Continual Assessment, Continual Feedback
Performance management is simple and difficult by turns. Expectations are easy, delivering feedback and assessing change is hard.
At it's most basic level, you should demand three things from everyone:
- Know what you're doing
- Care about what you're doing
- Don't be an asshole
The first is the functional parts of the role: write the good code. Make good decisions about design. Review code in a way that educates. Pass your knowledge on well. At more senior levels, demonstrate the influence needed to get your good technical ideas adopted at scale. Make good hiring decisions.
The second is hard to measure but easy to describe. We've all worked with people who care deeply about their work: they ask good, detailed questions before writing specs or designing software; they take time to train and mentor others and feel rewarded by doing so; they have great curiosity and a desire to learn and improve; they are affronted by errors in their work; they are craftspeople. We've also worked with people who are the opposite to one or more of those things; they phone it in.
The third is pretty straightforward, but note there are different types of asshole. The judgement comes around how it affects their work (and remembering how critical team morale is). Also consider the anti-asshole behaviors: people with sunny dispositions who are pleasant to work with; people who are empathetic and take care of others; people who communicate clearly and take time to ensure they're well understood.
People are inconstant and change over time. They have lives outside work. A person may start to care less, or become withdrawn and frustrated - it's possible their emotional energy is being poured into something more important. It's your job to understand this and adjust accordingly. This is the "continual" part.
In all cases, employ empathy and ask questions before making judgements. Sincerity, authenticity and direct speech are your friends.
01 No surprises
You’re going to have to make hard decisions and deliver tough news. Even when you might not have made the decision yourself. That’s an unavoidable part of the job, you’ll be held to account on that. But the control you have is what comes before that tough news. It’s very tempting and easy to always frame things in the positive to people. To give false hope, whether it’s explicit or implicit. You might not even realize you’re doing it. But it’s one of the worst things you can do, it’s truly a disservice to the person and it’s a failure of your job. Short of broad company action, terminal news should never be a surprise. That’s on you.
02 When trust leaves so should they
If you found out your boss didn’t trust you for the last year you worked together, wouldn’t you feel like a bit of a patsy? That thing you were working towards, your growth plans, even the nature of their interactions with you. What an empty feeling. So don’t do this to others. If your trust in someone is truly gone, then you have to act. It might mean another team or another company, that’s situation dependent and based on the reason the trust is lost. But no matter what you have to make a change.It’s unfair not to, it’s about you not them. Their ceiling is in place and they don’t even know it.
When trust leaves so should they