4 Tools That Help Leaders Proactively Manage Their Team’s Performance


 4 Tools That Help Leaders Proactively Manage Their Team’s Performance

Effective leaders are proactive instead of reactive. Rather than reacting to problems, they proactively promote employee performance and enable their teams to thrive.

As a leader, four critical tools enable you to proactively manage your team’s performance:

  1. Coaching
  2. Delegation
  3. Motivation
  4. Documentation

In this post, we’ll examine how you can and should use each of these tools.

1. Coaching

Coaching and developing employees is a major part of proactively managing your team’s performance. Regular coaching enables team members to develop skills and abilities that make them more effective. Plus, it enables you to have a clear picture of how well individual employees understand their work and projects, and of their performance level.

Facilitate your team’s success by:

  • Understanding the strengths and development needs of each employee as they relate to job performance.
  • Providing each employee with the tools, training and resources to address his or her development needs.
  • Presenting each employee with opportunities to practice the skills needed to improve.
  • Giving each employee regular feedback about his or her progress.

Research shows that leaders should spend approximately two hours per workweek coaching team members to appropriately invest in employees’ success. It’s imperative, of course, to use this time wisely. To do so, at the end or beginning of each week, make a list of employees and topics to address during the upcoming week. Then be sure to both schedule formal time to discuss team members’ current projects and assignments, and to walk through the work area to allow for informal interactions.

2. Delegation

Delegation is the process of sharing authority and accountability with others in making decisions and meeting objectives. Delegation is critical for managing team performance for two reasons:

  1. As a leader, you are responsible for all your team’s work and output. You cannot accomplish all this work alone.
  2. Delegating assignments contributes, more than anything else does, to the development of your staff.

Many leaders struggle with or are resistant to delegation. If this is true of you, overcome it by applying the following delegation model: 


CHOOSE the right employee to carry out the work; match team members to assignments.

OBSERVE the employee’s performance. Empower the employee to do the work; monitor his or her progress; and determine how involved you need to be based on the employee’s experience, level of motivation and workload.

COACH the employee through mistakes and questions.

Choosing the right team member to carry out each task is often the most difficult part. Avoid assigning too much work to your go-to employees and too little to those who require more coaching—each team member needs to carry his or her own weight for the team to perform at its highest level. To choose the right employees for each task, consider any employee who:

  • Has the knowledge or skills to do the work.
  • Is interested in the area, or has asked to do similar work.
  • Needs to further develop in this area.
  • Has time to complete the task.

If you have delegated an assignment and the work does not meet your expectations, don’t redo it yourself. Explain why the work did not meet your expectations and what needs to be changed. Then have the employee redo the work.

3. Motivation

Leaders are often surprised that some of their employees are not motivated in the same ways that they are. Successful leaders gather information to gain a better understanding of how each of their team members is motivated, and leverage it as they assign and manage work. Being able to navigate the differences in each team is critical.

As a leader, you are not only responsible for understanding how each team member is best motivated, but you also need to understand how to modify your own behavior based on that knowledge. The way you communicate tasks, motivate each team member, and hold each accountable makes the difference between an in-sync, productive team and one that is out-of-sync.

The following is a list of different styles and motivations for leaders and team members:

  • The Driver

  −  Takes risks

  −  Pushes oneself

  −  Achieves stretch goals

  −  Puts stress on others

  −  Wants visible results

  • The Reliable

  −  Prefers stability

  −  Wants job security

  −  Likes a predictable schedule

  −  Seeks a comfortable, clean work area

  • The Balanced

  −  Is flexible

  −  Values work-life balance

  −  Views personal time as a priority

  • The Recognized

  −  Looks for visible assignments

  −  Focuses on career advancement

  −  Prefers to take the lead on projects

  • The Independent

  −  Prefers working independently

  −  Takes the initiative

  −  Develops new ideas and processes

  • The Relationship-Builder

  −  Prefers assignments that involve others

  −  Works for harmony

  −  Gives to others

Although each team member is motivated differently and may prefer specific types of assignments and projects, you must hold each team member accountable for delivering performance regardless of his or her preferences.

4. Documentation

Documenting interactions with individual employees who have performance problems has several benefits, including:

  • Clarity: Although you may be very clear about the employee’s performance issues, you need to make sure the employee understands the issues and what changes he or she needs to make. After a performance conversation, send a follow-up email that documents the conversation. It will ensure the employee is clear on the issue and the agreed-upon action plan, and gives both you and the employee the opportunity to address any misunderstandings.
  • Consistency: Keeping a record of key employee interactions helps you handle performance in a consistent manner. If a performance issue turns into a disciplinary issue, you need to use a consistent process and template to document the issue and agreed-upon actions. A lack of consistency can lead to questions of whether the employee is being treated fairly or not. HR partners can provide you with a template that is appropriate for your organization.
  • Compliance: As a leader, you are responsible for being familiar with your organization’s employee policies and procedures and how to administer them. Since leaders must manage employee performance problems, you need to do so in a way that is consistent and compliant with your organization’s policies. Stepping outside of company policies, knowingly or not, can put you and your organization in a difficult situation.
  • Protection: Clearly and consistently documenting performance issues protects you, your employees and your organization from broader and more complex issues—even legal issues.

When documenting performance conversations and issues:

  1. Be purposeful about what you include. Don’t include terms or phrases that could be misinterpreted or convey inappropriate messages.
  2. Remember that all notes, formal and informal in hard and electronic versions, may be “discoverable” in legal proceedings.

And always have your HR partner review documentation prior to sharing it with the employee.

To learn more about improving team performance, read the book “Solving Employee Performance Problems,” written by our managing directors, Brenda Hampel and Erika Lamont, and coauthor Anne Bruce.