It turns out that employee expectations of managers are pretty simple. They want to be treated with respect. They want to be treated fairly. Respect and fairness are sort of the table stakes a manager must ante up when they start supervising others. While I will comment about respect and fairness off and on in this book, they are not the central focus.
Beyond respect and fairness there are six questions most employees want their managers to help them answer. These questions are:
1. What’s expected of me?
2. What and how should I develop?
3. How am I doing?
4. How did I do?
5. How will I be rewarded?
6. What’s next for me?
This book is based on following simple proposition. If a manager can successfully answer these six questions with their employees [and treat employees with respect and fairness] those employees will be productive and engaged at work.
Here is how it can look …
Imagine each year beginning with a good conversation with your manager about what lies ahead for the business and the part you will play in the success of that business. Then a week or two later another conversation about some skills you will develop this year to ensure your performance continues to improve. As the months roll by your manager has regular check-ins with you to make sure your performance and development is on track and offers up some advice to keeps things on track. Then maybe mid-year you and your manager have a conversation about your career – where you might like to head in the company and what it would take to get there. Near the end of the year your manager sits down to review the year of work and offers an assessment of how things went for you. And a couple weeks later your manager talks with you in an honest and open way about your salary and bonus if you are eligible.
Notice that in this description there are no forms being filled out or data being entered into a system. There are no dual signatures on documents or an HR person in sight. There are simply conversations between the manager and their employee.
Not that there aren’t forms to fill out or data to be entered into a system. Of course there probably are. But that documentation should be a by-product of good conversations. Documentation does not optimize individual productivity, excellence management as good interactions with employees does.
I don’t want to oversell these six conversations. I do not think that these conversations along with some respect and fairness will get the whole management job done. There are other responsibilities around looking after work processes, attending to regulatory requirements, meeting management, and so on that impact manager success as well. But I do think attending to these six conversations gets a great deal of the job done. And when someone is taking on their first role as a manager of people I firmly believe arming them with this six conversations framework, along with the skills and insights to have those conversations well, sets these new managers and their staffs up for success.
So why not seven or eight conversations? Why six? The answer is threefold. First, it’s best not to overload new managers, like anyone taking on a new role, with too many tasks at once. Six tasks turns out to be a manageable number. Second, the conversations are simply a response to the most often asked questions of managers by the people who work for them. If you doubt this, complete your own personal survey of employees and ask them what they want from their managers. I have many times and these six reappear time and time again. And finally, the six conversations align nicely with typical components of a performance management system …
• Performance Planning [what’s expected of me?]
• Development Planning [what and how should I develop?]
• Feedback [how am I doing?]
• Performance Assessment [how did I do?]
• Compensation Management [how will I be rewarded?]
• Career Management [what’s next for me?]
As I said earlier - conversations first, then process. But it is wise to align the conversations with these inevitable and necessary processes.
Let’s look at each of the six, one at a time.