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How to be a coach instead of a boss

Performance & Productivity


October 7, 2019

August 26, 2020

The workplace has changed immensely over the last years. Hierarchies are breaking down and instead of making money, employees strive to make a difference. Staff members expect to be treated as more than just a number. They want their jobs to contribute to their personal growth. With purpose becoming the new wealth, a new workforce is emerging. Assessing them by the same old criteria simply won’t do anymore. With years of experience in helping scale-ups grow, VIE People HR partner Deborah Middleton and HR consultant Jade Bennemeer share their vision on what works and what doesn’t in performance management.

“Performance management has a bad reputation because essentially it is about reviewing and criticizing peoples’ work efforts.”, says Jade. The traditional yearly assessment is an administrative hassle for managers and for employees it is the nerve-wracking moment of truth they have been waiting for the entire year. Deborah: “This way of assessing is outdated. The changes that are taking place in the way we work require a different approach to managing performance.”

A shift in roles

Jade and Deborah have been around the block helping companies to scale successfully and their message rings loud and clear. In order to create a truly awesome business that people enjoy working for, the traditional roles need to be shaken up. VIE People vouches to empower employees to take control of their own development within their role. Jade: “It is the managers’ task to give directions but ultimately the responsibility should lie with the employee.” 

Compare it, if you will, to a game of American football in which the manager is the coach and the employee a player. “If a player is not playing well, a coach would not keep him in the field the entire game and then complain afterwards about how bad he played”, explains Jade. Instead the coach would yell instructions from the sideline, have the player switch position or temporarily call a time-out. During the game, there’s constant instructive communication between the players too. 

Ideally this team dynamic should be recreated in the workspace. Jade: “When an employee is not doing a good job, it is a bad idea to wait until the end of the year assessment interview to tell him.” Managers should flag slacking staff members, intervene immediately and gently coach them to achieve better results along the way – not just at the end of the year. “Continuous dialogue between manager and employee and between staff members is a number one priority both when things are going well as well as when they aren’t”, Deborah adds. Managing performance this way accelerates personal growth and with that company growth. 

Two-way street

“Performance management is a two-way street”, explains Deborah. CEO’s have the responsibility to clearly communicate where they want to take the company and how they want to achieve that. It is then up to the managers to translate that mission into team goals and targets. Deborah: “Employees, in turn, should be encouraged to reflect on how they can optimally contribute to these targets and how they can link the business goals to what makes them tick on a personal level and where they can add value.”

Celebrate achievements

A huge mental shift for CEO’s is de-linking a raise in salary from performance. Deborah: “Monetary incentives aren’t as effective as we all thought they were.” Instead, VIE People suggests following market standards and requirements to come to a reasonable salary and benchmarking regularly. Coming up with creative ways of rewarding your staff has a lasting effect. Deborah illustrates her point with an example and subtle hint: “Let’s say if my boss knows I love shopping, but just don’t have enough time, a creative and thoughtful reward would be to give me a budget and a personal shopper for a day.” Here’s the takeaway: don’t rule by punishment but choose a personal way of stimulating and celebrating success. 

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