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Employees March to Many Different Drums. Here Are 3 Ways to Manage All of Them.


A few years ago, Google’s People Operations department set out to discover the metrics of a perfect team. And so began Project Aristotle, in which Google looked for common factors that determined whether a team is effective.

Related: Managing People Is an Art: 32 Ways to Do it Right.

After many test groups of various personalities, Google’s researchers realized that teams comprised of employees who felt safe outperformed everyone else. Because every employee has a different way of thinking and solving problems, it may be nearly impossible to “create” a perfect team.

Yet leaders can still manage one. This realization is important for company leaders looking to improve performance management and engagement. In fact, a recent Gallup report discovered that the behavior of managers directly accounts for at least 70 percent of variance in employee-engagement scores.

Further proving Google’s discovery, the report also found that 65 percent of actively disengaged employees said they can’t approach their manager with any type of question. The message is that it’s a leader’s job to take even those who march to the beat of a different drum and help them reach their greatest potential. Here’s how leaders can improve performance management for every personality type on their team:

Ask questions — a lot of them.

Diving deep into understanding every individual on a team is no small task. However, when a company is comprised of different thinkers and problem-solvers, this is the only way to truly understand where disconnections lie.

If something doesn’t make sense to an employee, he or she needs to feel that leaders are invested in understanding why. These misunderstandings happen frequently when an employee is given feedback and doesn’t understand how to apply it or even how the mistake continues to happen.

While this can look like disinterest or a lack of trying, the error is likely due to a disconnect in thinking or problem-solving. So, be direct when approaching these situations.

Related: Why Building Relationships with Your Employees Is Better Than Just Managing Them

Let employees know leadership doesn’t believe they’re making mistakes due to a lack of trying. Ask them to explain what they’re seeing and how they might tackle fixing the issue. Listen closely to how they define the problem and their steps on fixing it. This is where leaders will hear where the miscommunication is happening and how to address the employee in the future.

If an employee isn’t making frequent errors, it’s still important to stay ahead of the performance-management game. Give him or her different options for learning and coaching opportunities, such as hands-on or visual activities. Ask how frequently he or she would like to check in with you when working on a project, in order to feel confident each step of the way.

Avoid the blame game.

Errors are costly, timely to fix and just plain frustrating. Even the most patient leaders can feel that they’ve explained the correction to an error a thousand times. Attempting to remain calm in these situations doesn’t just raise our blood pressures, it leads us to the blame game.

Whose fault was it? Why can’t that person just get it right? The most important thing to remember when these thoughts creep in: Mistakes are frustrating for everyone involved.

Playing the blame game will only set leaders and their teams back in their performance-management efforts. When employees feel blamed for something they thought was done correctly, they lose motivation to perform at their best. And, chances are, if a mistake is recurring, it means there was a miscommunication somewhere down the line.

It’s important to give employees feedback immediately. This is especially important when they’re not on the same page as managers, because the mistake and the requisite information are fresh on everyone’s minds.

Pull employees aside in a comfortable one-on-one setting where they feel safe to discuss the issue. Don’t make feedback one-sided. Give them an opportunity to provide feedback on what went wrong, and why. Then, set up an actionable plan together so there is no “next time” for this mistake.

Show employees they’re worth your time,

Time may be one of a company’s most valuable resources, but employees still top the list. There’s no doubt leaders are busy. And, even though they understand performance management is important, they may find it difficult to find time to understand employees who are marching to the beat of a different drum. Employees are aware leaders are busy and wish they’d make more time for them.

In fact, OfficeVibe’s August State of Employee Engagement report found that 31 percent of employees surveyed said they wished their manager communicated with them more frequently.

So, take time to sit down with an employee or give him or her a call. Simply checking in or asking what these individuals need to improve their work lives will show them that you, their leader, are dedicated to them as employees. Improve staffers’ performance and motivation by offering more frequent meetings to discuss projects and goal time lines.

Don’t forget the value that positive recognition has on performance management. When employees march to the beat of a different drum, it’s natural for them to worry they’re not doing things correctly.

Related: 3 Signs That Managers, Not Employees, Are the Problem With Performance Management

But recognition lets them know that even though they do things a bit differently, they’re still doing a great job and leaders know it.



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