Managers often ask me what the secret is to improving employee performance. Usually, I imagine, in the hope that there is something about the employee that can be "fixed". Sometimes those managers are surprised to find out that the answer may be a bit closer to home! Here are 5 mistakes people managers regularly make, that can have a serious impact on employee motivation and performance. 
Which ones are you guilty of? 
1) Thinking your team are mind-readers 
Ask people what their organisation or manager could do to improve, and I guarantee that 95% or more will include communication in their top three suggestions. People don’t know what you expect unless you tell them. Categorically, clearly, with written instructions, examples and pictures if necessary. Be absolutely clear about expected standards of performance, reporting lines and timescales, for every task you ask them to do. Assume nothing. If you really need the work they are doing by 9am on Friday morning, then don’t ask them to do it “when they get a chance”, or “by the end of the week”. Communicating clearly, and often, is not micromanaging; it is the only way to get things done when – and how - you want them done. 
2) Assuming performance is OK 
You should be monitoring everything your team does. Regularly. Not just performance but attendance, conduct, internet access, customer interactions, quality measures and anything else that matters to your business. Don’t assume that because someone has worked with you for a long time you can stop monitoring – when you take your eyes off the ball, there is every chance that they will too. Look for obvious drops in performance, but also look at longer term trends. Are people improving as quickly as they should? Is someone struggling with a particular task? Are there signs that the whole team’s performance is dropping? The sooner you know, the more quickly you can do something about it. And remember to look beyond the headlines. How, exactly, are your team achieving those great sales figures? What shortcuts have they found? And what are the consequences for your customers and your business? 
3) Waiting too long to take action 
If a team member is not working the way they should, tell them NOW. Please. Not in 3 months’ time – by then you’ll be really irritated. And not in 6 months – by then the rest of the team will have had enough, you’ll be fuming, and you won’t want to start capability procedures… you’ll be ready to sack the individual (who still doesn’t know that there is a problem!)Tell them now. Explain what you want them to do differently. Train them again if you need to. And keep talking to them as they try to do better. They can’t improve if they don’t know what they are doing wrong. 
4) Not keeping enough records 
Any conversation about performance, attendance or behaviour should be noted, ideally as part of regular 1:1 notes, but if you don’t do those (and you really should!) use e-mails, memos or work diaries. Record the good, the bad and the ugly. The big stuff, and the more trivial areas that might become the big stuff in due course.If you get to a point where you need to start formal procedures, the first thing you will have to show is when you first told the individual they were not meeting the required standards, and that you have given them a fair opportunity to improve. If it isn’t on record, then in employment law terms, it didn’t happen. 
5) Treating everyone the same 
There is no “one size fits all” in management. Your team are all individuals. They are all different, with unique sets of skills, abilities, strengths and development needs. They all have different family and personal circumstances. Sometimes they will give work 150%, arriving early, working late and contributing way above their pay grade. And sometimes life happens. Then they need your support. Be there for them, be human, and show them how much you value and care about them by being flexible and patient. Treat people fairly, but don’t treat everyone the same. Every member of your team needs something different from you as their manager, and those needs will change. It is your job to find the right approach for each person, every day. 
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