible steps). No manager ever wants a situation to deteriorate to this point, but if it happens, let your new manager know she is doing the right thing: striving to create an environment that enables employees to succeed. Ultimately, though, whether they succeed is entirely up to them.

SOURCE: Alan Preston, Preston Leadership Inc., Phoenixville, Pennsylvania

Thanks to Crain Communications Inc. / Workforce Management


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