All of your education and experience has prepared you for this day. You are excited with the new job and of course, the new salary that comes with it. But has anyone told you about the Management Truth? NO?
Well, here it is … Once you are a supervisor of others, being a success is no longer in your complete control. You have to depend on the success of those who work for you.
There’s a corollary axiom … If your subordinates perform well, you will probably succeed, but if your subordinates fail, you will definitely fail.
Please note that these maxims hold true no matter your level in the organization. A shipping supervisor has to rely on the shippers and receivers at the loading dock. A vice president of sales has to depend on local sales managers. The CEO has to trust the advice of the CFO, head of operations, HR and legal.
So if the output of those who work for you is so critical to your personal achievement, how can you maximize the opportunity for their success?
It all comes down to one simple philosophy: get the right person into the right job and show them you care. They will then respond, exponentially.
Last month, we reviewed the easy way to define jobs by having the incumbent complete a well-designed questionnaire. Now I would like to introduce a powerful way for you, as the supervisor, to show that you care: the annual performance appraisal.
What? The dreaded performance appraisal shows you care? The one discussion that most supervisors and employees hate and tend to put off and then conveniently forget?
Yes, I’m here to tell you that if done properly, the review can be highly motivating and very uplifting, even if the performance to be discussed has been problematic. In fact, the appraisal process with your subordinates is a tremendous management resource and prepares you for your appraisal discussion with your superior.
There’s no getting around the fact that the appraisal is to create a historical written record of how the company (as represented by you the supervisor) deems the performance of the employee, including having the employee sign off that they are aware of the conclusion.
But the best managers also use the effort to update themselves on the details of the job and the person performing the job.
So here are my recommendations:
- First, when you have your meeting with the employee, rather than diving right into the performance discussion, take 20 minutes to review and jointly update the job description questionnaire. And let them know in advance that you’ll be doing this so that they can bring some revisions to the meeting.
By doing so, you will hear about the latest nuances of the job. Perhaps some new technology has changed the way the job is completed. Perhaps other departments have changed their methods and your staff has had to adjust.
Probing questions can be made to find better ways to accomplish certain duties. Current key stakeholders can be identified so that you know who is involved from outside the department. Priorities can re-visited and agreed upon.
The incumbent in the job knows the details intimately. After all, they do the job each and every day. As the supervisor, the opportunity to hear their thoughts is priceless.
- Second, you do need to leave the employee with an accurate understanding as to how you feel about their performance. This is not the time to try to be friends and say only nice things. You are doing a disservice to your staff if you are less than honest. If you need them to improve, tell them so and discuss how you can help.
You are also doing a disservice to your company if you fudge the report. If at some future date, a difficult employment decision has to be made, you don’t want to have to explain to your supervisor why that performance appraisal is not your true impression of that person’s work.
- Third, and probably the most important, is the closure. I suggest to supervisors that they set aside the paperwork and ask a leading question: “Why are you doing what you are doing?”
My experience is that you have just discussed some very personal subjects with the employee, i.e. the definition of their job and their performance. Most of the time, they will respond with equal candor about their career and professional interests.
I promise you that, if you can make that breakthrough, the resulting conversation will be fascinating and uplifting for both of you. You will have forged a new relationship with your subordinate.
A supervisor who stays informed about the details of the jobs done by subordinates, who is straight with them about performance with an eye always on improvement and who takes the time to listen to the employee’s career interests, will very quickly become the supervisor of choice. Successful employees will want to work, and work hard, for that individual.
And you will then reap the positive results from the Management Truth.
Randy Fox, SPHR, is the founder and senior partner of Capstone HR Services, Inc., an HR consulting firm dedicated to serving the needs of the small employer in the greater western Kentucky region, including Evansville, Ind. and Clarksville, Tenn. Contact him at 270-703-9352.