Good managers continually evaluate the performance of their team and the people that comprise it. This can occur by simply observing interactivity among the staff or through more formal measures. However, one thing I find extremely influential in determining the causes for employee success or failure is in how well supervisors have provided a positive and supportive work environment to help them excel.
It's the difference between being a task master and a leader. While accountability and personal responsibility remain paramount to whether an individual will thrive in their role, supervisors will undoubtedly play a critical part in that outcome. So before I write an employee evaluation or job offer letter, I ask myself three questions:
Am I putting the right person in the right job?
Often times, people are hired or moved into roles based solely on their past work experience, even though other factors always come into play in determining someone's potential in a new gig. A different culture, work tempo or team environment can weigh heavily on the probability for a successful outcome.
When I evaluate an individual's potential, I try to look at much more than their current performance when considering them for a position, and consider important intangibles, such as attitude, desire and team chemistry. These traits may not supersede the necessary technical skills required by the new role, but can certainly inhibit the ability for someone to make positive contributions to an organization in their absence.
Have I given this person the necessary resources to do the job?
I've seen instances where job titles were in name only, and came without the necessary people, processes or technology that should go with it. This can happen through no fault of anyone; for instance, during an economic downturn, where cost-cutting priorities result in scarce resources. Nevertheless, I do make every attempt to evaluate what support an individual should have to do their job well.
I've also found it to be a good idea to get the opinion of the person in question as to what he or she feels is required; getting them to help identify what would be ideal, and, as important, what are the absolute essential elements required to meet the business objectives of their role. As a result, I gain an even better understanding of the individual's creativity and initiative, and thus offer greater insight if he or she has the skills and potential necessary to perform in this new position.
What do I need to learn in order to be a better supporter of this person?
In my opinion, this is the most overlooked question asked, but arguably the most critical. I've learned—often through failure—that putting people in new roles or new people in existing positions may require me to develop news and more effective ways to communicate and encourage in order achieving a positive outcome. Understanding this ahead of time can mitigate any misunderstanding from the start.
This speaks to a much larger trait that I try to emulate; I must continually learn new things in order to stay current. The volumes of books that are frequently published on the subject will attest to that. Management is as much art as it is science, so new challenges and opportunities related to employees will continually arise. The trick is not necessarily to know the answer at the outset, but know what questions to ask first. I firmly believe that doing so can help me and my team exceed expectations.