When we think of performance management – as a process, system or series of conversations – we tend to think of managers talking to their direct reports. Perhaps providing them day to day coaching input, goal-setting, development planning, performance reviews and so on. Which leads us to consider performance management as very much centred around the individual employee.
However, if we consider performance management in this isolated way, we are definitely missing an opportunity. So how can team leaders ensure that they get the most from teams and leverage the ‘team multiplier’ effect in the context of performance management?
- Transparency – our first recommendation is that performance management goals, key result areas/KPIs, progress and successes, are all visible across the team (at Strengths Partnership, we use Google Sheets to do this as they are easy to share, but there are plenty of alternatives). This encourages transparency, openness, clarity on accountabilities/responsibilities and on individuals’ respective contributions to the team. The approach can be reinforced at team meetings by asking attendees to describe their latest projects and/or successes in the context of their role. It’s a good way of keeping people focused on their own goals and targets, while at the same time, understanding those of others and providing support where they can.
- Project resourcing – when team members understand others’ strengths, skills, accountabilities, development goals and preferred ways of working, it is much easier for them to leverage this in each other when setting up project teams or undertaking tasks. We recommend asking teams to draw up a matrix of this information to help all team members remember what they can call on colleagues for, also helping their colleagues to find opportunities to stretch developmentally. This ensures that project teams set off with all the required strengths, skills and experience and know who to go to for what, so making individual responsibilities more straightforward to identify.
- Support and challenge – having undertaken the first two steps, it is easier for team members to provide support to others in helping them achieve their performance management goals, as well as to giving an appropriate amount of challenge. In order for this to work well, it is ideal if the team has a reasonable knowledge of basic coaching behaviours such as effective questioning and listening, as well as skills required for giving and receiving feedback. Once this level of knowledge is in place, it may even be worthwhile considering setting up a coaching ‘buddying’ system, whereby colleagues are paired up to provide each other with coaching support for delivering against objectives. This can really help build a sense of trust and cohesion within the team as it creates a real openness around helping, supporting and challenging colleagues to stretch themselves.
- Feedback – another essential element of effective performance management systems is feedback. Ideally, individuals should be seeking out, and acting on, feedback regularly. This comes from developing a coaching and feedback ‘culture’ which of course takes time, so it may be worth introducing a slightly more formal process initially, whereby team members actively ask for feedback from colleagues at least twice a year in key areas of performance and contribution to the team. By encouraging this kind of feedback, team members are more likely to hear a variety of views on their performance and approach than this solely being channelled through the line manager.
So, should performance management systems focus primarily on the relationship between employee and line manager? While this is no doubt a crucial component for success, we would absolutely encourage team leaders to leverage the whole of the team in the pursuit of enhanced performance. For more on introducing a strengths-based approach to performance management in your organisation, click here.
Dr Paul Brewerton