4 ways to measure “people management”

Summer 2015–Management of people, when done well, increases the value of output from those people.

A manager’s value should (I think) be assessed as a combination of delivering what the person wants and what the business needs. The business need is a proxy for what society wants from it. The balance creates a sustainable process. If a manager only got what the business needs, the employee would inevitably leave for one of two reasons prematurely:

  1. He or she would recognize the manager’s lack of concern with what’s important to him or her and would likely disengage over time. At the very least, the professional relationship would suffer, as would future results in the form of outright neglect or missed opportunities.
  2. If the employee doesn’t disengage, consistent performance at a high level would earn recognition (internal and external) and market value. Thus, a prudent employee who is delivering the results the company wants will have opportunities to leave the manager (internally or externally). Thus, if that manager neglects to prove that he or she is better for the employee than other managers the employee, justifiably, would seek a move. They would have excelled in their role without any special reason to stay with their current manager–their results in this role exist purely outside the relationship with this manager. This assumes a difference/gap between what the employee wants and what the business needs. There would obviously be overlap, but research across generations shows all people want to learn and grow, which can only continue so long within the strict needs of the business. At some point, the employee will desire growth which sacrifices investment of time and or money in what the business needs immediately.

That gap, perhaps measured as “employee desire – business need”, qualitatively, is the plateau upon which truly great managers operate. I considered and rejected a Venn diagram showing employee desire partially overlapping business need which would represent the appropriate focus areas of the manager. I reject that because a truly great manager insists on getting results needed by the business, first. As Drucker said, get the right things done. The exceptional manager ensures the employee has delivered, reported green, on-time, under-budget, and in-scope; then he or she pursues professional development for the employee in an area the employee desires, is capable of mastering, and is valuable to the business. While this may divert resources away form urgent tasks, an investment in the employee which meets those criteria is investment in the business’s ability to ensure profitability while strengthening the relationship between manager and direct. Oh, and it, by definition, increases the capability of the manager’s team.

How will the manager know what the employee desires? Regular, frequent communication about what’s important to the employee. “Regular” means consistent, rarely missed, scheduled and agenda-driven meetings, in-person or via video conference/telephone when necessary. “Frequent” means daily to bi-weekly, depending on team size and tenure of the employee. For example, I’d meet with my employee daily if I only have one and it’s their first week. Conversely, if my team of 20 has been together for 5 years I can better justify bi-weekly meetings (assuming I have developed relationships with them, e.g. I know their  loved-ones’ first names). This regular, frequent communication is well-known as “one on ones” or “1 to 1s” and is excellently described and prescribed by Manager Tools. In their system (which I’ve used) the manager schedules a 30-minute meeting with each direct weekly. An agenda is pre-wired to the employee but is only strictly followed if it benefits the purpose of the meeting, which is “to encourage a professional relationship” by  discussing what’s important to the employee, then to the business. Prior to the first one-on-one, the manager informs the team, together in one meeting, what one-on-ones are for. In the meeting, the employee always  goes first to ensure they get to speak about what’s important to them. The manager takes notes and assigns deliverables (to the employee and himself/herself) based on discussions. The natural progression can be figured from there, and the manager-tools.com site has plenty of resources to explain the process and nuances. It simply works.

Back to the original claim–management increases value of output. I mean, increases compared to what the employee and team would create without that manager. This may seem to set a low bar for a person to be considered a “manager”. However, in no way does this definition describe the level or quality of a manager.

My focus is on, going forward, what makes a manager truly exceptional. Using the same wording, how do we recognize an increase in value of output because of that manager, the value which would decrease under a different manager? What does the best management look like? How would it be represented in an excel spreadsheet? In employee verbatim? In a profit and loss statement? What would it take to become the world’s best manager? Once there, would recognition as such mean anything? Mean everything?

Certainly, promotions per employee would be a valuable metric. And, considering a manager’s job includes hiring, turnover would matter–measured as loss of quality people and, separately, bad hires. Effectively, “whom you bring in” and “what you get out of them” cover most of a manager’s duty. Your team’s results vs other teams’ in your company and your competitors’ teams; your team’s results vs previous years, and vs. projections. And, of course, your team’s ability to satisfy your customers, be they external or internal (internal for you IT & HR friends). Personally, you must hit your targets for budget while winning in these other categories, of course.

So, we have “quality in”, “quality out”, and “personal results”. One more consideration may be how your hires perform at the next level. Would the best manager in the world be willing to take on that challenge? I think a short-bit of imagination only is needed to conclude yes; if your person gets promoted to your level, hopefully you’re able to prepare them for success there. Plus, considering great managers today recognize the value of delegation, the best manager’s employees are prepared even for promotions outside their boss’s peer group. So, measures would, ideally, reflect “quality in”, “quality out”, “personal results”, and “next-level results of directs”.

All of this assumes anyone would want to be the world’s best manager. Like all professions, it requires self-discipline to excel at this one, and probably a decent attraction to the concept as a whole. Some people don’t want to be a manager. I’d argue, though, that no more valuable job exists.

If absolutely effective management practices were identified, they’d likely be repeatable in most or all management situations. That’s to say, any employee with a manager, in any industry would increase the value of their team’s output. Ipso-facto, the quality of every product and service in the world would increase, or at least the internal operations of every company would. Put more modestly, the manager who is able to excel in these four areas would be effective and employable in practically any role he or she desires. #Jobsecurity

4 metrics of a manager:

  1. Quality in (effective hiring)
  2. Quality out (individual results of your direct reports)
  3. Personal results (aggregate results of your team and of you)
  4. Results of promoted directs (how they did at the next level)

QFNW-“Esta cabron!”-Javier

?FNQ-% of goals hit? Estimated 80%, on pace for 100%


11/30/2017 review–I would now adjust a couple of points I made when I wrote this. I’d no longer say the business need is a “proxy for what society wants”. Instead, I’d say that business needs are results that allow business to meet society’s needs. And, business “needs” include retention of competitive talent. So, in so many words you could technically have managers who get only what the business needs and still keep employees.

I was off by suggesting investment in employee learning increases “capability” of the manager’s team. Managers benefit from only capability that increases competitive advantage, not simply all capability. The toothpaste company gets no ROI funding employee welding training.

If only we had these metrics advertised and taught… I don’t mean to suggest these four metrics are the absolute best and only metrics, but I have yet to see any others. I don’t remember seeing one single metric of “people management” in the undergrad business program, while managing for a large hospitality chain, in the MBA program, nor so far after 1.5 yrs as a human resources manager in a global corporation. Whenever I’m faced with feeling of “am I the crazy one?” I must believe that exact thing–it must be that I’m missing something because all these people can’t be missing something I think is so obviously valuable. So I will seek to understand more about what causes my perceived neglect toward management metrics.

Meanwhile, I’ll try to find managers who would score well vs these metrics and see how they’re perceived.