A manager I spoke with the other day had been promoted about 18 months ago into their first line manager role. They had moved from being in a similar team to managing a department of eight people and initially everything had been great.
They had good relationships with their people and the work got done on time. Everything in the garden was rosy, however, over the last six months standards had started to decline.
The team were not as happy as they once were. There were more and more petty squabbles, some were regularly coming in late, and, one by one, team members were taking more personal calls and checking out social media on their mobiles. He couldn’t understand what could have caused it.
What had changed?
When I asked what had changed he couldn’t tell me. I probed until he explained how each member of their team was working for their own agenda and for one reason or another had started to slack off. This happened so gradually at first that he didn’t initially notice, but it had become so bad he knew something needed to be done.
What had he tried to resolve the problem? I asked the question and he shrugged his shoulders and said he had only mentioned it to one or two them. Further questioning uncovered that he had actually just complained about the worst culprits to the ones who were still trying their best.
This scenario reminded me of that old saying about behaviour begetting behaviour. I always think that people rise up or sink down to the level expected of them, and I was keen to establish how he had set the standards and supported and challenged people to meet them.
The simple answer is he hadn’t and didn’t. Naively, he thought that people would just perform. He hadn’t realised the influence he had, and role that he needed to play. In my experience any manager, needs to:
- Talk to people! Get the team together and set out the facts. What was the team performance before, what is it now and where does it need to be? Meet people one to one, ask them why their performance has changed and establish whether they need any support to get on track.
- Understand difference. Not everyone is the same as you. What you might do in any given situation might be completely different to someone else, so always put yourself in their shoes. What rubs people up the wrong way? What inspires and motivates them? Think about each person individually and work out what makes them tick.
- Become more self-aware. What are you doing that makes things better or worse?
- Measure and track. We all need to know what is expected of us and we also need to know how well we are doing. If you ask people about significant conversations in their career they will always relate at least one performance conversation, especially if it was a very positive or negative one. Make sure you have regular performance discussions with your team. This way they are not seen as one-off but ordinary, mutually satisfying conversations that help them know what they do well. By identifying this they can repeat it and understand when and why they might need development.
- Jump on things straight away. Never, ever miss an opportunity to state the obvious, i.e. “it is not acceptable to use your phone in work, sorry” or “you were late today, was there a reason for that?” Each time you don’t mention something you should, you are subconsciously sending a signal that it is acceptable for that person to carry on with that behaviour. Just as importantly you need to point out when people are doing the right thing, i.e. “the way you handled that customer was great, you showed how much we care” or “thanks for finishing that report, I know it was difficult to fit it into your schedule”
The bottom line is you need to take responsibility for yourself and your team. That means taking action. Ignoring a situation never makes it better. At best it stays the same, but at worst it will become a nightmare.
Contact us to discuss how to the right management skills can help with staff development and increased performance and results.
Stephanie Morgan FLPI, Director of Learning Solutions, Bray Leino Learning
Sharing ideas and observations to help improve performance.
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