Documentation is many times the difference between a highly-effective manager and one who struggles with accountability. The larger the organization, the greater the number of people who report to you, the more critical good documentation is to success.
The majority of management I have observed communicates with their people by catching them on the fly. By this I mean most managers manage like a hockey coach, by shouting short bursts of instructions and/or criticisms when they come in off the ice. No documentation, no note taking, no audit trail, and no follow up.
Like most new to management, in my first management job I winged it. I had no structured approach for coaching my 14 direct reports. Everything was off-the-cuff and from memory. Fortunately for me, my first sales team was a veteran team that pretty much knew how to sell, how to follow up, and like physicians, they knew the importance of charts.
Charting is synonymous with documenting an interaction. Everyone has likely experienced his or her doctor making notes as he or she interviews patients. Doctors do this so they can keep up with the medical condition of the dozens of patients they interact with. When the patient returns for the next appointment, doctors will review the patient’s chart and make notes of the questions they wish to ask the patient on the next visit.
No matter how bright a person is, their memory is fleeting. For this reason, no one should rely exclusively on their memory. We managers are often accused of having a convenient memory; that is, remembering what benefits us, but not necessarily what actually happened. Documentation eliminates lapses in memory.
Recommendation: Management should be diligent about documenting what they observe among their direct reports, as well as what is communicated during one-on-one meetings. To ensure accuracy, the documentation should be completed immediately after the employee leaves the manager’s office.
Unlike pieces of equipment, employees are people. They have different strengths, weak- nesses, and emotional responses. To effectively manage employees, managers must get to know and understand each employee’s uniqueness as an individual.
Ideally, all employees and their managers should agree upon each employee’s primary goals and objectives, and how they are to be measured. In the formal one-on-one meetings between the manager and each employee, there should always be a discussion as to how the employee is performing with each priority and what, if any, adjustments might be made to improve performance.
It’s human nature for employees to make excuses or go on the defensive when they are challenged. While I know such behavior is natural, it has been my experience that having to deal with it is also time consuming and unproductive. A theme that hits home with me when employees begin offering excuses is to ask the employee to think in terms of what’s right with what the manager is saying rather than what’s wrong with the given comments.
Recommendation: Before the one-on-one session breaks up, the employee and the manager should select a firm date and time to conduct next month’s meeting.
Recommendation: Immediately following the one-on-one session with each employee, the manager should document what was agreed to in the meeting—especially deadlines—and forward the summary to human resources.
I like to end the one-on-one meetings with a few personal questions to evaluate the employee’s level of motivation and satisfaction. What did you accomplish last month that you were most proud of? Are there any aspects of your job where you don’t believe you are receiving a reasonable amount of support from other departments in the company? Do you have any questions you’d like to ask me?