Managers are tasked with monitoring and coaching employees to improve their performance. However, achieving those goals can be challenging, particularly if your managers lack the required skills and capabilities. Without key skills, it is impossible to get employee buy-in, build engagement, and boost performance.
Of course, not all manager skills are equal. Which ones should you focus on developing within your management team? In this post, we will explore some of the most crucial manager skills for performance management.
Perhaps the single most important skill for managers is the ability to communicate clearly and directly in a variety of different environments and situations, and with a diverse range of individuals. Without solid communication skills, managers cannot coach employees to better performance. They may not even be able to make employees aware that a performance problem exists.
The good news is that communication skills can be learned easily, particularly through online training via your LMS. Don’t limit your efforts to conventional modules and quizzes, though. You also need to throw in experiential learning, as communication is a soft skill that really requires interaction with other people (practice) to perfect. Collaborative activities, user forums, group chats and the like can all be valuable tools here.
It’s increasingly important for managers to see themselves as part of the wider team. In the past, a hierarchical view was the norm. Today, that is beginning to erode. While not all teams are set up as meritocracies, it’s becoming more and more important that both leaders and team members see one another as parts of the same whole, rather than as above or below one another.
Again, teamwork is a soft skill that can be learned. The best advice is to create content that teaches your managers about teamwork through online training, but also find ways to work in collaborative projects. In particular, managers should be required to complete projects in which they are not the lead and where they must work with others as “just another team member” to help build collaboration and teamwork-related skills.
If there is one skill that is harder for some managers to master than any other, it would be delegation. In fact, it’s often called “an art” simply because of that difficulty. Managers have a ton of things on their to-do lists, and they often find that they cannot do it all. This can lead to problems when it comes to conducting effective one-on-ones and coaching sessions. If your managers are bogged down and backlogged, do you think they’re going to spend as much time as necessary focusing on performance management? No, they’re going to try to get as much done as they can in as little time as possible so they can get on to the next thing.
Learning how to delegate can help managers clear their plate so that they can spend the maximum amount of time building their team up through coaching and positive one-on-one experiences. However, it is also important for higher-ups to realize how overloaded most managers are and to stop piling tasks on and then expecting managers to somehow balance it all. Overload leads to subpar results and eventually to burnout.
Managers must juggle many different tasks, including handling performance management-related issues. Good time management skills are critical (and tie directly into some aspects of delegation, discussed above). When managers are pressed for time and unable to balance their schedules, less obviously vital tasks will suffer first – skipped one-on-ones, check-ins that last just a couple of minutes, and ultra-brief coaching sessions where the manager cannot provide their full attention.
Those are not positive outcomes and they will not improve your team’s performance. Thankfully, managers can learn better time management skills through a combination of online courses and in-person lessons in the real world. Ideally, you’ll provide training in time management via your LMS and then reinforce that with real-world experiences that force managers to handle pressing matters that require immediate attention while finding ways to reorganize their other responsibilities. Rather than skipping or shorting a one-on-one, it could be rescheduled to the next day so that the manager can spend the appropriate amount of time with the employee.
Adaptability is a critical skill for all employees today. However, it is more important than ever that managers can “roll with the punches” particularly when it comes to performance management. For instance, PM has changed a lot in recent years.
We’ve seen a radical shift in most businesses away from annual or biannual performance reviews to a much higher frequency, as well as the addition of check-ins and one-on-ones that were never part of PM in the past. Moreover, the pace of evolution is accelerating. New technologies, new best practices, new focuses on employees as whole beings rather than raw business inputs – these are just a few examples.
Managers must be adaptable to deal with the sea change in performance management (and their wider management responsibilities in general). Again, adaptability can be learned (although some people are more adaptable from the outset). You can work toward improving adaptability through your online courses as well as by putting them in real-world situations where they are forced to think on their feet and deal with rapidly-changing situations with equanimity.
Ultimately, improving team performance requires that everyone ups their game. That includes your managers. Use the tips above to provide your managers with the training that they need, both through your LMS and via in-person experiences.
The good news is that online training can be an invaluable aid here. Plus, you can leverage other managers and leaders to provide the in-person, real-world experience necessary for true mastery.
What has your experience been with training managers? Have you found that soft skills outweigh harder skills in terms of importance? Share your successes and challenges in the comments below.