Not managing people (even if you have managers) is a common operations problem. How would you feel if you were hired and months later fired or disciplined with little feedback? Whether you deserved it or not (sometimes, the fired do deserve it) – most people would like to know what they did wrong.
In a good company, there’s a process for work quality feedback. A good manager would make sure you had the opportunity to correct your faults / failures before it got to the point of getting you fired. In the worst environments, it comes out of the blue, even if you think you’re paying attention. Imagine how you’d feel if you were never told what expectations were or what measurements would be used to assess the quality of your work? Not only is this unfair to the fired / disciplined employee, your company pays the price too.
Checkboxes aren’t enough
When you hire someone, the work starts when they show up. At many companies, the work of hiring seems to end once the offer is made. The employee shows up, is pointed at a desk, given a pile of work to do, and is expected to fill “hit the ground running” expectations. Their resume had all the checkboxes filled for this role. Shouldn’t they be able to show up and just git-r-dun?
Sometimes people figure it out, sometimes they don’t. At some companies, “I’m used to doing this, this and that – and doing it like this” will get the answers you need to produce work the way the company needs it. At others, it can signal that you aren’t the right fit. You know, because every company does everything the same way. Sure they do.
In some cases, the experience you thought you were hiring is different, even if it looks the same on paper. When that happens, what’s next? It might have taken four to six months to figure this out. Perhaps your company’s mentoring is weak, or non-existent. Maybe you don’t have the right work measurement / evaluation tools in place to detect that poor work, the wrong work, or “the right work someone else’s way” is being done.
I believe employees need more than regular feedback. We touched on that a little bit last week. Feedback, mentoring, training (including “this is how we do a-b-c here“) is all part of employee curation.
What is employee curation?
Visual art is made “better” by the right lighting, frame, etc. Curation puts the content in its best light, providing the consumer with an experience that’s richer than “Here it is.” Your people need the same sort of consideration.
Back when you were an employee, you may recall that people showed up & figured it out – even if that isn’t what really happened. You may not remember evaluations, training or mentoring you received (maybe you didn’t get any). As a result, you might expect people to “just figure it out”. That’s great, until they figure out the wrong things, the wrong way, etc.
I don’t recall too many reviews, but I sure remember when companies made sure I had a mentor. At one company in particular, I think they intentionally skipped performance reviews with managers – but in a positive way. They used mentoring & small teams with hands-on leadership to set the example, train, mentor & model what they wanted.
Employee curation includes working with someone to help them grow career-wise, both for them & the company. When you need to fill critical roles with people who already work for you, they should be ready. The last thing most companies need these days is someone with 20 years of experience – and all 20 are from 1998.
Guesswork is bad
Even experienced people in senior roles need to know your expectations. Why make them guess? Senior people need to know what their boundaries are – and when to cross them. They need to know how you make decisions so that you know that they know what’s important to you when you delegate things to them.
In junior roles, your mentors & managers will spend more time on how-to-do vs. what-to-do. That will change over time.
Without explicit, detailed duties, expectations and specifics about “this is how you know you’re doing your job well”, guessing is what they’ll do. This may seem OK for a entry or junior level person learning your business (it isn’t). It’s a terrible choice for a new SVP. Be crystal clear about your expectations with everyone. You benefit as much as anyone.