Posts Tagged ‘Managers’

Helping Managers Overcome Performance Review Anxiety

Thursday, March 24th, 2016


In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares helpful tips for managers looking to escape that dreaded performance review anxiety. 

Conducting performance reviews and discussions on a regular basis is a key part of a manager’s responsibility.  Conducting a performance review also carries a certain amount of anxiety, as any manager tasked with providing one can attest. There is always the potential of a dispute over the facts, a difference in perspective, or even an unplanned, unexpected, or premature discussion regarding compensation.

In order to effectively have performance discussions that identify employee accomplishments, address areas for improvement, and generate individual development plans, managers must get past any anxious feelings and move through the process confidently and deliberately. Below are some tips which will help managers overcome some of their apprehension:

Expect Some Negotiating 

Approximately one out of every five employees will work to negotiate some part of the performance review process.  It may be around the rating itself, the wording of the review pertaining to “areas for improvement” or even the compensation aspect of the review – even though this typically occurs in a subsequent discussion.   Expect it and be prepared for it.  Anticipating issues, understanding what latitude you have within your organization’s guidelines, and knowing your response(s) will go a long way towards you  being  successful in this part of the meeting.

Keep it Conversational 

Performance reviews should be conversational. Remember, this is also your employees’ opportunity to provide their input and feedback on the performance period under review.  By keeping it conversational, you will remain at ease as will your employee.

Know the Details 

Some performance reviews are conducted only once a year.  This makes it not only difficult, but imperative that details are provided during the review.  Recalling the specifics of something that happened ten months ago can be a challenge for both you and your employee.  Having accurate details can make things easier to discuss and avoid disputes. Moving forward consider meeting once a month to discuss progress towards goals and objectives. These discussions will benefit both you and the employee for the annual review meeting – which would now be more of a “year in review” format.

Take Time to Consider 

There may be questions or considerations which arise during a review that need some additional thought.  This may include an employee request about a different job assignment or perhaps a promotion.   If the answer is not obvious or if you are not prepared to have that conversation at the moment, advise the employee that you need additional time to consider his/her request.  This is reasonable, but make sure you get back the employee within the stated time allotted.

Time to Re-evaluate Process/Approach? 

If you have reviewed tips above and your managers still feel somewhat anxious about conducting a performance review, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate your approach or the process in general.  Maybe the reason they are so uncomfortable is because something about the process leaves them with a lack of conviction in some area of either evaluating the employee’s performance, measuring improvement, ability to have a “critical conversation”, or some other aspect of the review details.

Maybe it’s time for a critical review of your process.  CAI can help – give our Advice & Resolution team a ring at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746!

Please be sure to share below any tips you have about overcoming the pressure and anxiety of performance reviews.

Is Your Succession Plan Transparent?

Thursday, February 18th, 2016
Rick Washburn, A&R Manager

Rick Washburn, A&R Manager

In today’s post, Advice & Resolution Manager Rick Washburn discusses the importance of creating a transparent succession plan for your business and fostering an open dialogue between managers and employees regarding career development.

Succession planning is at the very heart of any talent management program.  Done properly it is the process of identifying and/or developing talent for future business needs.

Is your succession plan transparent?  Do your business leaders have open dialogues about employee development, high-potential employees, and the like? Transparent succession plans create trust and the employee buy-in necessary to help the business retain top performers and reduce turn-over.  These plans also facilitate open discussions about career paths and development opportunities and helps leaders ensure that they do not unknowingly force top performers down paths that they would rather not go down.

The best succession plans, according to a 2012 Aon Hewitt study, drive proactive development of leaders and create distinct competitive advantages.  These plans are as transparent as possible and encourage trust and integrity, while minimizing internal politics.   In a 2010 Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) Leadership survey, 77% of the respondents said it was highly desirable for them to be formally identified and acknowledged as high-potential employees.

Transparency is also a key component of an organizations’ engagement and retention strategies. Leadership development plans that are communicated directly to succession plan participants is a vital element of these strategies.  Employees appreciate the time and effort that is being invested on their behalf both today and in the future.   According to a 2014 Towers Watson survey, more than half of the employers surveyed reported having difficulty retaining high-potential employees.  Letting your employees know that their skills and experience are valued dissuades top performers from leaving.

As mentioned above, it is also important to discuss career aspirations with employees to determine their level of interest in opportunities within your business.  A specific skill may not align with an employee’s ambitions.  Being upfront and open with employees leads to both more effective succession plans and more engaged leaders in your business.

So then, why do many employers struggle with the question of how and when to tell high potential employees (HIPOTS) they are high potentials?  One reason may be because of the risks of disengaging other employees who aren’t considered as HIPOTS.

To avoid this problem, Barry Conchie, a Gallup Senior Scientist and coauthor of the bestseller Strengths Based Leadership recommends that “Before a company says anything to its high-potential leaders, it must determine the criteria that it will use to identify top leadership talent.  Those criteria must be explicit and public. It’s important for people to know what qualifies them to be on the list.”  Conchie notes that many companies select leaders based on personality traits or likability, not demonstrated leadership talent.  This can damage engagement among other employees who think they should be leaders but were not picked.

Another barrier is that once you tell someone they are a HIPOT, if they don’t feel the love from you in terms of development, assignments, and even compensation some are apt to look elsewhere.   Notes Conchie, “you have to pay them what they’re worth or they’ll leave…They have to feel special because they are special. There are harsh economic realities here.”

For any assistance in developing or improving upon your business’s succession plan please give Tom Sheehan (919-325-4113) or myself (919-713-5247) a call today.

5 Ways Managers Can Maximize Their Effectiveness

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

manager effectivenessYour managers have important roles at your organization. They are responsible for reaching their assigned goals, while also managing a team of people that each have their own responsibilities and assignments. Research shows that the relationship between an employee and a manager is an important one. Managers who don’t practice good behaviors can quickly dampen a hardworking employee’s drive. The five tips below will help your managers lead more effectively and build strong relationships with their staffers.

Be Accessible

Good managers make themselves available to their employees. Answering questions and communicating expectations are important in helping your employees do their jobs well.  Employees lose motivation and don’t perform as efficiently when their managers don’t spend time checking in with them or offering them feedback.

Don’t Accept Mediocrity

Don’t be a push over. Managers need to be leaders and have confidence in their decisions and the standard of work that they accept. It is important for managers to communicate to their direct reports the quality of work their business should produce. Tolerating anything but good work is a surefire way to annoy your top performers and discourage your poor performers from improving their work ethics.

Show Appreciation

Employees perform better when they know their contributions are appreciated and impact the organization. Offering your employees positive feedback, praise and recognition is important in helping them feel connected to their work and their organization. Employees are more likely to be loyal to managers who notice and value the work that they do.

Use Delegation

Delegation serves two purposes for a manager. The first one is to help improve department efficiency, and the second is to help employees feel empowered. Delegating important tasks shows your employees that you trust them and that you think they are ready to take on more responsibility. Allowing them to grow their skills will help keep them engaged.

Offer Your Support

Employees are more confident in performing their job duties when they know they have the support of their manager. Showing your employees that you believe in their abilities to reach their goals will encourage them to perform better and take more pride in completing their assignments.

For more tips to help your managers improve their impact on your organization, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Victor1558

3 Actions Marissa Mayer Could Have Taken to Fix Yahoo’s Remote Work Problem

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Marissa MayerBy now, many professionals are aware of CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to end workplace flexibility at Yahoo. Several business experts have given their opinion on the decision by the technology company’s top management. Some agreed with her actions, saying it was necessary to turn around a failing company. Others have said her actions don’t align with positive business practices of today.

CEO is no easy role. Turning a company around is no easy task. Time will tell if Mayer’s decision will help Yahoo or hurt the progress she’s helped the company achieve. Instead of deciding whether her decision was the right one, I’d like to offer Yahoo’s CEO another way to handle the situation. In my opinion, blanket decisions are never the best way to address employee performance issues. The email blast sent from Yahoo’s HR chief is not usually an effective way to deal with a sensitive people issue.

Maybe Mayer wants people to leave without firing them. Maybe she wants to figure out who’s working and who’s not. Maybe she wants to change Yahoo’s current culture. There aren’t a lot of details so we can speculate a long-list of reasons. However, whatever her reason was, this people decision could have been handled better.

Here are three actions Mayer and her team could have made (and can still make) that will help Yahoo address its remote work problem, making the company more productive and successful. These three steps show that businesses can improve without ignoring the needs and wants of your employees.

Revaluate Policies

Many ex-Yahoo employees have come to Mayer’s defense, saying that the company’s remote work policy was too lax. Well, if it’s too lax, management should give it more structure. Company policies should not be set in stone. Make an effort to review your policies on an annual basis. When they are no longer serving their purpose or being ignored by employees, it’s up to the people in charge to update policies and announce the changes through several forms of communication. Some examples include an internal newsletter, a staff meeting or a manager-direct report meeting.

Identify Top and Weak Performers

All employees should not be treated equally. Your top performers should never be lumped into the same group as your weak ones. So one-size-fits-all solutions, like the one that Yahoo’s HR chief sent out, to address poor performers can have a pretty negative effect on the morale of your employees who are always delivering stellar work. Managers, don’t punish your good employees because of the behavior from your bad ones. Instead, look at each employee’s performance individually. If they aren’t doing their work, they don’t get to work remotely—simple as that. An underperformer doesn’t deserve the same perks as one who always overachieves.

Check Progress

Reading the different reports on the situation at Yahoo leads me to believe the company has an accountability problem. How were employees allowed to begin start-up companies while working remotely? Why were people not making their deadlines or delivering on their goals? This is not just an employee performance issue; it’s also a management issue. Leaders do not have to be micromanagers, but they are responsible for ensuring that their direct reports are doing their jobs. Weekly phone calls or meetings to review progress on different projects are integral for keeping your employees engaged and productive. Weekly meetings are also a great way to share your appreciation for your employees, so they won’t feel that their efforts aren’t important, leading them to start a new business on their own.

If you’re having employee performance problems at your organization and need help finding a solution, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Jolieodell

4 Ways to Increase the Effectiveness of Your Management Staff

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Your managers are one of your company’s strongest assets. They help your company run efficiently by supervising others and delegating duties, relaying information from senior leadership and making sure projects get completed. Increasing the effectiveness of your management team will benefit your organization’s productivity, revenue and morale. Giving extra attention to the growth of your managers isn’t time consuming or expensive. Try using the methods below to maximize the potential of your team leaders:

 Sharpen Their Skills

Whether you let them expense industry related literature, such as magazines and journals, to the company, or pay their way to attend a conference related to their position, helping your leaders attain new skills and knowledge will improve their job satisfaction and productivity. You’ll also see an improvement in their team’s performance.

Increase Their EI

Recent research indicates that employees with strong Emotional Intelligence (a person’s capacity for controlling his or her own emotions and recognizing and reacting to the emotions of others) can carry on and be successful through hard economic times and tough business predicaments. Not every employee comes equipped with a high EI, but taking steps to improve their EI is something all employees can do.

Strengthen Their Time Management

Managers juggle several tasks at once. They assign projects to their direct reports, implement strategies from senior management and work to complete their own projects. Learning to effectively manage time is an essential skill that managers should try to achieve. When leaders practice good time management, fewer errors occur, deadlines and results are met and last minute panicking is avoided.

Provide Feedback and Rewards

Make sure you consistently provide your managers with positive and constructive feedback on their performance. Help them succeed by encouraging them to give their best and attain their goals. Personally and publically acknowledge their accomplishments, and show your appreciation for their contributions whenever you can.

For more strategies to maximize the performance of your managers, supervisors and other company leaders, join us at CAI’s Training Showcase on July 19 in Greensboro and July 20 in Raleigh. Both programs are free and will run from 8:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. At each location you’ll experience abbreviated training sessions and participate in learning exercises to help you make the right development decisions for your staff. Come for a few hours or stay for the whole event to review CAI’s training options. Find more information and full agendas here:

Photo Source: Victor1558

Employees without Managers Will Disengage

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and president, identifies the importance of employees having managers in his most recent News & Observer column, “The View from HR.” Bruce lists several questions for employers that do not assign specific managers for their employees:

  • How does an employee get help?
  • Who does the employee go to with problems?
  • Who is there to help keep the employee engaged and committed to both the work and the company?

Employees who do not have definite answers for the questions above will quickly disengage with their work and could eventually take another position at a company that boasts strong management. As Bruce mentions in his column, HR departments can help employees with questions they have regarding pay and benefits, but there will be many more topics that employees will want addressed.

Managers provide many benefits to the workers they supervise. They keep employees focused on completing assignments and aligning efforts to match company goals. Managers keep their employees engaged by giving frequent feedback and genuinely having interest in their employees’ professional and personal aspirations. They also serve as problem solvers to help workers when obstacles arise.

If your organization does not have managers assigned to each of its employees, be aware of the negative effects it could be causing. Decreased productivity, lowered morale, absenteeism and lack of trust for the company are just a few of the reactions you may face from your workforce if adequate management is not enforced. Here are a few reasons why employees need managers:


Managers help their employees understand their roles and how they can affect business results. With proper goal setting and consistent feedback, both positive and constructive, managers help employees reach success.

Employees have questions that they need answered, and managers who work with them on an ongoing basis are the most equipped to offer them responses. Sufficient guidance and attention spent on employees will help them feel essential and respected in the workplace.


People are rarely satisfied doing the same tasks for long periods of time, so not planning for employees to grow can have dire consequences for your company, specifically high turnover. Because managers provide consistent feedback, they are aware of the strengths and weaknesses that their employees possess. This information not only helps managers assign projects, but it also helps employees visualize what they do well and what they need to improve. Managers are also qualified to suggest promotions, raises or special assignments for deserving workers.


Data indicates that employees who do not feel valued at their organizations will leave. Managers can prevent this from happening by recognizing the hard work their employees contribute.  Managers who seek opinions from their staff on company matters show their employees that their viewpoints are important and can shape business strategy.

In addition to recognizing an employee’s professional performance, managers understand that he or she has a personal life as well. Being fair with expectations and deadlines is mandatory for managers who want to respect their employees’ work/life balance.

Good managers who demonstrate leadership qualities are critical for keeping company morale high. Please call CAI’s Advice and Counsel at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 for additional information.

Photo Source: alancleaver_2000

Four Key Elements for Conducting Productive Employee Performance Reviews

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

With the New Year quickly approaching, managers are preparing for regular performance reviews with their direct reports. Employees at all levels may feel anxious as they receive or share a review. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that many organizations are getting rid of formal review processes because of the anxiety they bring to their employees. The article also included information from an academic review based on more than 600 employee-feedback studies. The data revealed that two-thirds of performance reviews had zero or negative effects on employees after they received the feedback.

Performance reviews, however, are critical for keeping employees on track with their individual goals and the overall goals of their company, and managers can conduct them in a mutually beneficial method. Because reviews often determine future career paths and merit increases, it is important for managers to spend adequate time preparing for them. Productive reviews with clear expectations, specific examples, constructive criticism and future action steps leave employees feeling motivated to achieve their set tasks.

Several ingredients make an efficient and beneficial performance review for managers and their employees. Use the four below to keep workforce morale high and plan for greater business success:


Great reviews start with great planning. Reexamine goals discussed in past reviews and collect specific examples of times the employee excelled and times the employee needed to improve throughout the year. Use this information to guide your review and help convey the expectations you have for the individual.


Constructive criticism is necessary for all great performance reviews, but positive feedback is just as essential. Research shows that employees have a need to feel valued, so take an opportunity during the review to recognize them for the hard work they have contributed to the company. If an employee has performed exceptionally well, reward them with a merit increase or a non-monetary perk if budgets are tight. Rewarding employees for their efforts will help keep turnover low.


An employee review must include participation from the manager and the employee. Give employees time to reflect on their own performance and let them prepare for answering questions related to their current work flow and future company activity. Allow for two-way communication when conducting performance reviews. Employees should be able to offer suggestions on how they can improve their work. They also should  feel comfortable to complain or mention items that could be hindering their performance.

Action Plan:

Once past performances are analyzed, it is important for managers to work with their employees to create an action plan for the next couple of months. These action plans should be revisited and updated frequently during the year. Monthly and annual goals should be included in these plans. Projects to strengthen professional skills and accelerate career growth also should be included into employee action plans. Having these plans will be helpful when preparing for your next employee performance review.

For more information or tips for conducting productive and motivating performance reviews, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Highways Agency

How HR Can Help New Internally Promoted Managers Succeed

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Supervisors and managers who are promoted from within an organization face unique challenges to their success in their new role and in their relationships with peers, supervisors and subordinates.

Here are six tips for how HR can contribute to the success of an internal employee who is transitioning into a new supervisory or management role:

  1. Role Clarity: Employees promoted from within the organization need to understand their new role and be ready to now manage personnel who were once their peers.  HR professionals should ensure that the responsibilities of the position are laid out clearly and that the employee understands them.  It may be important to point out the differences in their new and former roles.
  2. Building Relationships: Encourage the employee to seek out their newly created peers, supervisors and subordinates to have open conversations with them regarding how their relationship has been redefined, and set clear expectations.
  3. New Subculture: Within an organization there are different departments, each with their own political system and subsystems.  Newly introduced managers in these groups must adapt and adjust to how these systems function, and learn to work within the subculture.  That process will be expedited if HR guides them through it.
  4. Early Successes: HR can help solidify a newly promoted manager’s position by identifying short-term projects with high probabilities of success that will build the new manager’s credibility within the organization.
  5. Provide Learning: Do not assume these internal candidates are immediately ready to transition into a supervisory role.  They may have demonstrated potential, but would benefit and be more successful with training in how to properly manage people.
  6. Ongoing Development: Gaps in development should always be identified and addressed.  Newly transitioned managers may have excellent time management skills, but may need additional training in delegation or strategic thinking.  Training is a journey, not a destination.

For HR, investing the time up front to ensure a newly promoted supervisor or manager is equipped to succeed will save you more time in the long run because you won’t have to deal with as many employee issues.

If you have supervisors and managers who you want to be sure are properly trained to succeed, CAI can help with our management development certification programs. For additional information please go to or contact us at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Photo Source: orvalrochefort