In 2015, my former research team at Gallup studied 2.5 million work units in 195 countries and 27 million employees to understand the relationship between managerial talents and critical business results. We found that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores between business units. And a 2018 survey from TinyPulse (Going through Inc.) found that “employees who misjudge their supervisor’s performance are four times more likely to seek employment”. As HBR Explain (paywall), my team also found that the best managers tend to have a rare mix of talents in five areas: motivation, assertiveness, responsibility, relationships and decision making.
In practice, I have developed a personal “3PJ People Management Model” that focuses on people, process, push and judgment.
It all starts with people and develop individualized relationships. Great teams can be well balanced, but top performing individuals are not always. We each have naturally recurring patterns of thinking, feeling, and behavior – innate talents – that we can productively apply and make ourselves unique. We should stop trying to “fix” our people, and instead appreciate and recognize each individual for who they are and position our team members to be successful by leveraging their strengths. I believe understanding your people is the foundation upon which trust is built, and without it you have nothing.
There is a misconception that to treat is limiting. This is not always true. The right processes can take the clutter and distractions away from us to focus on what matters most. The processes we develop for our employees must be practical, repeatable and ultimately effective to build credibility. I’ve found that the best processes are developed collaboratively, because most people don’t like having systems imposed on them. When we develop processes collaboratively, our people are more likely to engage and own the results. By developing strong processes for your team, you can set clear expectations and hold each other accountable. But even good processes can lack buy-in and ultimately fail if we don’t build deep trusting relationships with our team members first.
It is only after building strong relationships and developing the right processes to help our people succeed that we can to push. The goal should be to push each member of the team harder than they have ever been before. I believe this is the ultimate mechanism by which employee development occurs. Our teams need to feel uncomfortable when we stretch each other and prioritize fulfillment over complacency. In the words of the great John Wooden, “Success is the peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing that you have done your best to become the best that you are able to become.”
We all have cognitive biases that influence our thought processes and sometimes negatively impact our judgement. The first step towards improvement is to recognize our inherent limitations and become aware of some of the more common types of cognitive biases, such as Anchoring effect, heuristic availability and planning error (paying). Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman popularized System 2 thinking – a slower, more logical form of thinking – in his seminal book Think fast and slow. You must work to apply System 2 thinking by familiarizing yourself with the cognitive biases identified in Kahneman’s book and challenging your assumptions whenever you need to make an important decision. For me, this has resulted in greater self-awareness and better judgment.
There is no shortcut to lasting team success. Good people management involves a commitment to people, processes, pushing and maintaining control over our judgment. But the satisfaction derived from coaching our employees to success is unmatched by external reward or financial gain, which, ironically, turns out to be much more likely to happen if each of our employees can say:
1. My manager cares about me as an individual.
2. My manager holds me accountable for the processes that work.
3. My manager pushes me harder than anyone who has ever pushed me before.
I seek to maximize team performance by minimizing my susceptibility to cognitive biases and by making good decisions. Hope you will benefit from implementing the 3PJ model of people management for you.