A Side Order Of Mindset Please

A Side Order Of Mindset Please

Welcome to Trends restaurant – the cutting edge eatery for fashion-forward talent management leaders.   As you can tell by our splashy décor and sophisticated clientele around you, this is the place to be and be seen.

As I pass out the menu, let me describe today’s special.  The chef has prepared a popular dish of new age performance management.  This isn’t your grandparent’s performance management, burdened with high caloric paperwork, procedures and policing.  This is a delightfully light affair with empowerment, simplicity and raises for all! 

                                                                      – Your New Way Waiter



Yes, we all would like to order up some tasty local talent innovations.  Our menu of innovative possibilities seems quite attractive, especially dumping the old for the new.

Based on a recent benchmark call, a shiny new performance management system is a popular menu item for many.  Yet as the call progressed, it was clear that the talent cooks on the other end of the line were exclusively focused on the center of the plate.  In haste, they may have missed the critical side order of manager mindset.

Here’s the cold-reality: no new talent management system is perfect.  Experienced cooks know the best food is based on a thoughtful recipe with necessary adjustments.  No matter how carefully the new talent menus and recipes are drafted, the actual delivery and ultimate impact is in the hands of the line managers.  With the right attitude and attributes, managers can do wonders with our best ideas.  Skip paying attention to the manager at your own risk.

This was an insight I pick up a few years ago when considering the impact of the immediate manager on employee engagement and productivity.  While analyzing the most recent all employee survey, we wanted to capture the employee experience with their manager.   Based on a select of five questions, such as “I would recommend working for my manager”, we created a manager quality index.  As expected, the higher the manager index, the more positive employees scored on retention and discretionary effort.   Weak managers produced weak commitment and good managers did much better.  The encouraging finding was that employees having great manager experiences were off-the-charts positive on  giving their best effort and ‘going the extra mile’.

Digging deeper on the topic through a series of employee focus groups, we asked participants to describe the differences between a good manager and a great one.   The dimensions explored included how they communicated, delegated, coached and applied the performance management system.  Employees said good managers did all these things in a satisfactory manner.  They were timely, well-prepared and did each task as expected.  In other words, they complied.

Great managers went beyond compliance and use each opportunity of coaching, delegating, goal setting and appraising for much more.  Each in their own authentic way used these managerial acts to show they sincerely wanted to value, invest and stretch the employee.   And it didn’t matter if the manager had the latest form or training from corporate, they made it work because they had the mindset of a great manager.

 Ever since then, I’ve come to realize the value of the manager in any new system design.  No matter how slick the software, how simple the tools, how revolutionary the approach, the reality is the new thing often ends up in the hands of the manager.  A hot new practice in the hands of a so-so manager will produce lukewarm results.   By contrast,  even a re-issued  warmed-over talent practice in the hands of a great manager will be amazing. 

Your new talent initiative deserves amazing so add an element to equip and inspire managers.     As with a chef’s secret ingredient, it will make everything taste better.  It starts by setting a clear expectation that being a great manager matters.  Specific training programs and just-in-time skills reinforcement follows.  But underneath it all is motivation and mindset.  For some, the spark to be a better manager will be an internal version of the manager-matters analytics like Google’s Oxygen program.  For others, it goes beyond the numbers to being they type of boss who helped them along the way.  It’s the emotion of being someone else’s legacy great manager.

For all, it’s making the connection of how they treat their employees.  Whether for greater levels of corporate productivity, or greater contributions to personal growth, the mindset of a great manager should be constantly nurtured and reinforced.  It should always be on the talent management menu.

(c) 2015 Kevin D. Wilde