Managers must weed the garden

The most effective managers apply consistent pressure. They are firm but fair in the way they hold their people accountable

One of the benefits of working with is that we get to observe thousands of teams working on their Goals, and by analyzing the patterns we quickly learn what works and what doesn’t in terms of achieving better business results.

We see many business leaders start out with good intentions to operate their business in a more transparent manner. They involve their people in the decision making process, and then use software dashboards  to make the chosen KPIs, Projects and Tasks visible so that everyone in the organization is aligned and focused, and can see how their work contributes to the bigger picture.

Capturing this information on a dashboard enables everyone to see which teams are performing well, and which teams are not performing so well. Likewise, they can see which people are performing well, and who needs more help and support. This level of radical transparency has been shown to improve organizational performance.

However, radical transparency by itself is not enough. Management dashboards will certainly help you to manage your organization more effectively, but they do not replace the need for effective management practices.

Managers still need to manage.

Making performance visible is just the first step. Team leaders still need to coach and support their people to ensure they are achieving the required standard of performance and meeting their deadlines consistently.

If you are a manager or team leader, you must meet with your people regularly to discuss their performance. We have written previously that the one on one meeting is the most important meeting you will ever have.

First of all, good performance and achievements should be praised and acknowledged. Are you praising your people frequently enough?

However, any Projects or Tasks that are overdue, or KPIs that are below standard, must be discussed and dealt with at this weekly meeting. Otherwise, you are implicitly communicating to your team members that accountability is not important in your organization.

Your team members can clearly see when their Goals and Tasks are “in the red”, because it is staring them in the face on their dashboard, but their manager is not saying anything, so being in the red must be OK?

No, it’s not OK.

Weed the garden.

Letting people off the hook without even discussing these matters, is like letting weeds grow in your garden. If you don’t pull the weeds out quickly, the weeds will quickly take over your garden and choke the growth of your crops. The weeds aren’t going to remove themselves, and they are much easier to deal with when they are still small and there aren’t too many.

Below standard performance isn’t going to fix itself either, and problems like this are much easier to fix if you nip them in the bud when you first observe them; before it becomes the norm. Trust me on this.

A software tool is not going to manage your people for you. Yes, it will help you to be a more effective manager, but only if you meet with your people to discuss their dashboard, and follow up to make sure things are getting done.

It’s like pushing a car.

Another story I share with managers to help them understand this concept is the analogy of pushing a car. It takes a big heave and a lot of effort to get a stationary car moving, but once the car is in motion all you need to do is continue to apply firm and consistent pressure to keep it moving. However, if you stop pushing, the car will stop, and you are back where you started. Now you have to give it a big heave to get things moving again.

It’s the same principle when using management dashboards to drive better results. It takes a big heave at the beginning to get things moving, but then all you need to do is apply firm and consistent pressure to keep things in motion.

However, if you relax that pressure, your progress will quickly grind to a halt, and you won’t be experiencing the full benefits of making performance visible.

When I look at our clients, the most effective managers I see are those who apply consistent pressure. They are firm but fair.

And they keep their garden weed free !