A Closer Look at Artful Management

This week, I focus on my e-zine article, “10 Characteristics that Get Results.” I thought I would dig deeper into some of the characteristics to offer guidance to both managers and employees!  The first characteristic I mention is that artful management requires being aware and observant of your staff. A “one size fits all approach doesn’t get you optimal results.” Many companies institute a policy and expect the same from everyone. Additionally, they have a “cookie cutter” approach to staff reviews, which does not apply to all employees. But how do companies to start to break the mold of these standards?

First, all companies must have standardized personnel related policies in place.  These policies provide operating structure and guidance for dealing with employee behaviors, problems, and needs.  These policies also appropriately include a process for evaluating staff performance.  Or at least they should.  There is great value in well written personnel policies and procedures.

Second, while an established process for conducting staff evaluations is necessary, the way a supervisor delivers these evaluations can and ought to be individualized for each direct report.  When a boss knows her staffer, she is in a position to address evaluation content in a way that ultimately yields the best outcomes from that person.  That is where the art comes in.  The established process merely provides the framework for an annual review.  What a supervisor does with that framework makes all the difference.

Artful management is also about taking action even if it’s difficult. How should a manager prepare for a critical conversation with their staff?

If the conversation needs to focus on employee performance or behavior, the supervisor needs to consider each of the following:  primary message, tone of delivery, documentation of evidence, and impact of the performance issue or conduct on others.  Approaching a staffer with a complaint or criticism with uncontrolled emotion, little or no documentation, and lack of clarity around environmental impact is unacceptable.

Looking at the whole picture and being proactive rather reactive is a valid tip. Organizations may have intentions and try to be proactive, but it seems somewhere along the lines there is a shift to reactivity.

Functioning in a reactive mode is easier and usually habitual, and that’s why organizations continue to operate this way.  Functioning in a proactive mode requires more strategic thought, more creativity, and more planning.  Switching from reactive to proactive takes conscious, disciplined effort.  There is no easy path from one to the other.  Changing any habit common to human behavior requires something of us that does not necessarily come naturally.  Supervisors could set up a culture in which employees hold each other accountable when they observe reactive responses to situations and problems.  Many authorities agree that it takes 21 days for people to change a habit if they are truly serious about doing so.  Even after the 21 day period, we need to remain diligent.  But the good news is that it can be done.

Next, it’s important to honor your staff for a job well done. This can easily get overlooked, yet this is a critical component to both employee satisfaction and employee work quality. It’s often because the manager is “too busy.”

Some managers use the excuse that they are too busy to recognize excellent work.  Others don’t believe that this is important.  Regardless of the reason behind the failure to praise, employees who need more regular feedback from their bosses can simply request it.  They can approach their supervisors and say something like:  “I feel as if I’ve been exceeding expectations lately.  I’m curious how you feel.  I’d like to know, from your perspective, where I am doing a great job and where I could use some additional guidance, training, and experience.”

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