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5 ways for new managers to improve team performance

Brittany Berger 5 min read
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In some ways, becoming a new manager is like becoming a new parent. Thankfully, dirty diapers aren’t one of them, but other parallels are aplenty.

When you become both a manager and a parent, all of a sudden you’re responsible for more than just yourself. You have to go about your days aware of the more junior, more impressionable shadows by your side observing your actions.

How they act and how they perform is a reflection of yourself, for better or for worse. And if you’re not perfect, you can’t expect your team to be either.

This means a crucial part of it is leading your team, and by extension yourself, to better performance at work. It might not be easy as a new manager, but the sooner you develop a proactive strategy for doing so, the stronger your team gets and the easier managing them will be.

Not sure what goes into a strategy for improving team performance? Start with tackling the five fundamentals below.

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1. Set key performance indicators (KPIs)

Before you and your team can set out for success, you need to be on the same page about what that looks like. You cannot expect an employee to work towards a goal they don’t know about, right?

Start by determining metrics for success, both for the team as a whole and for individual positions. You can be flexible about what those look like, depending on what your team does. But frameworks or methods for setting KPIs to check out include OKRs, or objectives and key results, and SMART goals.

Clarifying and communicating what the main goals of any position or project are ensures that your team always knows the right direction to be moving in, avoiding any unfortunate (and dizziness-inducing) spinning in place.

2. Create systems and processes

Once your whole team is crystal clear on each of their responsibilities, you can move onto clarifying how they fulfill them. If you can develop organized procedures for completing common tasks, it will make their jobs that much easier.

For example, having set steps for how sales meetings are run or what’s required to launch a new campaign means you’re not spending hours planning before each campaign, and your team members aren’t scrambling to pull together stats before the weekly meeting.

Instead, you can all learn the same set of steps to follow every time. Not only will this reduce mental friction for team members figuring out their work, systems also make collaborating and passing projects between employees more organized.

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3. Develop performance improvement plans

Despite clear goals and processes, even passionate and talented employees will sometimes have gaps between where their work performance is and where it needs to be. And you deal with a struggling team member makes a huge difference in whether or not they continue struggling.

If someone’s performance isn’t up to the clear expectations set for them, begin by starting a conversation about it. For all you know, there’s a simple miscommunication or kink in the team’s workflow that can be easily solved.

For more long-term problems, however, you’ll need to hold their hand a bit to get them on the right path. This is where a performance improvement plan can come in. Meet with your employee to discuss the problem, lay out a plan of action and timeline with clear steps to take, and provide them with further resources where you can.

4. Review regularly

Annual reviews might be part of your traditional picture of management, but the modern workforce moves way too fast for just one performance review per year. Instead, reconvene with your team as frequently as possible without it becoming redundant or disruptive to their work.

For example, a common structure at high performing and fast-paced companies is to hold weekly team meetings (or standups), plus individual reviews monthly or quarterly.

This schedule means your group will, well…group together frequently enough that you’re always aware of what your team is working on and how it’s going. The team meetings are an opportunity to measure progress on current projects and keep things moving, while the individual meetings let you zoom out with someone and look at their larger career.

Most importantly, frequent reviews lets you get proactive about any possible performance issues before they become full-blown problems.

5. Motivate and empower

Finally, don’t forget to bring the team spirit. As a manager, you’re as responsible for your team’s attitude as well as their performance. Fortunately, improving the former usually improves the latter too.

As a leader, you want to make a conscious effort to keep your team feeling motivated and engaged with their work.

The best way to do this will be in keeping with your own company culture, so we’ll leave that up to you. But some common ways to bring a boost of motivation to your employees include incentive programs like bonuses or perks, helping team members develop closer relationships, and approaching management with the right mindset yourself.

Manage to lead

These five tips will help take you from a basic manager wrangling multiple people’s to-do lists, to a leader who helps their reports grow and succeed. When you communicate clear expectations, help your team meet them, and review progress regularly, you’ll be making it easier for your employees to improve.

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Brittany Berger is a contributor to the blog and freelance writer for SaaS companies. You can follow her on Twitter at @thatbberg
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