As we were completing a development program with a client’s management team recently, the participants focused on their ‘next steps’ in creating more productive working relationships with their staffs to coach improved performance. While all had experience with project plans, none had formalised a plan for each member of their team; they approached the people side of their role informally and intuitively. So, we brainstormed a People Plan approach for each manager to use in preparing for their ‘conversations’ with staff and to support their implementation of effective performance coaching.
These People Plans were designed to be a simple one page summary for them to review and remind themselves of the unique individual styles of each staff member as well as their strengths and limitations. Before entering into a conversation with staff, the manager could then reflect on the their best approach to effectively communicate rather than just approach each person in the same manner. The People Plan would support the change in management style necessary to coach staff via engaged conversations and increased staff empowerment (ownership). Performance management then becomes a positive and continual process.
Based on their current agreements with staff and the need for frequent and timely feedback, the manager would then update these People Plans to make them adynamic management tool. This management review, reflection and adjustment to each staff member then supports their efforts to be a better ‘coach’ in the workplace. The objective then is to achieve operational priorities while developing staffs’ capabilities simultaneously. The managers felt that by having a simple tool to quickly review that they could better focus on the day to day performance management issues that impact their team.
Here is what these People Plans covered:
1. Identification of individual strengths and limitations: First identify the key talents needed for their role; then observe/assess them over time.
What are their strengths in their role? What are their limitations or weaknesses?
Discuss with them positively and gain their mutual agreement and understanding of the talents needed for their role and where their strengths/limitations lie; then the manager can work to challenge them and support
2. Communication: What is their natural style of communicating at work? How assertive and how responsive are they?
What does the manager need to personally focus upon to adjust their natural style to improve ‘how’ the message is delivered?
Communication by task – Based upon the task being discussed/reviewed, what level is the staff member (Novice, Learning, Competent, Professional) and therefore, what is the appropriate management communication
style (Directing, Persuading, Orchestrating, Leading)? When can the manager “tell” compared to when should the manager be “asking” the staff member questions to reach improved understandings and agreements on
day to day issues?
3. Current Agreements: What is the current focus for the near future for each staff member (next 90 days)? Operational, strategic actions, developing strengths, management of limitations, etc.
Agreements may be formal or informal depending upon the day to day issue; however, capturing the many different agreements is crucial to effective support and feedback.
Agreements could be around Performance (tasks, project, or part of their role) or Competency (key behaviours needed to demonstrate organisation values) or Personal/Career Development (specific steps/actions in
Measurements: How have you two agreed that these agreements or actions will be measured? (Deadlines, KPIs, Ratings (1-5 scale), Feedback (self-assessment, team , client/customer, other departments, etc.)
4. Monitoring and observing to support staff (not micro-manage operational details)
How and where/when can the manager see them ‘in action’ as staff try to focus on these agreements. How often will the manager do this and do they need to consciously remind themselves.
Has the manager told them how/when they will check-in with them to see how they are going (not to hold them accountable but to support them with feedback, ideas, etc.)
5. Timeliness, frequency and quality of manager’s feedback:
When recently and how often has the manager provided reinforcing ‘positive’ feedback based upon what they have observed to encourage staff to value their efforts (not just saying ‘thank you’)?
When recently and how often has the manager been able to support them by correcting their performance with a positive approach of seeking their opinions and linking their adjustments to doing what they said they
were going to do initially? Is the staff member now on track as a result of this timely and effective feedback or are they now monitoring/observing more closely to support the staff member?
Can you use a People Plan to support your developmental approach with staff and performance management? What do you use to remind you to manage and coach people individually?
These kind of tools support implementation in the ‘real world’ and help managers have productive conversations that demonstrate how staff are valued, supported and engaged to continually improve where they have the capacity and to manage their limitations to avoid problems or issues.